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portal: Libraries and the Academy 2.4 (2002) 680-681

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Usability Assessment of Library-Related Web Sites: Methods and Case Studies, ed. Nicole Campbell. (LITA Guides, no.7). Chicago: Library and Information Technology Association (LITA), 2001. 124 p. $25 (ISBN 0-8389-8157-7)

Library Web sites have emerged as a focus point for information and resources provided to the library community. Librarians are continually exploring methods to ensure that users are able to utilize these resources successfully. Editor Nicole Campbell's volume is an outstanding resource for professionals wishing to evaluate the Web-based resources that they provide. The author provides an introduction to usability and different usability assessment methods. Nine contributors, seven from academic libraries and one each from public and government libraries, provide the case studies. Through practical examples, samples, and experiences, these case studies employ assessment methods to focus on creating usable Web sites with a user-centered design.

Nicole Campbell serves as the library Webmaster at Washington State University, Vancouver (WSU). She has conducted usability studies of her library's Web site and presented papers and workshops on usability assessment with her colleagues from WSU. Campbell introduces the guide with the International Standards Organization's (ISO) definition of usability and expands upon that definition with "important attributes and factors linked with the concept of usability." (p.1) In Chapter Two, she presents various methods for conducting usability testing, including card sorts, category membership expectations, focus groups, questionnaires, analysis of site usage logs, cognitive walk-through, and heuristic evaluations. Samples, such as questionnaires, are provided for each method. [End Page 680]

The highlights of this guide are the case studies, written by veterans. Thoroughly detailed case studies move from theory to practice, explaining what happens when usability studies are executed in the real world. Many of the more traditional examples, such as card sorting, focus groups, cognitive interviews, and questionnaires are provided throughout the chapters. Additionally, many practical tips about how to recruit and treat testers are provided. Although the usability methods may differ, the focus of the case studies is on creating user-centered designs.

Usability methods cited by the contributors in this guide range from low to high technology. William Gibbs' article on using video split-screen technology and David King's study utilizing Web server log statistics are of particular interest to professionals seeking to incorporate higher technological strategies into their usability studies. Two articles about working with consultants, provided by Julianne Bobay, et al, and Jennifer Marill, will assist those interested in including the expertise and objectivity of non-staff members in the usability study. The case studies in the guide include findings and conclusions that offer excellent insights into the process and design of such studies. However, further evaluation of the resulting Web sites would have enhanced this guide.

Each article is well written and the case studies provide thoughtful insights, practical advice and warnings, and visual samples of materials used in their studies. Several articles refer to usability guru Jakob Nielsen, whose Web site <> includes additional information about Web design and citations for his books. Usability Assessment serves as a comprehensive guide to performing a usability study, and any professional considering such a study will garner useful information and advice from this guide.


Vince Mariner
Southwest Florida Library Network,
Florida Gulf Coast University



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