Academic journal article Information Technology and Libraries

Usability Test Results for Encore in an Academic Library

Academic journal article Information Technology and Libraries

Usability Test Results for Encore in an Academic Library

Article excerpt


This case study gives the results a usability study for the discovery tool Encore Synergy, an Innovative Interfaces product, launched at Appalachian State University Belk Library & Information Commons in January 2013. Nine of the thirteen participants in the study rated the discovery tool as more user friendly, according to a SUS (Standard Usability Scale) score, than the library's tabbed search layout, which separated the articles and catalog search. All of the study's participants were in favor of switching the interface to the new "one box" search. Several glitches in the implementation were noted and reported to the vendor. The study results have helped develop Belk library training materials and curricula. The study will also serve as a benchmark for further usability testing of Encore and Appalachian State Library's website. This article will be of interest to libraries using Encore Discovery Service, investigating discovery tools, or performing usability studies of other discovery services.


Appalachian State University's Belk Library & Information Commons is constantly striving to make access to libraries resources seamless and simple for patrons to use. The library's technology services team has conducted usability studies since 2004 to inform decision making for iterative improvements.

The most recent versions (since 2008) of the library's website have featured a tabbed layout for the main search box. This tabbed layout has gone through several iterations and a move to a new Content Management System (Drupal). During fall semester 2012, the library website's tabs were: Books & Media, Articles, Google Scholar, and Site Search (see figure 1). Some issues with this layout, documented in earlier usability studies and through anecdotal experience, will be familiar to other libraries who have tested a tabbed website interface. User access issues include the belief of many patrons that the "articles" tab looked for all articles the library had access to. In reality the "articles" tab searched seven EBSCO databases. Belk Library has access to over 400 databases. Another problem noted with the tabbed layout was that patrons often started typing in the articles box, even when they knew they were looking for a book or DVD. This is understandable, since when most of us see a search box we just start typing, we do not read all the information on the page.


A third documented user issue is confusion over finding an article citation. This is a rather complex problem, since it has been demonstrated through assessment of student learning that many students cannot identify the parts of a citation, so this usability issue goes beyond the patron being able navigate the library's interface, it is partly 9a lack of information literacy skills. However, even sophisticated users can have difficulty in determining if the library owns a particular journal article. This is an ongoing interface problem for Belk Library and many other academic libraries. Google Scholar (GS) often works well for users with a journal citation, since on campus they can often simply copy and paste a citation to see if the library has access, and, if so, the full text it is often is available in a click or two. However, if there are no results found using GS, the patrons are still not certain if the library owns the item.


In 2010, the library formed a task force to research the emerging market of discovery services. The task force examined Summon, EBSCO Discovery Service, Primo and Encore Synergy and found the products, at that time, to still be immature and lacking value.

In April 2012, the library reexamined the discovery market and conducted a small benchmarking usability study (the results are discussed in the methodology section and summarized in appendix A). The library felt enough improvements had been made to Innovative Interface's Encore Synergy product to justify purchasing this discovery service. …

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