Academic journal article Library Philosophy and Practice

Usability Evaluation of Online Digital Manuscript Interface

Academic journal article Library Philosophy and Practice

Usability Evaluation of Online Digital Manuscript Interface

Article excerpt


'Manuscript' is from the Latin phrase codex manu scriptus. Explicitly, manuscripts are works of any kind (text, inscription, music score, map, etc.) written entirely by hand. A medieval manuscript is one written in Europe prior to the invention of printing from movable type in about 1450. It also refers to the handwritten or typescript copy of an author's work as submitted for publication before printing. Given the recent development and adoption of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) in almost all sectors of the economy, libraries also need to implement the use of ICTs to enhance access to their resources by users. One of such implication is the digitization of library collections. Manuscripts have been identified as rare and precious collections that are normally prioritized in most digitization projects in libraries around the world. Digitizing manuscripts collection has been found to promote greater use of manuscripts and to safeguard the posterity of the rare materials.

The Library of the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) has an appreciable collection of rare manuscripts. In line with technological development, the library has since undertaken digitization projects for manuscripts. The digital manuscripts collection can be accessed from the library interface, available at:

Literature Review

Usability evaluation in libraries

There have been tremendous amounts of works carried out on usability evaluation in the past. According to Pearrow (2007), usability is a broad discipline of applying sound scientific observation, measurement, and design principles to the creation and maintenance of Web sites to bring about greater ease of use, ease of learnability, amount of usefulness, and least amount of discomfort for the humans who have to use it. He adds that usability evaluation is not about accessibility, marketing research, or "crafting" the user experience.

A study conducted by Yushiana and Widyawati (2007) evaluated the design of OPAC's interface by three of the ten heuristic evaluation proposed by Nielsen (i.e. visibility of the interface status, match between interface and the real world, and aesthetic and minimalist design). The study identified some weaknesses of the interface in terms of proper messaging system to inform users on the system's status during delays. For menu instructions, it was found that prompt and error messages did not appear at the same place on each menu screen. Also, the terms used in the dialog box are not user-friendly, the interface did not offer clear activation cues or feedback on when to start an action, the jargons used are not friendly, and menu title is not brief. They suggested five areas of the interface that need improvement: (a) to provide a Graphical User Interface (GUI) menu with clear activation to make it obvious to the users on when the next operation can be started; (b) to ensure that menu instructions prompts and error messages appear in the same place(s) on each menu; (c) to ensure a clear indication is provided to keep users informed on the interface delay; (d) to ensure dialog boxes are user friendly by using jargons familiar to the users instead of computer jargons, and; (e) to ensure terms used are simple, precise and concise.

Beier and Vaughan (2003) have described a framework for interface design guidelines that attempts to extend some of the user interface principles of non-HTML interfaces (e.g. Java) to HTML-based Web sites. In their study, they suggest the Bull's Eye framework for user interface guidelines which consists of five layers i.e. "Overarching Features and Principles" representing site-wide guidelines such as use of natural language, minimalism, colour palettes and other aesthetic, and object versus action orientation; "Combination of Page Flows to Create Interaction Patterns"; Page Flows'; "Page Templates"; and "Components" which represents discrete elements such as buttons, text fields, text, and simple combinations of these elements. …

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