Miskatonic University Press

Usability Testing of VuFind at an Academic Library


My fellow York University librarian Sarah J. Coysh and I have a paper just out in Library Hi Tech vol. 29 no. 2: "Usability Testing of VuFind at an Academic Library" (DOI: 10.1108/07378831111138189). It does what's on the tin: it's about usability testing of VuFind as implemented as the York University Libraries catalogue.

Our postprint of the article is available in our institutional repository: Usability Testing of VuFind at an Academic Library. It's the same as the printed version except for the formatting.

Here's the abstract:

Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to present the findings of an academic library’s implementation of a discovery layer (VuFind 1.0 RC1) as a next-generation catalogue, based on usability testing and an online survey.

Design/methodology/approach – Usability tests were performed on ten students (eight undergraduates, two graduates), asking a set of 14 task-oriented questions about the customized VuFind interface. Task completion was scored using a simple formula to generate a percentage indicating success or failure. Changes to the interface were made based on resulting scores and on feedback and observations of users during testing. An online survey was also run for three weeks, to which 75 people responded. The results were analyzed, compared and cross-tested with the findings of the usability testing.

Findings – Both the usability testing and survey demonstrated that users preferred VuFind’s interface over the classic catalogue. They particularly liked the facets and the richness of the search results listings. Users intuitively understood how to use the deconcatenated Library of Congress Subject Headings. Despite the discovery layer’s new functionality, known journal title searching still presents a challenge to users and certain terms used in the interface were problematic.

Practical implications – It is hoped that the findings will assist implementers of VuFind and other next-generation catalogues to improve their own systems. The questions add to the body of knowledge about usability testing of library catalogues.

Originality/value – No previous papers have been published documenting VuFind usability testing. Not only will the findings be relevant, not just to VuFind, but they will also add to the growing body of literature on next-generation catalogues.

The "no previous papers" became untrue after the paper was accepted and before it was printed. Usability Testing of the VuFind Next-Generation Online Catalogue by Jennifer Emanuel came out in the March 2011 issue of Information Technology and Libraries. It covers very similar matter, and we're glad that the body of work on VuFind is building up.