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UMGC Library

A mockup image of the UMGC library website.

Project Type

University Project

Role

UX Researcher

Tools Used

Optimal Workshop | Google Sheets

Methods

Tree Study

Project Time

2 Weeks

Project Scope

The purpose of this study was to assess the effectiveness of the navigation mechanics and information architecture (IA) utilized by the University of Maryland Global Campus Library website (UMGC). The study aims to identify pain points library users encounter while navigating the website to improve the library website's IA and accessibility.

Objectives

  • Collect User Navigation Data: Obtain navigational data to evaluate how effective the library website's current IA is.

  • Identify Navigational Trends: Locate any patterns in the user journey to identify potential pain points and user delights that will inform the creation of a new IA.

User Groups

  • Students

  • Faculty

  • Staff

User Research

Research Questions

  • Can users intuitively navigate through the UMGC library website?

  • Are there any common frustrations users experience when navigating the site?

  • Are there any particular resources or pages that users commonly have difficulty locating?

  • Are users able to locate library resources (subject guides, citation guides, etc.) available quickly and effectively?

Tree Study

An unmoderated tree study was conducted using Optimal Workshop to evaluate the usability of the UMGC library website's sitemap. A total of 40 participants, including students, faculty, and staff, were recruited to complete the study. Study participants were presented with a replica of the website's sitemap and asked to complete a series of tasks. Each task asked participants where they would seek a specific piece of information within the tree structure. These tasks were designed to cover a range of scenarios and user journeys on the library website. In addition to tasks, participants were also asked post-study questions to collect feedback on their experiences.

Sitemap of UMGC library's original IA.

A sitemap of UMGC library's original information architecture.

Key Findings

By examining user paths, we were able to identify areas within the website's navigation that were challenging to most study participants. In addition to reviewing the quantitative results from the study, thematic coding of the post-study questionnaire feedback also provided more insights into the user experience. From our analysis, we learned that:

It is not obvious that OneSearch accesses the library's primary catalog.

  • Only 25% of participants selected OneSearch when prompted to search for a peer-reviewed article.

  • 85% of successful participants took indirect paths to OneSearch

  • Despite OneSearch being represented in the Resources tab, the vast majority of users did not select it in order to conduct a search for a journal article, and even the successful users did not have direct paths to it.

Resources, Get Help and Services labels are unclear.

  • Only 50% of participants successfully navigated to ‘Journal Titles’ when prompted.

  • A number of tasks had failure rates between 25 and 50%, with a number of participants providing feedback stating their confusion regarding the top navigation labels.

Having "resources" and "services" is confusing. These sections felt like they could contain the same information, so there was a bit of back and forth navigation between the two."

-Student study participant

There is no clear separation between library catalog content and student resources.

  • Only 50% of participants successfully navigated to ‘Research Help’ when prompted.

  • Many categories contain a mix of resources contained within the library and resources created by the library, with no easy way for the user to tell them apart without pre-existing knowledge. This forces users to check each category for the particular page they are searching for, instead of indicating to the user where they should expect it to be located.

Recommendations

Replace the 'Ask a Librarian' with 'OneSearch' on the IA's first level.

Participants were able to locate the ‘Ask a Librarian’ page easily but struggled to navigate to OneSearch within the navigation menu.  OneSearch the library's online catalog and is a critical function of the library and the primary interface site visitors use. Although study participants reported OneSearch being the most important page to them, 'Ask a Librarian' is the first page nested within the top layer of the site's navigation.

In addition to Ask a Librarian being located in the top level of the AI, it is also nested under 'Get Help'. Study participants reported finding this crosslinking confusing. Based on these findings, we recommended replacing 'Ask a Librarian' with 'OneSearch' to make it easier for site visitors to navigate to the most commonly visited page on the site.

Categorize pages based on their function.

Using function-based categories in the first level of the menu allows site visitors to accurately determine which category holds their target page. This will streamline library's navigation and resolve the frustration that participants expressed in their feedback toward having to examine multiple categories in order to locate a particular page.

Organizing pages based upon function also creates a clear separation between pages dedicated to library content, student guides, and library services. This will prevent the confusion that many participants expressed in their feedback regarding the differences between what constitutes as a "resource" and a "service".

A sitemap of the recommended AI for the UMGC library website.

A sitemap of the recommended IA for the UMGC library website.

Conclusion

Implementing these recommendations would enhance the navigation for library users, fostering a smoother and more intuitive journey by indicating accessible pages within each category. By separating the library's catalog content, student guides and resources, and library services, much of the confusion encountered by participants in locating specific pages would be alleviated. These refined menu categories effectively communicate organizational themes to users, enhancing navigation for all user groups.

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