Applying Usability Practices & Principles to Data Archives/Repositories


This session aims to discuss the applicability of using User Interface (UI)/User Experience (UX) principles and techniques in evaluating the services offered by data archives/repositories. The session will provide an overview of usability principles and common usability evaluation techniques as well as the different areas in which these principles and techniques could be applied in a data archive/repository setting.  The session will also have two guest speakers presenting the usability testing/experience from their respective institutions.  Additionally, as an example and using “cognitive walkthrough” as the evaluation method, the session will report on the evaluation results of the data submission process from five different data archives/repositories with geoscience as the focused discipline. By sharing the types of usability issues that user might encounter during a data submission process and demonstrating the potential fixes, the session invites the attendees to discuss whether the application of usability evaluations could lower the barrier to data use, and subsequently, possibly increase user participation in the data archive/repository process. A key aim of the discussion is to show how UX analysis and design need not be burdensome and can yield immediate results.

A sample of discussion questions is listed as follows:

  1. Are usability evaluations currently being applied at your data archive/repositories?

  2. If yes:

    1. What are the evaluation techniques used?

    2. What are the services areas that have been evaluated?

    3. What are the key lessons learned?

  3. If not:

    1. What are the reasons?

  4. What are some of the key motivators that could help in integrating usability tests with the evaluation of data archive/repositories’ services?

  5. How can low-cost high-speed usability approaches be integrated into a design process?

    1. How can you perform ‘usability triage’ (focusing on important but easy to fix issues)?

    2. How can you demonstrate the benefits of improving usability?

  • Presentations associated with this session are attached.
  • Sophie provided an overview of general usability concepts and evaluation techniques.
  • Presentation #1: "User Interface Design for Online Data Collections" by Bob Downs of NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN), The Earth Institute, Columbia University
    • Usability redesign was targeted for SEDAC website.
    • Ease of use and efficient use are two main design targets for usability.
      • Example criteria for "ease of use" are: consistency, multiple ways to find resources, and intuitive navigation. 
      • Example criteria for "efficient use" are: focus on data: clear and simple, concise language, and low cognitive demand.
    • Specific Home Page Features include: "Spotlight" for images related to highlighted stories and "Feature Datasets" section.
    • Consistency across website is very important.
      • The design elements that need to be consistent include: logo, menus, footer, and tophat.
      • Consistent web page presented when accessing data was also a top priority.  
    • Bob's remaining presentation demonstrates the screenshots of the usability improvements that were implemented for SEDAC.
    • Further improvement include: Documentation/checklists.
  • Presentation #2: "LPDAAC Spring User Study - Earthdata Search Usability Study Process" by Mark Reese of NASA EOSDIS
    • User Study had four key goals including: finding key difficulties; how important is discoverability and relevance, and what the experience is with specific functions on the interface.
    • The original study was performed using a survey to discover users' pain points.
    • Based on the pain points, four specific tasks were developed to be used in usability tests involving actual/sample users.
    • The results of the study showed that the quality of the metadata quality, facet quality, search relevance, and collection visibility can all influence the usability of a data archive/repository.
    • Next step:
      • Short term - fixing "low hanging fruit" to maximize usability improvement impact and redesigning some of the features.
      • Long term - addressing metadata quality issues and providing additional, more in depth upgrades to the features and workflows.
  • Presentation #3: "Applying Usability Practices & Principles to Data Archives/Repositories" by Sophie Hou of National Center for Atmospheric Research
    • As Sophie was presenting and moderating for the last portion of the meeting and could not take notes simultaneously, please refer to the recording for further details regarding the final portion of the session.
    • For the recording, please go to:
      • The sign in is: [email protected], and the password is: Earth111
      • Select: “July 20 PM Grand Ballroom” (this session will start at the second half of the recording).
Hou, S.; Mayernik, M.; Duerr, R.; Applying Usability Practices & Principles to Data Archives/Repositories; 2016 ESIP Summer Meeting. ESIP Commons , March 2016