Performance Improvement 2004. Result of usability testing of national library of medicine website


The NLM Web Management Team conducted a usability and card sort study of the NLM web site. The studies were designed to answer the following key questions: 1) How well does the NLM web site convey a sense of the kind of content users can expect when they explore NLM’s Internet sites? 2) Does NLM’s site-wide organization and navigation enable effective and efficient access to the content? 3) Are users able to comprehend the NLM web site content? How clearly do users understand the meaning of labels, links and site instructions? Based on the results of the usability tests, the vendor made a number of recommendations for improving the site’s content and navigation: 1) Reorganize the site categories to accommodate the differences between non-librarians and librarians. Future site categories should be self- evident and as unambiguous as possible, even in the absence of descriptors. 2) Rethink labeling that relies on the user’s knowledge of technical library concepts, except where librarians and researchers will be the primary users of this information (such as interlibrary loan information and Medical Subject Headings). For example, if information is technical in nature, tell users so that they can easily decide if they need or want to look in that area. “Scientific & Medical Research” will most likely appear more technical than “Health Information,” which will help researchers/librarians and non-technical consumers self-sort themselves. 3) Use transparent categories but still rely on cross-linking. Due to the breadth and “relatedness” of the content provided by the NLM site, careful and consistent cross-linking will still be a requirement after the site reorganization. 4)Support standards for folder-based search result displays. 5) Reduce the amount of excessive text and user options provided at high levels of the site. To keep users on task, we recommend that users not be inundated with a large number of options until they “drill  down” closer to individual articles, search results, and descriptions of library services. On directory-style pages that list and describe the contents secondary or tertiary categories, we recommend adopting consistent copy editing guidelines to streamline descriptions and improve the relevancy of search results. 6) Consider a consistent site-wide reduction in overly similar or ambiguous terminology. While substantial effort may have been invested in the naming and branding of database services such as “MEDLINEplus,” “LOCATORplus,” “PUBMED/MEDLINE,” and “MeSH,” these names are sufficiently similar that they can be confused with each other (e.g. MEDLINEplus versus MEDLINE) or they are not sufficiently transparent (e.g. LOCATORplus, which is the NLM Catalog). In the long term, NLM may want to rethink the naming of these valuable resources.

PIC ID: 7649
Agency Sponsor: NIH-NLM, National Library of Medicine
Federal Contact: Backus, Joyce, 301-496-7732
Performer: Human Factors International, Baltimore, MD

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