In our eternal quest to spread the good word about UX, Nadaleen led a group of 17 librarians visiting NYU Libraries via NYU’s Faculty Resource Network (FRN) through a 101-level lesson on qualitative data analysis in user experience.
Quick aside: what’s the FRN? Good question!
The Faculty Resource Network (FRN) at New York University is an award-winning professional development initiative that sponsors programs for faculty members from a consortium of over 50 colleges and universities. The Network hosts lectures, symposia, and intensive seminars, all of which are designed to improve the quality of teaching and learning at its member and affiliate institutions.
All right, back to UX and libraries. Our 17 visiting librarians came to attend a week-long series of workshops under the banner of “Strategic Collaborations with Faculty: Intersections of Scholarly Communication, Teaching & Research.” The goal of the workshops is to focus on strategies for creating and furthering collaborative librarian/faculty relationships in regards to teaching, research and scholarly communication.
Entitled Assessing Faculty Needs Using Qualitative Data, Nadaleen’s presentation covered the basics of formal and informal usability testing, affinity grouping, personas, and journey mapping.
As it turns out, none of our visiting librarians come from institutions that have any faculty time devoted to UX, or that actively practice UX in any other way. Nadaleen discussed user experience in general, and highlighted, among other things, that user experience extends beyond the digital realm, and is about more than just creating usable sites. She used Peter Morville’s famous Honeycomb model to convey the philosophies of UX to our guests:
Image: Semantic Studios
Now, our goal wasn’t to teach an all-you-need-to-know-about-UX course, given that we had an hour and a half, but rather to enlighten librarians who hadn’t previously had any exposure to UX methods on the many positive takeaways and benefits of performing UX research and analysis.
Nadaleen dove into a few UX methods. Because usability testing is so pervasive in libraries, she first discussed both formal and informal usability testing, and also discussed some of the pitfalls practitioners may encounter, like the fact that you’re testing in a controlled environment, and/or you might have a skewed sample of testers, etc. In our case, most of our testers are volunteers who sign up because they are library “power users” who care about having a positive experience thought NYU Libraries. This is a common situation for UXers of any ilk to find themselves in; time and budget constraints can limit recruitment, leading to a skewed sample of testers.
Nadaleen also highlighted the value of utilizing existing data, and performed an exercise showing the group how to synthesize data and create strong stakeholder buy-in using affinity groupings.
After an explanation of just what affinity grouping is, we dove right in with a lightweight practice exercise, having the group read an actual Ask a Librarian transcript we’d previously used during qualitative analysis.
With one of our visiting librarians act as our Post-it keeper, the rest of the room called out themes they’d teased from the above transcript. In this way, and in under five minutes, we were able to illustrate the multiple benefits of affinity grouping (specifically, that they are a lightweight, fun way to synthesize existing data while building camaraderie and stakeholder buy-in).
Another example Nadaleen shared as a value-added output of existing data was personas. In our work at NYU, we’ve performed several rounds of qualitative analysis using Ask a Librarian chat and email transcripts. As Nadaleen and Alexa Pearce noted in a 2014 College & Research Libraries article (included at the end of this post),
User personas are increasingly recognized by libraries as a useful and meaningful way to learn about and design services for their user communities…Personas, which come from the field of user-centered design (UCD) and function as archetypes or composites based on real user goals and behaviors, are a tool holding great potential for libraries in understanding and meeting the needs of complex and evolving communities.
Their work with transcript analysis led to the personas we used during today’s FRN workshop. We walked our visiting librarians through the process of synthesizing data for data-driven personas.
Meet Pierre, our faculty persona!
The session culminated in a fun user journey exercise. Utilizing our Pierre persona, Nadaleen sketched out an existing user journey using a real library service scenario, and complete with the accompanying emotional turmoil.
One of the participants volunteered to do an aspirational journey of the same experience, where smiley faces would abound and frowns or neutrals would be eliminated. The group had some amazing aspirations, which led to a very intriguing discussion about all the hypothetical possibilities available in the short- and long-term.
All in all, it was a productive 90 minutes, and it gave us a lot to think about, as well as our visitors.
Check out Nadaleen and Alexa’s article!