Academic journal article Information Technology and Libraries

Applying Hierarchical Task Analysis Method to Discovery Layer Evaluation

Academic journal article Information Technology and Libraries

Applying Hierarchical Task Analysis Method to Discovery Layer Evaluation

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Discovery layers are relatively new third party software components that offer Google-like web-scale search interface for library users to find information held in the library catalo and beyond. Libraries are increasingly utilizing these to offer a better user experience to their patrons. While popular in application, the discussion about discovery layer implementation and evaluation remains limited. [1][2]

A majority of reported case studies discussing discovery layer implementations are based on informal usability tests that involve a small sample of users in a specific context. The resulting data sets are often incomplete and the scenarios are hard to generalize. [3] Discovery layers have a number of technical advantages over the traditional federated search and cover a much wider range of library resources. However, they are not without limitations. Questions have remained scarce about the workflow of discovery layers and how well they help users achieve their goals.

Beth Thomsett-Scott and Patricia E. Reese1 offered an extensive overview of the literature discussing the disconnect between what the library websites offer and what their users would like. [1] On the one hand, library directors deal with a great variety of faculty perceptions, in terms of what the role of library is and how they approach research differently. The Ithaka S+R Library Survey of not-for profit four-year academic institutions in the US suggests a real diversity of American academic libraries as they seek to develop services with sustained value. [4] For the common library website user, irrelevant search results and unfamiliar library taxonomy (e.g. call numbers, multiple locations, item formats, etc.) are two most common gaps. [3] Michael Khoo and Catherine Hall demonstrated how users, primarily college students, have become so accustomed to the search functionalities on the Internet that they are reluctant to use library websites for their research. [5] No doubt, the launch of Google Scholar in 2005 was another driver for librarians to move from the traditional federated searching to something faster and more comprehensive. [1] While literature encouraging Google-like search experiences is abundant, Khoo and Hall have warned designers to not take users' preferences towards Google at face value. They studied users' mental models, defining it as "a model that people have of themselves, others, the environment, and the things with which they interact, such as technologies," and concluded that users often do not understand the complexities of how search functions actually work or what is useful about them. [5]

A more systematic examination of the tasks that discovery layers are designed to support is needed. This paper introduces hierarchical task analysis (henceforth HTA) as an expert method to evaluate discovery layers from a task-oriented perspective. It aims to complement usability testing. For more than 40 years, HTA has been the primary methodology to study systems' subgoal hierarchies for it presents the opportunity to provide insights into key workflow issues. With expertise in applying HTA and being frequent users of the Purdue University Libraries website for personal academic needs, we mapped user tasks into several flow charts based on three task scenarios: (1) finding an article, (2) finding a book, and (3) finding an eBook. Jackob Nielsen's "Goal Composition" heuristics: generalization, integration and user control mechanisms [6] were used as an analytical framework to evaluate the user experience of an Ex Libris Primo[R] discovery layer implemented at Purdue University Libraries. The Goal Composition heuristics focus on multifunctionality and the idea of servicing many possible user goals at once. For instance, generalization allows users to use one feature on more objects. Integration allows each feature to be used in combination with other facilities. Control mechanisms allow users to inspect and amend how the computer carries out the instructions. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.