The ﬂight plan of a digital
initiatives project, part 2
Usability testing in the context of
Holley Long, Kathryn Lage and Christopher Cronin
University Libraries, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado, USA
Purpose – To provide the results of research to evaluate the usability of a University of Colorado at
Boulder Libraries digital initiatives project that provides online access to historical Aerial
Photographs of Colorado.
Design/methodology/approach – This paper describes usability testing conducted as a part of a
user-centered redesign. The three stages of the evaluation – a requirements analysis, a heuristic
evaluation, and user testing – are explained and the ﬁndings are discussed.
Findings – The usability testing revealed the needs of the project’s target user group and identiﬁed
issues with the interface that will be addressed in its redesign. It has also contributed to the larger
understanding of how researchers use digital Aerial Photographs and their preferred methods of
access and desired functionalities.
Practical implications – Results from the study will be used to guide the redesign of the Aerial
Photographs of Colorado digital library and can be generalized to add to a broader understanding of
the usability requirements for a digital library of geospatial materials. Libraries providing a digital
collection of geospatial materials may use these ﬁndings to inform design decisions.
Originality/value – Much research has been done on the use and evaluation of digital libraries, but
few articles have reported on usability studies of online collections of cartographic materials similar in
structure to Aerial Photographs of Colorado. It is hoped that these ﬁndings will be instructive to
librarians designing and evaluating similar digital libraries.
Keywords Digital libraries, Cartography, User interfaces, User studies
Paper type Research paper
This paper reports and analyzes the ﬁndings from a usability study conducted on a
prototype of Aerial Photographs of Colorado (http://ucblibraries.colorado.edu/
aerialphotos/home.asp), a digital initiatives project at the University of Colorado at
Boulder Libraries. A team of librarians from the systems department, earth sciences
and map library, and cataloging department collaborated to test the usability of the
project’s interface by conducting a requirements analysis, a heuristic evaluation, and
user testing with members of the site’s target audience: faculty, staff, and students on
campus. This usability study was conducted as part of a redesign of the digital library
and was guided by principles of user-centered design. The paper will describe the
methodologies used, document and analyze the data collected, and outline how the
libraries are using the data to redesign the website in order to enhance its usability.
The project team hopes this analysis will prove instructive to librarians designing and
evaluating similar digital collections of geospatial materials.
The Emerald Research Register for this journal is available at The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at
OCLC Systems & Services
Vol. 21 No. 4, 2005
q Emerald Group Publishing Limited