How to Conduct Usability Studies: A Librarian Primer

Interested in conducting some usability test of your library website or resources, but not sure where to start? Come to this one session and hear about what things to consider when conducting usability tests for the first time. We will cover research questions, recruitment, creating user study scripts and other best practices.

Scope: This 60- minute session is relatively cut-and-dry: We’ll be teaching librarians how to do usability tests on their library services. Basically from start to finish, we will explain what librarians need to do to implement this method of gathering user feedback. We will also discuss implementations of usability tests at Purdue University libraries.


  • What is a Usability Test?
  • User Centered Design Process- introduction
  • How to plan your Usability Test topic
  • What are my objectives?
  • How much time do I have?
  • How much money do I have?
  • How much people resource do I have?
  • Who am I presenting this to?
  • Is this for an existing product?
  • Research Questions Recruitment
  • The Usability Study Script
  • Best Practices
  • Capturing Results
  • Interpreting Results
  • Communicating
  • Findings
  • Where to find out more.

Approach: There are many places on the internet to get information about usability tests, but our webinar is focused on reference librarians who are interested in using usability tests to improve services at their libraries. We examine what worked in our library as a case study, but will also discuss the work at other libraries and in the private sector, in terms of usability tests. Our goal is to give librarians the information they need to use usability tests effectively at their library. Whereas our first webinar is theoretical (User Experience Research 101), this webinar is very practical.

Questions with discussion and polls throughout the webinar to gauge comprehension as well as foster critical thinking (10 minutes) with 5 minutes for discussion at the end.

Learning Outcomes

  • Participants will be able to describe usability and user centered design and its applications to libraries.
  • Participants will be aware of various documents and workflows needed when doing usability tests.
  • Participants will be aware of resources for usability studies and where to find out more.

Who Should Attend

This webinar is focused on reference librarians who are interested in using usability and user experience methods to improve services at their libraries. This includes people who work on the libraries' virtual presence (web sites, mobile apps or databases) but also people interested in cross channel user experience like references desks, study spaces and check out stations. It would help if the participant attended our earlier session on user experience research in general, but not required.


Ilana Barnes
  Ilana Barnes is Business Information Specialist (Assistant Professor of Library Science) at Purdue University. She graduated last fall from the University of Michigan School of Information, where she took classes in user experience research. She has given a webinar titled “Finding Waldo: Using the Census to Locate Underserved Populations in the Public Library Community” as part of her education at UM. She currently helps teach the half semester long, 1-credit information literacy class for Management students as well as the Hospitality and Tourism Management students.

Tao Zhang
Tao Zhang is Digital User Experience Specialist (Assistant Professor of Library Science) at Purdue University. He worked as a postdoctoral researcher in the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department at Vanderbilt University from 2009 to 2011. He received his PhD degree in Industrial Engineering from North Carolina State University in 2009. He has worked on user experience research projects ranging from website design, Digital TV interface, virtual reality, and human-robot interaction in healthcare and emergency response scenarios. Currently he is working on user research and interface design projects to improve the web presence and services of Purdue University Libraries.


How to Register

Register online


Questions about your registration should be directed to Technical questions about the webinar should be directed to Andrea Hill, RUSA Web Manager, at

Thank you and we look forward to your participation!