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User-friendly Website Design: Observing Student Navigation Patterns

By Jutta Seibert

The library website is not just a pretty face; it is an essential research tool for Villanova University faculty and students. It is the main access point to online journals and databases, the library catalog, patron accounts, subject librarians, library events and much more. The library website had over 400,000 visitors in 2011. Available usage statistics already tell us a lot about how the site is used: the number of unique users, their geographic location, the devices and browsers they use to access the site and the time of the day or night when site traffic peaks.

They also tell us which library functions are most heavily used: the online library catalog is at the top of the list with over 120,000 hits followed by the Databases A-Z list with over 100,000 hits. What usage statistics cannot tell us is whether students ultimately find the information they seek. For this reason the library’s Web team planned and executed a series of usability tests.






What is usability testing?

Usability testing is a technique used to test the functionality of website design through the close observation of novice users who are asked to perform a number of pre-defined tasks. Jakob Nielsen’s Usability 101: Introduction to Usability is a good source for detailed information about usability. Usability testing does not require much investment of time and resources although specialized usability labs use heat maps as well as eye and navigation tracking and recording software. Some labs have one-way mirrors installed to ensure unobtrusive observation of research subjects.

Falvey’s Web team determined that a test administrator, a test recorder and software that tracked the test subject’s navigation paths while recording the thoughts of the subjects would suffice. How do you record the thoughts of a test subject? We asked all test subjects to think out loud while they performed the assigned tasks on the library website.








Why do usability testing?

Web designers generally conduct usability testing to identify design flaws. Why does the Web team need students, rather than library employees, to detect potential design flaws? The majority of library employees use the library website on a daily basis, which makes them expert users. Expert users navigate a website efficiently because they have been trained by their daily interaction with a website’s functionality and organization. As a consequence they are no longer able to see the site through the eyes of a novice user.

Library employees also know from personal observation that students often cannot find library resources as readily as they should. Students may be confused by library lingo or by a content hierarchy that only makes sense to a librarian. For this reason the library’s Web team administers usability tests before and/or after it updates the website’s user interfaces. The ultimate goal of these tests is to design a website that is functional, intuitive and accessible to novice users and experts alike.













What did we learn?

Some of the results of the latest rounds of usability testing were expected based on informal observations; others were a surprise. Student feedback was unanimous in regard to text-heavy Web pages. They told us that certain library Web pages are too text heavy and make their “eyes glaze over,” which interfered with their ability to find what they were looking for. (more…)


Breaking News! Falvey Receives 2013 Excellence in Academic Libraries Award

We are proud to repost from ACRL Insider:

“The Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2013 Excellence in Academic Libraries Award – Walla Walla Community College Library, Walla Walla, Wash.; Rollins College Olin Library, Winter Park, Fla. and Villanova University Falvey Memorial Library, Villanova, Pa. Sponsored by ACRL and YBP Library Services, the award recognizes the staff of a college, university and community college library for programs that deliver exemplary services and resources to further the educational mission of the institution.

…Falvey Memorial Library at Villanova University, winner in the university category, was selected for its continuous innovation in serving the university’s mission through an organizational structure built around teams and work groups and collaborative philosophy.

‘Through true collaboration across all levels of the organization, Falvey Memorial Library has leveraged expertise and enthusiasm to engage itself in serving all aspects of Villanova University’s mission,’ said Lisa Hinchliffe. ‘The Learning Commons furthers this philosophy by integrating library services and resources with other campus educational centers in support of student learning and the additional event spaces create a true public forum for the intellectual life. The library’s work in digital initiatives, particularly the partnerships with other Catholic universities and the creation of VuFind, demonstrates the commitment to working collaboratively with the broader library profession. VuFind is a quintessential example of local work having global impact.’

‘We are thrilled to receive this recognition for the achievements of Falvey Memorial Library,’ said Joseph Lucia, university librarian at Villanova University. ‘The ACRL Excellence Award represents for us the highest level of peer endorsement of our efforts to create an innovative ‘commons-centered’ model for academic library service and success in the digital era. There are many extraordinary academic libraries doing many creative things at this time so it is difficult to stand out from the pack.  We are truly honored to have been selected.’

Each winning library will receive $3,000 and a plaque, to be presented at an award ceremony held on each recipient’s campus.

Additional information on the award, along with a list of past winners, is available on the ACRL website.”

Lisa Hinchliffe is chair of the 2013 Excellence in Academic Libraries Committee and professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.


'Emancipation Proclamation': Two Events in Falvey Mark the 150th Anniversary

How and When to Commemorate Emancipation”: Special guest speaker William A. Blair, PhD, will address this topic on Thursday, Jan. 31 at 4 p.m. in the Falvey first-floor lounge. Dr. Blair is a liberal arts professor of American history and director of the George and Ann Richards Civil War Era Center at Penn State University. Sponsored by Africana Studies, this event is co-sponsored by the Center for Peace and Justice Education, the Institute for Global Interdisciplinary Studies, the Cultural Studies Program and the Department of History. For additional information, please contact Madeline Cauterucci.

“Memorable Days, the Emilie Davis Diaries, 1863-1865”: You are invited to the reception at noon, on Friday, Feb. 1,  Falvey first-floor lounge, to celebrate the new Memorable Days website. The exciting day-to-day account of emancipation was made possible by a collaboration between faculty and students in the Departments of History and Communication, with support from Falvey Memorial Library, Africana Studies, VITAL and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. If you have questions, please contact Judith Giesberg, PhD.


Encyclopedia of Applied Linguistics : Trial from Wiley Online Library


The Library is making The Encyclopedia of Applied Linguistics available to the entire campus as a trial ending Jan. 10. Let us know what you think!

The Encyclopedia, published in November, is an online comprehensive reference resource covering the highly diverse field of applied linguistics.  Coverage includes “27 key areas of the field, including Language Learning and Teaching, Bilingual and Multilingual Education, Assessment and Testing, Corpus Linguistics, Conversation Analysis, Discourse, Cognitive Second Language Acquisition, Language Policy and Planning, Literacy, and Technology and Language.”

Additional features available with the online resource includes regular additions and updates to articles, including new entries, to keep the Encyclopedia current and cutting edge and a wealth of additional material, including sound files, and direct links to cross referenced articles, creating a multifaceted learning experience. Entries are available in both HTML and PDF, enabling users to print in a clean, easy-to-read format, which includes citation and cross-references. The encyclopedia is easy to navigate with 24/7 access to this major resource.

A List of Entries, in PDF format, found in the Encyclopedia is available for review.

Comment below or contact Susan Ottignon with your feedback before Jan. 10.



"Shore…We Believe" Basket Donated to Health Promotion Fundraiser

Pictured here is the basket the Library contributed to the Health Promotion’s 16th Annual Basket fundraiser at the Campus Activity Team’s (CAT’s) Holiday Bazaar. Donations will give attendees the opportunity to win baskets sponsored by the Library and other campus offices.

Proceeds will purchase gifts for families through Delaware County’s Children & Youth Services.

The CAT’s Bazaar will be held in the Connelly Center Villanova Room on Thursday, Nov. 29, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Friday, Nov. 30, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The library basket includes a donation of $250 to the Red Cross’s Hurricane Sandy relief fund.

The Falvey University Staff Council  team created the basket using the generous donations from the library staff. Falvey USC team volunteers are William Greene, Gina Duffy, Becky Whidden, Marie Roman, Margaret Duffy, Jeannine Ahern, Joanne Quinn, Mary Heyman, Linda Hauck (incoming chair) and Phylis Wright (current chair).

Photograph by Alice Bampton

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On Trial until Nov. 30: Discover data from research repositories. Tell us your opinion.

The Library is hosting a trial to Data Citation Index, a brand new Thomson Reuters database for discovering data sets and studies in persistent and stable repositories, such as the Pennsylvania State University,  the National Cancer Institute and Stanford School of Medicine, to name a few. The trial only lasts until Nov. 30.

Research data from the social sciences, physical sciences, life science, and arts and humanities is included, and discoverable data sets are linked to the scholarship it informs.

This new resource has the potential for facilitating the creation of Data Management Plans required by the National Science Foundation for funding.

For additional information about the Falvey trial to this important initiative see Linda Hauck’s blog.



Irish Nationalist's Life by Nobel Laureate Vargas Llosa Features Materials Drawn from Special Collections

The Dream of the Celt by Nobel Prize in Literature winner Mario Vargas Llosa is a fictional account of the life of Irish Nationalist Sir Roger Casement, hanged by the British government during the First World War. Several of Casement’s manuscripts are in Falvey’s Special Collections; as well, other materials collected by his friend and ally Joseph McGarrity are housed in the McGarrity Collection in Falvey Memorial Library. All of these materials have been digitized and are made available in Villanova’s Digital Library.

Prominently featured on the front cover of the English language translation of The Dream is a photograph of Roger Casement drawn from the McGarrity Collection. Read more on the Blue Electrode blog.


Chris Hallberg Assists Falvey’s Technology Development Team

By Alice Bampton

Christopher (Chris) Hallberg, a native of Milford, N.J., is beginning his second year as a graduate assistant for Falvey Memorial Library’s Technology Development team. Chris works with David Lacy, software development specialist; Demian Katz, technology development specialist; and David Uspal, senior web specialist for library services and scholarly applications.

Chris’ duties involve writing and documenting code. He assists with VuFind, VuDL and other smaller projects.

Katz says, “Chris has been a tremendous help with the huge project of updating VuFind for a 2.0 release. His eye for visual interfaces has led to some nice cosmetic improvements to the look and feel of VuFind, and his work will also eventually lead to a major overhaul of the Digital Library book reader.”

Chris has two bachelor’s degrees, one in interactive multimedia and the other in computer science, from The College of New Jersey in Ewing. He is enrolled in the Department of Computing Sciences at Villanova University, working on a master’s degree, which he plans to complete in 2013.

He is considering pursuing a doctorate. “If not, I’ll be looking for work as a web developer. I will be starting a game studio with my close undergraduate friend, Brett Taylor, in the time that my regular job doesn’t consume,” Chris says.

He was the lead web and research developer at RiverSound Media Group, East Setauket, N.Y., before coming to Villanova.

His hobbies are practicing yoga, climbing rocks and playing guitar.

Photo by Alice Bampton


Looking for an Ethics Paper Topic?

Marijuana. Fracking. The Occupy Movement.

The Library’s online resource Opposing Viewpoints Resources in Context is a great place to start your ethics research.  Opposing Viewpoints provides an overview of both sides of numerous ethical issues through viewpoint articles, topic overviews, statistics, primary documents, website links, geographic maps and full-text magazine and newspaper articles. Read more on Rob LeBlanc’s recent blog.


Harry Potter Is Moving!

The Harry Potter marathon reading time slot, that is….

To better accommodate the schedules of our frequent readers and audience members, the weekly Harry Potter reading at Falvey Memorial Library will be moving to 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. Please join us for our new, early hours!

A public reading of all seven Harry potter books is taking place every Wednesday this semester from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Join us this coming Wednesday, 10/24, as we continue our open-mic reading of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire!

Also, please join us for the Harry Potter Costume Contest on Wednesday Oct. 31 Wednesday, Nov. 7 at 5 p.m! Library judges will award the guest with the best Harry Potter Themed Costume. The grand prize is a brand new iPod shuffle!!

For more information please contact Rob LeBlanc, First Year Experience & Ethics Librarian.


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Last Modified: October 22, 2012

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