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The Need to a Friendly User Interface

The Need to a Friendly User Interface

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Published by Dr. Essam Mansour
The Need to A Friendly User Interface Used to Access Online Catalog: A Comparative study between two OPAC Interfaces; University of Pittsburgh OPAC Interface & Carnegie Mellon University OPAC Interface
The Need to A Friendly User Interface Used to Access Online Catalog: A Comparative study between two OPAC Interfaces; University of Pittsburgh OPAC Interface & Carnegie Mellon University OPAC Interface

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Published by: Dr. Essam Mansour on Mar 05, 2009
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The Need to A Friendly User Interface Used to Access Online Catalog: A Comparative study between two OPAC Interfaces;

University of Pittsburgh OPAC Interface & Carnegie Mellon University OPAC Interface

Essam Mansour
Pittsburgh, 2000  Supervised by Prof.:

Arlene G. Taylor 

No doubt that the world has witnessed a great and big revolution in the information technology in the last 20 years. And this has required a respectful understanding for the end-user needs and behavior as they are considered the real aim of creating and developing of this technology. The programs designers, developers, and vendors feel a great responsibility towards these users who are using their products (programs). In other words, software developers need to expand their focus beyond functional requirements to include the behavioral needs of the end-users. What users really want from these people is not only to build applications that meet their needs of information but also to use these applications e friendly and easily. So, the matter is how to make applications usable without the need to read complicated manuals or to receive a hard and

Defining the User Interface (UI)
The user interface (UI) in its simplest definitions is the point of contact between human needs and the computational, data-storage and communication capabilities of a computing device (Frank, 1995). Dumas defined human-computer interface “the words and symbols that people see on the computer screen; the content and layout of displays; the procedures used to enter, store, and display information; and the organizational structure of the interface as a whole” (1988, p. 68.)

Understanding the user (Who is, What he/she expects, ….
It is important to understand the user and his/her needs of information and what he/she can expect from the library to offer. If the users are not familiar with the use of automated library system, the library should make some training to help them how to understand and deal with the system. Hackos and Redish (1998) stated that we greatly need to study users because the more we know about them, the better we can design for them. The users are people with likes and dislikes, habits and skills, education and training that they bring into practicing whenever they use any computer system. Any automated catalogue system should put into consideration who the user is, how he/she thinks about the machine and the OPAC, what he/she waits expects from them, and what he/she needs to be adapted to deal with the

Why is Interface Design is Important?
• Ambler (1998) answered this question by stating the following several reasons: • 1.       First of all the more intuitive the user interface the easier it is to use, and the easier it is to use the cheaper it is. • 2.       The better the user interface the easier it is to train people to use it, reducing training costs. • 3.       The better the user interface the less help people will need to use it, reducing support costs. • 4.      The better the user interface the more users will like to use it, increasing their satisfaction with the work that is done. • We can see from these answers that any application that is ambiguous, complicated, and difficult to use, the user simply will not use it.

Designing the user interface
• Hildreth (1995) tried to articulate the principles and goals which should guide the design and development of the online catalog interface. These two principles are: • 1.       The first principle is that the online catalog system should • never permit a user's search attempt to fail to retrieve one or more bibliographic records for review and action. Many searches in existing online catalogs fail to retrieve even a single record, and most online catalogs offer little or no assistance to the searcher when this result occurs. The assumption behind this principle is that something in a heterogeneous online catalog database might satisfy the request to some degree, or serve, even in its rejection by the user, to supply useful information that can be used to further the search. • A second principle is never assumed the display of a bibliographic record is the end of a search, merely to be selected or rejected, then "set aside."

Review of the Literature
In a great study of what screens should look like and making an effective OPAC screens, Shires and Olszak (1992) display the most basic principles and present these with rationale and practical checklists. They discussed the physical screens and general principles; menus, commands, inquiry screens, and messages. Crawford (1992) presents principles for the design of OPAC displays accompanied with chiklests. Also, Matthews (1987) presents detailed guidelines for the design of OPAC screens, including bibliographic displays. Hildreth (1995) tried to investigate user-interface features of ten some OPAC systems using also checklist methodology. She focused mainly on the great role of Graphic User Interface (GUI) and asked “What Do GUIs Bring to OPACs?” she answered this questions by stating the features of GUI like Hot buttons for activating functions, Sizeable, moveable windows,…etc.

Research Questions
The research question comes to determine why this paper and what it is intended to do. The research question is: •     To what extent the design of graphic user interface (GUI) increases/decreases the use of online public access catalog (OPAC) in the academic library?

Research Methodology
Data were collected from two universities (university of Pittsburgh & Carnegie Mellon university) having two different and variant OPAC interface. A questionnaire was distributed on 20 students students taking classes at both Pitt. & CMU universities and of course using their OPAC interface. I got 11 answers from these 20 students..! The 11 people answers to the questionnaire came from 11 students; 6 of them at Master degree and the rest of them (5) at Ph. D degree. 5 of them speak in the English language (3 Ph. D and 2 MA) 2 of them speak in the Spanish language (Ph. D). 1 of them speaks in the Arabic language (MA). 1 of them speaks in the Turkish language (Ph. D). 2 of them specks in the French language (MA “their origin is Arabic). All of these students are 10 men and one woman (this selection is not on purpose at all); and also I think, to some extent, the gender does not appear greatly in the use of OPAC and deal with its interface. In other words, it does not


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All 11 students (100%) are graduate students (5 ph. D 45.45 % and 6 MA 54.54%). •    6 of these 11 students (54.54 %) are from Pitt. University and the rest of them (5) (45.45 %) are from Carnegie Mellon University. • 10 0f these 11 student (90.9%) use both OPAC interface regularly during their classes at both Pitt. & CMU. •      All 11 students (100%) feel that OPAC interface at CMU is great friendly in use (more helping commends, more java screens, and explanatory icons and more help screens for each page). Only 7 of the 11 students (63%) feel that OPAC interface at Pitt. is friendly. •          10 of these 11 students (90.90%) use the roman characters without any difficulties (as they are their mother tongue)and the rest of them (1) (9.09%) complain about these characters and he asks if he can find some help like windows specialized for translations from the languages in roman characters and the vise versa. or even translating programs to do that. •           All the 11 students depend on OPAC to meet their educational needs of information. •      Only one of these 11 students (9.09 %) that his language does not appear in roman characters. •    All the student using the OPAC at both Pitt & CMU fell

All of the 11 student 100%) prefer to use some database (some of them pointed to ERIC, EBSCO and lISA) and some search engines (Yahoo, Altavista, Hotbot, Google, and Exie). There are some reason for that such as: – -        These tools (search engines and databases) display a lot relevant results that can match up their queries. – They have a lot of similar pages that can give more help, varities and support to their search. They are more organized. – They have more than one media (like video and audio) helping display information in more one attractive way. – _ Some ways/tools but OPAC such as search engine allow the user to use natural language and avoid the ghost of Controlled Vocabulary and the Library of Congress Subject Heading (LCSH) or of Sears Subject Heading (SSH) and their rules that they need carefully to be understood.

•       9 of these 11 student (81%) asked for some improvement in both OPAC interface especially in Pitt OPAC. These improvement like: 1.     More screen help. For each function, the user can ask help; not general help as in Pitt. 2.      Some translating programs to help translate the interface commands and

• Conclusion and recommendation
• I know well that each library has its own system and its specific users. Each library tries to do its best to meet the needs of its users, especially the educational needs. The automated library system, therefore, should: • 1.          make a lot of survies about how to make the user accept and deal with the system interface and to determine exactly the variant and different perceptions of the users. • 2.     explain how its system works to its users in simple rules and short sentences. • 3.      deal with both novices and experts students on equal footing…! • 4.     not make users confused with some words/commands that have more than one meaning or with some abbreviated words (like MeSH in Pitt. OPAC interface; what does it mean to the user especially the novice one?) that they are not familiar with, especially for the novice students. • 5.            organize the interface screen according to the “30Percent” Rule • 6.      not waste space with no importance signs or words.


8.         join the OPAC system dictionaries helping the users to know some difficult words and spelling. 9. not return any query of any user using the system. I t can design programs that accept any queries or match these queries to the most close results. 10. Offer a lot of Help screens as they provide assistance to users to understand the system efficiently. 11.    Prompt messages that help the user, especially if he/she makes errors, to be know exactly what his error and what he/she should do to solve it. 12.       Make an interface that is more attractive and colorful than character-based interfaces to make OPAC searching both easier and more richly interactive.  13. find substitute solutions for displaying the library material (the bibliographic records) in more one language not only in roman characters language…because I think now the library moves towards the universality. So, it should serve all people those in different languages and variant cultures. OPAC has been the most common tool for library users to get their needs of information, especially the educational needs such as answers to a class assignment or making a paper…etc,.. So, it is obvious that if we give a respectful attention towards creating a well-designed user interface,

Ambler, Scott W. (1998). [WWW]. Availbe : http://www.ambysoft.com/userInterfaceDesign.pdf  Crawford, Walt (1992). Starting Over: Current Issues in Online Catalog User Interface Design. Information Technology and Libraries. 11 (1), 62-76.  Hackos, Joann T. & Redish, Janice C. (1998). User and Task Analysis Interface Design.New York : Hohn Wiley & Sons, Inc.  Hildreth, Charles R. (1995). [WWW]. Availble: http://info.lib.uh.edu/pr/v6/n5/hild6n5.html  http://www.netspace.org/~cmw/illus/part6.html  Lynch, Patrick J. (1994). [WWW]. Available ( http://info.med.yale.edu/caim/manual/papers/gui1.html  Matthews, Joseph R. (1987). Suggested Guidelines for Screen Layouts and Design of Online Catalogs. Library Trends 35, 555-70.   Olfman, Lorne & Satzinger, John W. (1998). Interface Consistency Across End-User Applications: The Effects on Mental Models. Journal of Management Information Systems 14 (4), 167-194.  Shires, N. Lee & Olszak, L. P. (1992). What Our Screens Should Look Like: AN Introduction to Effective OPAC Screens. Reference Quarterly. 31, 357-369.

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