Work of the Committee
UCB Library's Public Electronic Access Systems -- Principles
Users of UC Berkeley's public electronic access systems have a wide variety of differing information needs. Any given user may be an expert in some areas and a novice in others; different disciplines require different research styles. The technological environment is continuously and rapidly changing. Given these facts, the following principles are suggested as guidelines for developers of The Library's public electronic access systems in order to provide excellent service to all our users.
User-Centered Design and Development
- PROMOTE USER SELF-SUFFICIENCY. The Library's public access electronic systems should promote user self-sufficiency.
- SUPPORT RANGE OF USES. The user interface must be designed for the full range of uses desired by people coming to the interface. Successful implementation may require design of more than one interface (novice, expert, discipline-specific) and might include user-customizable features. Systems and interfaces will be responsive to users with disabilities.
- PROVIDE TARGETED AND TIMELY RESPONSE. User interfaces should be designed to get users started in the direction most likely to result in success for their current need. The system should provide a response time that is acceptable to the user.
- BE BASED ON USER-CENTERED DESIGN. Users must be included in every stage of the design process.
- FACILITATE COMMENT. Users should be able to easily report problems they encounter with interfaces and search engines.
- PROVIDE SEAMLESS ACCESS. Off-campus access should be as easy as on-campus access for authorized users.
Interface Look and Feel
- BE ORGANIZED, SIMPLE, AND CLEAN. User interfaces should be simple and clean. They should organize information to reduce "clutter" and to mirror user needs rather than the Library's administrative structure. Each interface should contain features/information relevant to the level of user for whom the interface is designed.
- SHOW CONSISTENT IDENTIFICATION. To assist users in assessing the credibility of information on our site, pages we publish should have consistent identification as belonging to the UC Berkeley Library.
- BE JARGON-FREE. The interface should speak the users' language, with words, phrases and concepts familiar to the user, rather than using jargon and system-oriented terms. The names of library services and systems or their explanatory labels should reflect what they do.
What the system presents
What the user can do
- INTEGRATE VARIOUS INFORMATION SOURCES. Wherever appropriate, we should provide, to each level of user, a single interface that transparently integrates separate resources (e.g., the local catalog, the union catalog, the CDL directory, and perhaps information on / access to Library services).
- INTEROPERATE WITH RELATED UCB AND CDL INITIATIVES. The Library's public electronic access systems will be designed to work well with campuswide and systemwide electronic initiatives, such as e-Berkeley and those authored by the CDL.
- PROVIDE MOST-USED FEATURES. The interfaces, each designed for different levels of user interest/expertise, should provide the functions and features most often sought by those users. This may include access to search modes (e.g., "native mode") within a resource in order to allow maximum precision of searching and to display the architecture and logic particular to that resource.
- PROVIDE FEEDBACK. The user interface should keep users informed about what is happening (i.e., what the system is doing in response to a command and how long the user should expect to wait).
- USE CONSISTENT NAVIGATION TOOLS. The interface should provide useful, consistent navigational tools (e.g., navigation bars) that represent the most-used navigational features.
- MAINTAIN USER TASK CONTEXT. The user interface should keep users informed about where they are in the session and, as much as possible, help them keep their place in our web-based user interfaces.
- MAINTAIN SETTING VISIBILITY. Make objects, actions, and options visible. The user should not have to remember information from one part of the dialogue to another.
- SEARCH THE ENTIRE SYSTEM FROM THE HOME PAGE. Webs are getting very large and becoming increasingly time-consuming to browse, and some information is only needed infrequently. Therefore, searching within Web portals, if only to find a better place to start browsing, is extremely important.
- SAVE RESULTS. The systems should provide easy ways for users to save or transfer the results of their searches within or across sessions, and should create citations that are downloadable to the most common citation software. Additionally, the system should provide a way for a user to display the history of interactions with the interface.
- ORGANIZE RESULTS. Search results should be ranked/sorted according to user preference.
- AUTOMATE SEARCHES. Users should be able to request automatic updates about new information in their specified fields of interest.
- PROVIDE TIPS FOR IMPROVING SEARCH RESULTS. Assist users to refine their searches. When possible, provide new search options based on the content of their original search and assist them in modifying their search to increase or decrease the number of hits they receive.
- PROVIDE HELPFUL ERROR MESSAGES. Help users recognize, diagnose, and recover from errors. Error messages should be expressed in plain language (no codes), precisely indicate the problem, and constructively suggest a solution.
- PROVIDE TUTORIAL AND CLEAR INSTRUCTIONS ON USE. Tutorial and help screens should be easy to search; be focused on the user's task; list concrete steps to be carried out; and be brief. Based on user testing results documenting what users hope they can do, the system should clearly inform the user of what the system is and is not capable of doing. Online tutorials should address special needs of persons searching in subject areas where unique skills are required.
- REFER USER TO HUMAN ASSISTANCE. The system should be able to refer a user who needs more help to a person.
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Document maintained by: Gail Ford
Last update 3/22/01. Server manager: contact.