Research: ACC Library Search Feature

This is an overview of my research process on the search journey with American Career College Library's website and subscription collections. This research was used to identify usability issues and redesign an improved search flow for accessing multiple collections. See my design process on this project on my ACC Library search design page, or download my PDF portfolio to see the full research and design process.

 
acc-library-research-artifacts-collage@2x.jpg
 
 

project background

American Career College is a health care career college in Southern California. One of the core functions of American Career College Library is providing its users with access to thousands of articles, videos, and ebooks through 10 subscription collections. As the Manager, Library Services, I conducted research to discover ways to improve users' ability to search for and locate library resources.

 

defining the project

Project Requirements

Prior to research, I had identified low collection usage as a problem. This was established through interviews with faculty, academic leadership, and academic staff, and confirmed with an analytics review. 

Goals included mapping the user's search journey, identifying any usability issues, and exploring possible solutions.

 

Problem Statement

ACC Library users (students and faculty) need an easy and effective way to search for and locate the library resources they need to support their coursework and/or teaching.

 

discovery research

Central Research Question

I conducted research into users' current usage behavior to identify usability issues and possibilities for improving the user experience with this core library function. My primary research question was:

What pain points do users face in the process of searching for library content? How can this journey be improved?

 

Research Methods

As a librarian, I regularly observed users in the search process. At these touch points, I conducted reference interviews, structured interviews designed to understand users' mental models of the search process and their search behavior. This gave me a general understanding of the user journey and the challenges users faced.

I documented 75 users' reference questions (help requests) and coded them by subject to identify common problems.

With cooperation from a faculty member, I also conducted 12 30-minute observation and help sessions during a 10 week term to observe users' workflow in a longer interview format.

 
acc-research-artifacts@2x.jpg
 
 

Answers to Central Research Question

What pain points do users face in the process of searching for library content?

 

There were major usability issues involved in both the search and login interactions.

Usability Issue 1: Users must choose a collection prior to searching, but they don’t know how to make this choice.

Usability Issue 2: Login with content vendor’s credentials - not personal logins - is required prior ot search. 

The task model below shows how these pain points affect the user journey. I'll explain each issue in more detail below

 
ACC-search-task-model@2x.jpg
 

Pain Point 1 Explained: Users must choose a collection prior to searching, but they don’t know how to make this choice.

 
acc-homepage-collections-list@2x.jpg
 

As the diagram below indicates, the requirement to choose a collection upfront led to 3 further problems:

1. Users who don't know which collection to choose are required to either guess or take extra time to inform themselves about the different collections.

2. An effective search might require searching multiple collections for different item formats, which is cumbersome.

3. Selecting the wrong collection requires returning to the library homepage and selecting facing challenge 1 (above) all over again.

 
acc-search-diagram-with-pain-points@2x.jpg
 
 

Pain Point 2 Explained: Login with content vendor’s credentials - not personal logins - is required prior to search. 

 
 

As the diagram below indicates, the requirement to login to each collection with vendor-specific login credentials was causing 3 further problems:

1. Users need to locate the list of unfamiliar login credentials provided by the vendor.

2. An effective search might require searching multiple collections for different item formats, which would require multiple login steps.

3. Selecting the wrong collection requires returning to the library homepage and selecting facing challenge 1 (above) all over again.

 
acc-login-pain-points-diagram@2x.jpg
 
 

synthesis and design planning

Based on this research, I decided that users needed needed a unified journey across the 10 subscription collections. They needed one search box on our library homepage that could simultaneously search all collections, as well as one personalized set of login credentials to log into all collections.

The updated task model below shows how the pain points from the original journey have been resolved and the cognitive burden on the user has been reduced.

ACC Access Task Model After@2x.jpg
 

next steps

I used my research findings to wireframe a better flow for the search interaction throiugh multiple iterations, eventually implementing a better solution. To learn more about my design process visit my ACC Library Search Design page or download my PDF portfolio.