Project Details - Mini-Library Web Design Project

User Assessment

The primary users of this website will be students who are taking their courses from a distance. Users will be trying to find information about how they can get the items they need, the cost of the service (if any), how items will be delivered to them, how they can request items, and who they can contact if they need more help. Secondary users will include those who are not yet registered in a distance education course. They will want to know about how they can register, what information or documentation they need to register, if they qualify for the service, and how it works. Librarians and library staff may also be looking for information regarding distance services when they answer questions in person, by email, by mail, or by phone.

Since distance courses allow students to study in their hometowns, users will be accessing the site from all over the world. The information on the site will need to be clearly labeled and well organized since these students may be accessing the site in a time zone when they cannot get real-time support. It could be very frustrating to these students if they cannot find the information they require when no one else is there to support them when they need help.

The information seeking needs of this group will range from general to very specific. Students who are already registered in the program may need information about requesting items so they will be seeking very specific information. Those students who are not yet registered and want to know more about the program will be looking for information about qualifying for the program, registration, and the how it works – more general information. Librarians and library staff may be seeking general or detailed information depending on the questions they receive through communication with a patron.

Distance learners are often mature students who have other responsibilities. They are students with jobs, families, and children. They are often very scheduled in the time they do have for their studies because of the other responsibilities. This is one reason the information on the site needs to be clear and easy to read. Users do not want to spend a lot of time figuring out how to use the service.

Most distance students are completing their Master’s or PhD in their home communities. If the students studied at the University of Alberta for their undergraduate degree, they may have an idea of how to navigate the library for their information needs. New students to the University will be completely unfamiliar with the library website. The descriptive content must be simple and elegant to accommodate the experience levels of both groups. The style of writing should be clear enough for users to easily skim the content. This also includes avoiding library jargon that new and experienced users alike may not understand. For example, a term like ‘Interlibrary loan’ could be rewritten as ‘Getting items not held at the U of A’.

Because distance students could be accessing the site from anywhere in the world, they may using a dial-up connection. The page must be simple, with minimal images to load quickly on both broadband and dial-up connections. Again, time is important to these students. Frustrations with the page load time will hinder their ability to get the information they need.

While English may be a language requirement to be admitted to the University, it may not be the student’s mother tongue. Therefore, the language of the website should be simple and direct. Using complex wording and phrases may cause confusion and frustration.