Academic journal article Information Technology and Libraries

Primo New User Interface: Usability Testing and Local Customizations Implemented in Response

Academic journal article Information Technology and Libraries

Primo New User Interface: Usability Testing and Local Customizations Implemented in Response

Article excerpt


Washington State University was the first library system of its 39-member consortium to migrate to Primo New User Interface. Following this migration, we conducted a usability study in July 2017 to better understand how our users fared when the new user interface deviated significantly from the classic interface. From this study, we learned that users had little difficulty using basic and advanced search, signing into and out of primo, and navigating their account. In other areas, where the difference between the two interfaces was more pronounced, study participants experienced more difficulty. Finally, we present customizations implemented at Washington State University to the design of the interface to help alleviate the observed issues.


A July 2017 usability study by Washington State University (WSU) Libraries was the final segment of a six-month process for migrating to the new user interface of Ex Libris Primo called Primo New UI. WSU Libraries assembled a working group in December 2016 to plan for the migration from the classic interface to Primo New UI and met bi-weekly through May 2017. To start, the Primo New UI working group attempted to answer some baseline questions: What can and cannot be customized in the new interface? How, and according to what timeline, should we introduce the new interface to our library patrons? What methods could be used to assess the new interface?

This working group customized the look and feel of the new interface to conform to WSU branding and then released a beta version of Primo New UI in March, leaving the older interface (Primo Classic) as the primary means of access to Primo but allowing users to enter and test the beta version of the new interface. In early May (at the start of the Summer semester), the prominence of the old and new interfaces was reversed, making Primo New UI the default interface but leaving the possibility of continued access to Primo Classic. The older interface was removed from public access in mid-August, just prior to the start of the Fall semester. The public had the opportunity to work with the beta version from March to May and then another two months experience with the production release by the time the usability study took place in July 2017. The remainder of this paper will focus on the details of this usability study.


Primo New UI was the name given to the new front end of the Primo discovery layer, which was made available to customers in August 2016. According to Ex Libris, "Its design is based on user studies and feedback to address the different needs of different types of users." (1)

We were primarily interested in understanding the usability of the essential functionalities of Primo New UI, especially where the design of the new interface deviated significantly from the classic interface (taking local customizations into account]. For example, we noted that the new interface introduced the following differences to the user (this ordinal list corresponds to the number labels in figure 1]:

1. Basic Search tabs were expressed as drop-downs.

2. The Advanced Search link was less prominent than it was with our customized shape and color in the classic interface.

3. Main Menu items were located in a separate area from the Sign In and My Account links.

4. My Favorites and Help/Chat icons were located together and in a new section of the top navigation bar.

5. Sign In and My Account links were hidden beneath a "Guest" label.

6. Facet values were no longer associated with checkboxes or underlining upon hover.

7. Availability statuses were expressed through colored text.

We also observed a fundamental change in the structure of the record in Primo New UI: the horizontally oriented and tabbed structure of the classic record (see figure 2] was converted to a vertically oriented and non-tabbed structure in the new interface (see figure 3]. …

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


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.