Library stuff: February 2011 Archives
(Alice note: Andy really wrote this--but he's away from his desk temporarily and asked me to post it.)
OK... so you don't really have to look deeply into my eyes. But if you want to help improve an information-rich website, sometimes you've got to stare into a weird piece of machinery for awhile.
We go to a number of lengths to make WorldCat.org better, easier, faster and more robust. As part of these efforts, Lead User Experience Researcher Mike Prasse, PhD, recently conducted an eye-tracking study in order to better understand how the format of search services affect how users process the results. Basically, they hook up some helpful volunteers and watch where their eyes go on the screen as they try to do various searching tasks.
Mike's results indicate that the description that accompanies the title of an entry was very important to users when looking for a book, but less so when searching for articles. In a report on his findings, he discusses how subtle differences in page layout can have a major impact on what users first look at on a results page, and for how long.
He also explores the idea of "attentional slicing," where users look for key features of an object, rather than the object itself as a possible explanation of his findings. Other results include information about facets, summaries and other elements of the two services he compared, WorldCat.org and GoogleBooks.
Interesting stuff, and a good "peek" behind the curtain of what it takes to help make WorldCat.org better.