April 12, 2017

Northern Collaboration: UX Learning Exchange (#nclxux)

By Ned Potter, Academic Liaison Librarian 

A few of us working on UX projects at York attended a really excellent Northern Collaboration event in March, held at the University of Huddersfield. It was so useful to hear people sharing the results and (user) experiences, and I also gave a short talk on York's own UX projects so far.

Huddersfield Uni library has done an AMAZING job at Storifying the tweets from the day which you can read here. The slides from Andy Priestner's pretty explosive keynote are not yet online but the Storify gives you a good flavour of the talk and the key messages. Personally it was the kind of talk I wished everyone who works in my institution could attend, it was brilliant.

Most of the rest of the slides are on the Northern Collaboration Slideshare page, except mine which were already uploaded on my own Slideshare page, and are embedded below:

UX at York: starting small and scaling up (#nclxux) from Ned Potter

I also recorded the talk so will make a video that combines the PowerPoint and the audio at some point. 

Between the Storify and the Slideshare links you can get a good feel for the content of the day so I won't go through it talk by talk here, but I did want to list some of the things that particularly struck me from the day: 

  • "We would rather be wrong than uncertain." I've heard Andy refer to this Dan North quote before but I was glad to hear it again because it is SO very true. It really does explain a lot of the barriers around implementing both ethnographic feedback mechanisms and the changes subsequently designed based on the feedback. 
  • Behavioural versus attitudinal research. I've not quite had this properly articulated in my head until now. Attitudinal research is about what users think and say, and we do a lot of it in libraries. Behavioural research is about what users actually DO, and there is a big difference between this and what they say they'll do! So we need more of it. 
  • "I don't really think about the library all that much." I was already sold on surveys not being overly useful before Andy's keynote, but he had a brilliant slide about what people say versus what they are probably thinking (captured in one of Alison Sharman's tweets here) in surveys. The last of these examples was in response to the question 'Have you got any other comments?' - they're probably thinking 'I don't really think about the library all that much' - this really struck a chord with me. Even if they use the library a lot they don't think about it overly, so any survey answers that ask for a level of detail they've not already invested in our services will elicit an answer that is literally CREATED for the purposes of the survey. People will put something just to put something. 
  • People are awful at predicting future behaviour - and this includes their own. 
  • UX is possible at a distance! I've been asked about this at York before and never been able to satisfactorily answer it: can we use ethnographic techniques with distance learners? Keren Stiles' talk was so useful in setting out exactly how to do this, and she was kind enough to send me a follow-up email with more info in too - I now feel like we're equipped to try this stuff out for ourselves. 
  • My feelings on surveys and focus groups following this day (which features some talks in favour of them, some very much not) are as follows: 

    Surveys and Focus Groups are not without value, but the importance we place on them in academic libraries is disproportionate to their efficacy... 
Thanks to Alison and everyone else at both Huddersfield University and Northern Collaboration who made the day happen - more like this please! 

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