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Designing for Experts: How Scholars Approach an Academic Library Web Site

Thursday, January 1, 2004


This study examines the use of an academic library Web site by experienced researchers and active scholars. It is part of a larger effort to understand how experienced users approach online information resources and how fully the library's Web site meets their needs. Subjects were asked to complete eight online tasks, beginning each task at the library's home page. Data were gathered by means of screen- and audio-capture software, and human observers as study participants worked through sets of tasks. Results were analyzed in terms of the experience and expertise of the participants, success rate, and the first click indicating the chosen path to the information requested. Subjects had high success rates for most tasks. Searching for information about journals and locating journal articles proved to be the most difficult tasks to successfully complete. Analysis of session recordings revealed some traits of expert users that can be used to improve Web site design, and indicated a correlation between success in searching and the double-expertise of subject knowledge combined with frequent use of the library's Web site.

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