Prototype Observations Part I

In testing the prototypes with several people helped provide some very insightful information that will be used when making updates to the prototypes. In asking the same five questions about the prototypes to ten different people revealed some interesting things as it pertains to library resources. Regardless if a person was a student or a faculty member certain things became very apparent during the testing.

Periodical Search

One of the services that the library subscribes too is a periodical search by Serial Solutions. Whenever this system was purchased by the College Libraries it was named ‘Periodicals at SUNY Potsdam’. In both prototypes there is a link that takes people to this service and it caused problems for some people. When a person was given the scenario question “Lets say your are taking a history class and you are writing a paper about…” (please read the Prototype Testing post for more information) they would often click on this link. After arriving at this website they got confused and were not sure what to do next. Part of the confusion was that this website did not look like the prototypes or like a reputable website in their opinion.

The name of the website is also confusing the way it is phrased. The first problem with the phrase is that the word libraries does not exist in it. My interpretation is that when I select the link I will be presented with a list of periodicals that are available at the libraries; However, a search box appears with some confusing language next to it. The service is very useful; However, it needs to be clear to a person what it would allow them to do. A name change needs to occur to help address this issue.

When one person arrived at the ‘Periodicals at SUNY Potsdam’ website it was easy to see the frustration in there face. In seeing this frustration, I wanted to speak up and say something, but I refused the temptation in order to gather the necessary feedback needed to make improvements. Eventually this person asked me if this is where they needed to go and I responded with a question “What do you think?”. After a few seconds of confusion the person clicked on the browser back button to return to the home page of the prototype.

This is another great example why the terms and phrases that we use as it pertains to a library and the resources that we make available to people are confusing. As discussed in early posts by eliminating the library jargon and using common language will make it easier for people to find the information they need in order to accomplish a task. Another thing that relates to language was discovered when testing the wire-frame models and reaffirmed during the testing of the prototypes. You start to see trends that are related to the way in which the libraries currently provide services and resources to people.


As mentioned in the results of testing the wire-frame models the hours for the libraries was mentioned by several people. The way the hours are presented in the prototypes received high praise from testers for many different reasons. The most apparent was that everyone was able to recognize the hours on the home page without much effort at all. One testing participant did not even realize that the hours for the libraries currently exist on the current website. According to one person “I licked the calendar because I’m a visual person”.

Meebo Chat Widget

The confusion that occurred with the Meebo Chat Widget when showing the wire-frame models to people reappeared again when testing out the prototypes. As stated in an earlier post some people did not know what the widget was and that it could be used to ask a question. Two more people mentioned this when testing the prototypes. In glancing at the widget it looks like a graphic and gets ignored because people are very goal oriented when they are using a website. According to Nielsen and Loranger “Users have been conditioned to assume that all useful parts of Web sites appear as plain text…” (p. 76). When things appear on a website that are not plain text it will most likely get ignored, which is occurring with the chat widget.


Nielsen, J., & Loranger, H. (2006). Prioritizing Web usability. Berkeley, CA: New Riders.