Interesting Article on How Students Use Library Web Pages

Yesterday Organizational Monkey’s post “Libraries should get specific in our promotions” directed my attention to a recent article in The Journal of Academic Librarianship 2011. 37(5): 386-401, “Usability testing for e-resource discovery: How students find and choose e-resources using library web sites.”

It is a pretty interesting article about how BGSU students use the library’s website to find information and any problems they might encounter.  Not so surprising, students primarily used links in the left navigation bar.  Also not so surprising, they were confused by the layout of the links on the bar.  What surprised me was that the students in this study did not really read what was in the middle of the web page.

“The researchers also noticed what appeared to be a huge middle-of-the-page blindness. When looking at the library’s home page, study participants typically started at the top left corner of the page, looked down the left navigation bar, and then sometimes scoured the rest of the page just to complete the exercise. Links from the middle of the page were rarely highlighted, and only three were chosen more than once.”

Huh, it has been a while since I have brushed up on my web page usability studies, is this type of behavior typical of today’s students or is it unique to BGSU and perhaps their web page?

They also found that students stick with the resources that they are familiar with regardless of the search.  Basically they will force a round peg in a square hole because they aren’t familiar with other possibly more relevant databases. 

“If students have used something successfully in the past, they will return to that resource for other research questions … As with the statewide catalog, OhioLINK, students can, and do, recognize branded databases and return to them. 
Therefore, libraries should get specific in our promotions, capitalizing on the brand recognition students already have and marketing brands that students will remember.”

We need to be more specific about our databases and why somebody would search them because apparently that information is not getting to them.

It is an interesting article and worth reading.  For example did you know that your users might be confused over the phrases “mobile access” and “on campus access,” some BGSU students were.  While you may not be thinking about your website redesign over the holidays, print out or tag this article for when you do begin the process of revamping your library web page.

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