A library website has the potential to act as a powerful public relations tool. Through their websites, libraries can offer their patrons a new ‘virtual entrance’ to their collections and services from their workplaces and homes. The quality of library websites depends on several factors, namely: contents, language, structure, design, navigation and accessibility. Together, these constitute the “usability” of the website. According to Nielsen (2002), the most important part of any website is its homepage which acts as its ‘face to the world and the starting point for most user visits’. That is why a library’s homepage should be carefully designed taking into consideration the special needs, competencies and behaviour of the clientele. Commonly used methods for evaluating library websites include:
1. Web Surveys – surveys ask for satisfaction rates, purposes of a search, problems encountered
2. Focus Groups – the website is discussed with a small group of users
3. Group Tests – groups work on specific tasks, moderated by an expert
4. Think Aloud – a test in which users verbalise their thoughts when searching is recorded on tape
5. Observation – users perform a set of tasks and are observed by video or an individual
6. Transaction Logs – evaluation of use data as to the frequency of use, most used pages, ways of searching, etc
7. Heuristic Evaluation – a small group of experts evaluate the website based on the principles of usability
8. Cognitive Walk Through – experts construct a “user scenario” and perform tasks of an imaginary user.
[ Courtesy: Poll, R. (2007). Evaluating the library website: statistics and quality measures ].