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UX Research at J. Murrey Atkins Library


Tasks-based analysis helps researchers uncover usability issues as users interact with an interface via predefined tasks.  “Usability testing examines how people perform specific tasks, guiding the definition and implementation of functionality” (Goodman 73). This form of usability allows for accurate and comparable data analysis between multiple participants. In addition, this method is a reliable way of gauging usability at any stage of development. Participants’ performances as they attempt to complete the tasks expose usability issues and inform recommendations.

A focus group is a “way to better understand how people feel or think about an issue, product, or service” (Krueger and Casey 4) known as needs analysis. Participants that partake in the focus group are members of the intended audience of the product being discussed. “In a typical focus group, participants talk.  During the focus group users tell you about their experiences or expectations but you don’t get to verify or observe these experiences” (Focus Groups), allowing the researcher to gather qualitative data.  In addition, this method is best utilized before designing a website because it allows the researcher to understand insights to how the product and service are perceived from the participant’s opinions.

Paper Prototypes is a “quick and cost-effective technique for identifying major usability issues early with sketches and paper” (Nielson). Paper Prototypes is an easy way to brainstorm and generate design and layout ideas. In addition, this method is best utilized before designing a website because it allows researchers to gain a visual to what its audience desires in a website.

"Card sorting is a method used to help design or evaluate the information architecture of a site. In a card sorting session, participants organize topics into categories that make sense to them and they may also help you label these groups" (Usability). Card sorting helps researchers organize information from the user perspective. 

There is three types of card sorting can be utilized, open sort, closed sort , and hybrid sort. A closed sort provides participants with predefined top-level categories, a open sort requires participants to label top-level categories, and a hybrid sort has predefined top-level categories as well as an option to create and label categories. 

Optimal Workshop's Optimal Sort is a digital card sorting tool that allows virtual participation. The tool analyzes the results and produces standardization grids, similarity matrixes, and dendrograms.

 Surveys are used to gather a large scale of qualitative and quantitative data from users. Surveys are useful in describing the characteristics of a large population. They are used in conjunction with other UX methodologies to support recommendations to a product or service.



Google Analytics provided statistical data to support the findings from the focus group, paper prototyping session, and task-based testing. In addition, Google Analytics refutes prior assumptions to the webpage with the data it produces. “Google Analytics helps you analyze visitor traffic” (Why Google Analytics).  This includes being able to track the routes users take to reach the website, the devices users are using while they are on the website, and how users interact with the pages found in the website. Google Analytics allows a researcher to view a large scale of data without having to meet with users face-to-face. Google Analytics provides statistical data based on user traffic but does not determine if the information found is useful to users.

HTML_Code Sniffer detects accessibility violations and potential violations on behalf of W3C’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and the U.S. Section 508 regulation. “HTML_CodeSniffer is a client-side script that checks HTML source code and detects violations of a defined coding standard.” (HTML_CodeSniffer). The U.S. Section 508 regulation standards “define the types of technology covered and set forth provisions that establish a minimum level of accessibility” (Summary of Section508 Standards). The criteria for web-based technology and information are based on access guidelines developed by the Web Accessibility Initiative of the World Wide Web Consortium. The standards aim to ensure that information like website graphics or animation is also available in an accessible format. “Generally this means use of text labels or descriptors for graphics and certain format elements  (HTML already provides an “Alt Text” tag for graphics which can serve as a verbal descriptor for graphics)” (Summary of Section508 Standards).

WCAG is a wide range of recommendations for making web content more accessible. Content will be more accessible to a wider range of disabilities, “including blindness and low vision, deafness and hearing loss, learning disabilities, cognitive limitations, limited movement, speech disabilities, photosensitivity and combinations of these” (Caldwell). These guidelines cover a wide range of issues but they are not able to address the needs of people with all types, degrees, and combinations of disabilities.  In addition, WCAG’s guidelines make web content more usable by older individuals with changing abilities due to aging and often improve usability for users in general. 

Tableau, a “business intelligence software that allows anyone to easily connect to data, then visualize and create interactive, sharable dashboards” is utilized to showcase quantitative data collected from usability methodologies. Tableau was used to showcase Atkins Roamers data collected via LibAnalytics (Shown Below) and the website redesign navigation card sorting data.

The Usability Lab utilizes the free version of Optimal Workshop, a suite of usability tools. The suite includes:

Click here for an example of first-click testing and card sorting utilizing Optimal Workshop.

​Morae includes three different programs, recorder, observer, and manager. Morae Recorder captures audio, video, on-screen activity, and keyboard/mouse input during a research session. Morae Observer enables team members to watch participant’s experience, make notes, and flag tasks in real time. Morae Manager enables researchers to view and analyze Morae recordings, automatically calculate metrics, generate graphs, and create highlight videos to share with stakeholders.