All vendors of library software will claim that their product is “user friendly,” but how can you tell if a product actually lives up to this claim? How to determine whether a product is actually user-friendly is explained in this article.
The term “usability” is used to describe how quickly and easily users can use software to complete tasks. Also known as the “user experience,” it can refer to how simple it is to move between screens and how adaptable the software’s workflows are for accomplishing tasks in an elegant manner.
Unfortunately, despite newer products on the market being more advanced in this regard, these principles are not as often applied to library software as they ought to be. Usability matters because
The system will be used by library staff all day, so they must create efficient routes to the activities they perform most frequently.
Usability equals less expensive training costs and shorter training periods for temporary or new employees.
Staff retention rates are higher because they are happier at work and are less annoyed by the library system.
Better user experience – how users view your library services will be heavily influenced by the software.
The following are things to watch out for in library software:
Consider that your issue desk is busy. Your staff must have quick access to all information about a user’s records in order to give them important messages, renew items, pay fines, and reserve items. If the workflows between these functions are cumbersome, for example, if you constantly have to go back to the menu and find the borrower again, it will slow down the desk staff and cause lines of impatient users.
These are some inquiries to make:
Can staff members search by ID or name, barcode or title? Is there flexibility in how they locate items?
Can you easily switch between different functions once you’ve found a user?
Can patrons perform some of these tasks on their own, freeing up library staff to assist patrons in other ways?
There has been a lot written about usability in web design, and these principles apply just as much to user interfaces that are web-based.
The following questions are specific to libraries:
These are only a few of the inquiries you might make. These inquiries have less to do with specific functionality and more to do with how easily the software operates. Purchasing procedures frequently place an excessive amount of emphasis on functional checklists while ignoring equally crucial usability principles. The software must be effective and easy to use for the purpose of its purchase, which is likely to be to enhance staff task performance.