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10 December 2007



I'm just wondering if it would be easier to just do usability testing. Research indicates that 5 users, given specific tasks, can reveal enough information on the usability of a site to make conclusions about a site (see Jakob Nielsen's work for more information). It can also provide more qualitative information than simply tracking user's behaviour on a site. Properly done research also avoids problems with privacy legislation etc.

Knowing that 50% of people don't actually complete registration for Storytime (the data retrieved from something like Google Analytics) seems to be less valuable than knowing that users don't complete the task because there are too many boxes to fill in or the form doesn't display properly in certain browsers (this would be the type of data that can be retrieved from usability testing).

Anyway, these are just some thoughts. I would be curious to know What do other people think and whether or not they're conducting usability testing on their library's website before making it public????

Brad Dennis

I agree with Thane, however, the best solution is to triangulate or use both Google Analytics and usability studies. Using the storytime registration example, it is true that from Google Analytics you may be able to collect data suggesting that 50% of customers are not completing registration. A debriefing/interview session after the usability study may indicate why they are not completing registration.

While it may seem that quantitative data is not as helpful as it could be, I find that often it is more helpful than I anticipated in making data driven decisions. Again using the storytime registration example: How many customers were not able to complete the registration, 5 or 50? This makes a huge difference and it is data that cannot be gleaned from usability studies.

In my opinion, using data gleaned from Google Analytics then analysis to determine what you want to examine in depth through usability studies or focus groups is the best option. To answer Thane's question, we did conduct usability testing on the library website before and after making it public and we are also using Google Analytics at Western Michigan University Libraries.

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