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MeL Minute

MeL Minute: Usability Testing and MeL

As we mentioned at the end of the summer, MeL engages in reiterative usability testing to improve the MeL and MeLCat experience. Sean Cwiek, Kathy Kosinski and Sonya Schryer Norris recently completed a study and are in the process of implementing the results as approved by the MeL management team. We worked at Jackson District Library (thank you to Sara Tackett, Liz Breed and the staff and patrons of JDL!!) and with non-patrons in Lansing. We spent more than 17 hours watching and recording as people engaged with MeL and MeLCat. There were several important results that will impact MeL that we'd like to share with you.

  • The Advanced Search feature, which fared poorly in our 2016 testing, fared even worse in the summer of 2017. It has been removed from MeL pending improvements by the vendor.

One patron noted: “This is going to sound stupid but the advanced search makes no sense. I would think maybe I could come here to narrow down my search but I would be so frustrated.” Another said: “It's not very friendly. I have no idea what Boolean is. Format doesn't make any sense here.” One person simply looked at the page and said: “Now I'm lost and I want to call the library. I'm serious. I'm going to have to hit the back button or reset the search.”

Advanced Search is like a voodoo siren call to some users but it consistently underperforms for the general public.

  • The search box on the homepage, which searches both MeL and MeLCat, is going to be split into two different search boxes on two different pages. We're still working with designers on implementation but likely MeLCat will move to the homepage and a search for the databases will move to the top of the databases page. The anticipated date for that change is late December. We will engage in another round of usability testing this winter to see how this change affects users.

We asked users about their faith in the MeL search box and almost all said they would have used it on their own to obtain books but only 29% said they would have stuck with it for non-book related information seeking. This speaks to the value that subjects place on finding books they can borrow at no charge and the relative difficulty of more generalized information-seeking in Encore.

  • Fortunately, we found that MeLCat success rates were definitively improved since the Encore  improvements (or "new" MeLCat) we made. As a reminder, these are the recent enhancements to Encore:
    • Records with more holdings attached to them are weighted more heavily. This means that records that have more lending libraries attached to them will appear higher in the search results, hopefully making them more attractive to click on and improving the findability of available copies.
      • This also has the benefit of decreasing the visibility of electronic resources with only one holding.
    • Known title searching has improved.
    • There is now better matching on one word titles
    • If no copies associated with a given record are available for loan that is now noted on the results page with a red message: "No copies currently available"
    • A number of the facets have been collapsed and can opened or closed with a plus/minus sign
    • A background color (green instead of gray) was added to the Facets section
    • The Request an Available Copy screen has been improved. 1. Only Available or Status unknown (Follett systems) items are shown 2. The request button is larger and at both the top and bottom of the screen and 3. The messaging has been simplified and improved.
    • Icons were made larger and colored
    • "Get This from MeLCat" and "View Record" are no longer grayed out unless they're selected on the search results page

Brought to you by Deb Renee Biggs and Sonya Schryer Norris, Library Consultants at the Library of Michigan

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