The Usability of Electronic Finding Aids during Searches

The Usability of Electronic Finding Aids during Searches

The Usability of Electronic Finding Aids during Searches for Known Items Society of American Archivists Annual Meeting August 22, 2003 Los Angeles, California Christopher J. Prom Assistant University Archivist University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign introduction development of descriptive standards materials centric process not inherently user centered but lays groundwork for easy reformatting

how to best present archival data for ease of use? study goals (the why) user interactions with finding aids looking for known collection look for folder on a given topic make inferences regarding best type of designsusability what is outside scope? manuscripts only, not corporate not a report on descriptive standards methodology (the how), slide 2

developed website survey 9 usability tasks with controlled searches collection-level interfaces 11 option (links) 3 option (search, subject browse, provenance) 2 option (search and alpha list) 1 option (alpha list) folder-level interfaces PDF (Adobe) non-searchable EAD w/ nav bar (Cookbook) HTML, top table on contents searchable EAD w/ two pop up windows administered both on and off site

methodology, slide 2 during the test used control on info searched for system recorded answers/times on sitepost test interviews after the test coded data coding tabulated, queried and analyzed correlated times to survey results

transcribed interviews results, slide 1 respondents 89 participants; 35 on site, 54 off site on site mostly students (77%), off site archivists librarians (51%) 72% claim to have use archives last year, 75% w/ electronic finding aids experienced computer users 69% self rate as highly experienced computer users or above (I can install software or hardware, develop web pages, use databases.) results, 2 collection tasks

tasks w/ fewest search options most successful alpha lists worked well Mean Successful Search Time Percentage of Successful Searches 100% 100 95% 80 90%

60 85% 40 80% 20 75% 0 11 options via links

search box and list list only serach box and provenance 11 options via links search box and list list only

serach box and provenance results, 3 folder-level tasks, plotted search times* 500 Seconds 400 300 200 100 0 PDF

*on-site users only EAD Cookbook HTML Searchable EAD survey/task correlations will not discuss in detailtable on handout speed in using electronic finding aids correlates more to computer experience than archival/library experience. Seconds

Effect of computer experience on search times 100 80 60 40 20 0 All users (overall average) Power user with > 100 uses

Others with > 100 uses suggested design features, 1 (based on observations, interviews and, comments) factors specific to finding aids need complete description and context is some info available on line for every collection? provide browse option alongside search boxes people use a search box if available . . . but actually find known items faster w/ lists search boxes for single finding aids 60% try browsers find in page dont break ability to do this w/out a search box

suggested design features, 2 general factors use standard technologies and formats PDF? no pop ups; beware complex javascript use standard search algorithms keep interfaces simple clear labels and layout Where is the label? (e.g. box number) detailed description vs folder list linear format default visited color (hints CTRL-F will work) visual interest

(could move to right) to series descriptions w/ hyperlinks to folder list moderate number of links conclusions? this presentation available from a link at: http://web.library.uiuc.edu/ahx/workpap/ I would like to thank the Research and Publication Committee of the University of Illinois Library, which provided support for the completion of this research.

Christopher J. Prom Assistant University Archivist

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