Monday, August 01, 2011

Suggestions for HathiTrust UI

Here are my concrete suggestions for improvements to the HathiTrust user interface. This is based on my own experience and should not be considered to be complete or universal. These are simply the things that would have made my experience better:

On the home page, there should be two links:
  • member login
  • guest login
By each there should be a link to help (one of those question mark circles, for example).

Member help will explain: that you must be someone associated with one of these institutions (link) with an institutional id. Members can: [whatever they can do - view everything, download all PD materials, create bibliographies...]

Guest help will explain: that HT is a member-sponsored db. Guests can search and can view the full text some materials. A guest account allows you to create a persistent bibliography.

On the page for a work, do NOT say: Public domain, Google-digitized. Instead, say what the user needs to know:
Public domain; member-only download.
Public domain; anyone can download.

If you ask for a login at the time of download, ONLY ask for a member login since a guest login does not provide access at this point. The message ("member-only download") may be enough, but the login request could read: requires member login.

This was as far as I got in HT, and I'm not going to be spending much more time there, since as a non-member I am actually served better on other sites. It's a superficial look from a first-time, non-member user.


Perry Willett said...

I'm a little taken aback at the level of rancor expressed in this and the previous blogpost. I no longer work directly on HathiTrust, but have in the past and still work with people who do. I'm certain that a fundamental strength of HathiTrust is that the people working on it will respond very positively to constructive criticism, especially when it comes from librarian colleagues.

Karen Coyle said...

Perry, I'm sorry it comes across to you as rancor -- and i thought this was VERY constructive. They have already responded and I have thanked them for it. (Tweets) I realize now that my statement about "I will not be using it" could be read as sour grapes, but it is simply a statement of fact: as a non-member, HathiTrust doesn't meet my needs, and I get my needs met better though other services. Now that I know what my level of access is at HT I really have no reason to use it. As for my dislike of the user experience, they may not have had feedback from non-members. I was REALLY frustrated when I tried to use HT, and that's the kind of user response that sites need. In this post, I tried to explain what would have made that experience different. Since I'm only one user, they should probably seek other input. But I did take the time because I don't want people to get the idea that libraries (and I see HT as part of the library world) don't care about users. Bad design is almost always an error, but it can feel like a slight. That's why UI design is so damned important!

Jonathan Rochkind said...

Some improvement here would be good, yeah. One of the tricks is that many (surely most in fact) of those who have access to 'member login' don't _know_ they do. If one of my patrons comes accross a HT page on Google (or even through a link from my library), they are still very unlikely to a) recognize the name HathiTrust, b) know that JHU is a member, and that this gives them the ability to access a 'member login' with their JHU credentials.

Figuring out how to make it clear to users who have special access that they do, and making it easy to exersize... is a problem in general accross all our licensed/paywalled/membership-protected content available to our patrons, not hardly unique to HT. A group I can't remember the name of and can't remember where the url is just released a report of recommendations to content providers using shibboleth or other federated login on how to make such features obvious, but even if their reccommendations are followed they don't likely completely solve the problem.

Karen Coyle said...

Jonathan, thanks for this and for the links on the other post. It is notable that we have "haves" who do not know they are "haves." I think this happens a lot in the public library area -- for ages I didn't know I had access to the Library Technical Reports that I wrote, but after some digging I found that the public library has a database that gives me access to them. If I had to dig to find that out, how many members of the public have absolutely no idea that they have access to online journals? Perhaps if we did a study it would turn out that many people have more access than they know. But of course, if you don't know you have access, then you don't have access. It's like functional illiteracy -- they are functional "have nots."