This paper demonstrates how user interactions can be measured and evaluated with A/B testing, a user experience research methodology. A/B testing entails a process of controlled experimentation whereby different variations of a product or service are served randomly to users in order to determine the highest performing variation. This paper describes the principles of A/B testing and details a practical web-based application in an academic library. Data collected and analyzed through this A/B testing process allowed the library to initiate user-centered website changes that resulted in increased website engagement and improved user experience. A/B testing is presented as an integral component of a library user experience research program for its ability to provide quantitative user insights into known UX problems.
Conducting user research doesn't have to be difficult, time consuming, or expensive. Your Library website can be improved through user research even if you have design restrictions because of a prescribed branding scheme, content management system, or any other reason. At Simmons College in Boston, we recently performed a user research study that took an in-depth look at the content organization and wording of links on the Library homepage. We conducted an in-person paper survey using paper prototypes to collect feedback from Library users. Based on the research findings, we made significant updates to the Library homepage that make it much easier for users to find the information they need.
I’ll admit it: I am excited about the potential for User Experience Design to bring about change in libraries. I look around at our spaces and interfaces, and think, “We can do better.” And I see the user experience approach as a way to get us there. But all this bold-faced enthusiasm only gets me so far.
If your library has a website and your users have mobile devices, congratulations: you have a mobile user experience. But is that experience a good one for your users?
Putting the User First by Courtney Greene McDonald is an accessible, action-focused handbook full of ideas for improving user experience right away and in any library.
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