Research fuels better experiences

Research fuels better experiences
Doing user research for the archived websites redevelopment project
5 September 2016

The Library is currently undertaking a project to combine two important resources, the PANDORA web archive and Australian Government Web Archives (AGWA), into a single Trove archived website zone.

We conducted research to understand how people engage with our archived online website content. We worked with researchers, librarians and university students and other volunteers.

Some key research findings

  • The current presentation in Trove archived websites search results makes it really difficult to find results
  • The concept of an archived website is difficult to understand
  • The Title Entry Page or calendar view is blocking the journey when trying to get to an archived webpage

Read on to find out more about how we came to these conclusions.

Research methods

As a team we identified a range of visitor types including researchers, librarians, and writers who use archived website material in different capacities and for different purposes.

We observed volunteers using PANDORA and AGWA to help us understand what they are trying to do, how archived website content helps them to complete their tasks and what frustrations they have with the current discovery and delivery journey.

Conducting site visits with users

The project team observing volunteers using PANDORA and AGWA

After each site visit we debriefed on our whiteboard wall capturing everything we had observed from the session. We listed each task, steps followed, task frequency, frustrations, blockers, work arounds, and we also noted many quotes.

Site visit notes on whiteboard wall

Our whiteboard wall is the ideal medium to debrief and record the team's observations on after each site visit

Personal quotes are gold as they provide raw and honest insight into each person's current experience.

‘The page I want is not there…immediately my heart despairs’.

‘I know it’s there but I can never find it’.

‘My heart starts to sink’.

‘Logically, I know it’s in there’.

We shared all of our findings with the wider project team so they could understand the issues people were having when they used PANDORA or AGWA.

Identifying the big issues

At the end of the research phase we had notes from our site visits, survey responses, visitor feedback, usage statistics and stakeholder interviews. We printed out each finding and observation onto individual cards and then as a project team sorted these issues into related groups.

Our major findings were:

  • People are not familiar with viewing archived websites. We need to make it clear that an archived web resource is not a currently available webpage but instead a snapshot of the webpage as it appeared in the past.
  • If people can’t easily find what they’re looking for in the search results then we have effectively blocked access to the content they want.
  • Based on their experience with other search engines most of the people we observed expected that clicking on a search result would take them to the digital content they want.
  • Most people don't expect to see a calendar or list of dates after clicking on a search result. This interaction is unexpected and they think that they (or we) have made a mistake.
  • Our new design needs to better match expectations in order to make people feel comfortable and in control of their discovery experience.

Project team grouping issue cards

Getting the whole project team involved in user research activities quickly builds shared understanding of the big issues affecting our visitors to archived websites

We hope that by learning from the research we will be able to continually evaluate and refine our designs to ensure the site is understandable, useful and usable for people using Trove.

Comment: 
Your work is of great value and importance. Keep it up guys! You are appreciated now and I'm sure this will assist many more into the future.
Comment: 
Keep up the good work. With the use of Trove, I have found out so much about my ancestors and family. Keep it up. I also enjoy editing the the things I look up.
Comment: 
Trove is a highly significant and valuable resource. Keep going and improving.
Comment: 
I think some of the problem is the TEP. If it said clearly something basic, like: "Hi You are in the PANDORA Archive click on one of the links below to see what the content looked like on that date". The information that is currently at the top of the page, which isn't very intuitive, could be put at the bottom of the page. Additionally, the main TROVE links go to the Archive go to the TEP, and the lower ones to the content, maybe reverse that.
Comment: 
I was shocked and disappointed with the news of government funding cuts to TROVE. I am appreciative of your efforts to improve access to archived websites. I have also experienced the disappointment and frustrations experienced by your surveyed users. Good luck with it. Be assured that the efforts of the National Library staff are truly appreciated. You need to know how treasured you are.
Comment: 
Wonderful resource for researchers like myself. Please keep up the good work as I find something new every time I do a search.
Comment: 
I use Trove on numerous occasions to research local history.I think it is important to continue putting the newspapers on line for all to see.I was disappointed to see Trove cut back.There has to be some way that volunteers can continue the work of putting more newspapers on line.
Comment: 
Do find the information you provide is great.. Sometimes I can't find what I want, even though I know it is there hidden in the maze but I keep looking... Great work you do
Comment: 
Hello, Glad to hear that Trove Staff are working away trying to improve and refine what is truly a great research resource. I use it for various projects, not merely personal family research (which is one area). Hearing of Federal government cuts threatening to affect not only the operations of the NLA in general but Trove in particular continues to amaze and sadden me. IF such social resources as this cannot be fully and assuredly funded, just what type of Australia will the future hold?
Comment: 
Trove is a wonderful resource!
Comment: 
Trove is a treasure; however accessing information isn't always as intuitive as we would like. Good to know it's a work-in-progress and that the dedication you folks display, is appreciated by so many. A very valuable resource, particularly so for researchers.
Comment: 
I whole heartily agree with all the comments below and appreciate all the time and effort mentioned above in trying to make research of the web site work better. The people doing this work are amazing. I know i appreciate all the information available on Trove and I think we are the envy of the world.
Comment: 
We are so fortunate to have this wonderful resource and grateful for all of the hard work that goes into making it available online. For so many of us who are not able to physically visit record offices, Trove provides access to the richness of our past and the stories that have been forgotten. It is appalling that our government should even consider cutting funding to this amazing and so worthwhile project. There is nothing else like it in any other country. Is there anything we Trove users can do, to ensure Australia keeps leading the way?
Comment: 
TROVE is a really valuable resource. I have spent many enjoyable hours using it for family history related research. With family forbears in all Australian states and the Northern Territory it has also enabled reading newspaper reports that help fill in the timeline and circumstances in which some of the earlier relatives lived. I have also noticed improvements being made to the viewing and correction functions online. It is great news to learn that you are seeking even more "user friendly" functionality.
Comment: 
I have found Trove to be immensely useful in tracking down family members. It can be a frustrating experience and I have learned to be very patient when I can't find what I want, even though I know it must be there somewhere. The worst is when I've found something and haven't kept the details and been unable to find it again. I'm much more careful now. Funding cuts should never have occurred. So sad and so lacking in vision. Trove is a great resource.
Comment: 
Trove is a great resource for academic researchers, as I have discovered. Thank you! And the contribution that the NLA generally makes to university research in this country can not be overemphasised - and the Federal government needs to know this!!
Comment: 
Great to see researchers watching people in real time go through the process and use the results to improve the experience.