The presentation went well, and I am so happy that 1) everybody was so supportive and 2) I don't have to worry about it anymore. There were more than twenty librarians who attended, although I was too nervous to make a full headcount. They were pulling in chairs so that everyone fit in the room! Although I was nervous initially, it helped to remember that I was as much of a subject expert on usability as anyone there could possibly be, and that everyone wanted me to do well. The questions that people asked at the end of the presentation were all interesting, thought-provoking, and non-hostile. Since DisoverLibrary is a bit of a touchy subject at Vanderbilt, I was worried that someone might take the opportunity to vent their spleen about the site's looks or functionality (mostly based on what it was like when it rolled out, unfortunately). However, everyone was enthusiastic about my findings.
I'm going to upload my presentation so that anyone who is interested can take a look at it. Though my usability study examined the user interface of DiscoverLibrary and not the search functionality, I think that the information I discovered could work in tandem with any future studies the libraries might conduct on the search functionality. Somebody whose name I cannot recall also wants to set up an archive of usability tests the library has done--I hope she gets back to me, because that sounds like a cool project.
For the past few weeks I've been working on my presentation, a paper detailing my practicum experience, and the usability guide. Sometimes I feel like I spend more time deleting things than I do writing them, but I suppose that a lot of writing involves rewriting. Like most people, I'm not a naturally gifted public speaker, and I'm looking forward to the presentation with my colleagues with a mixture of anticipation, excitement, and dread. Tomorrow I will run through my presentation with my awesome practicum supervisor, and I hope to generate a lot of useful criticism before the big presentation on Tuesday.
I think I did a decent job creating and executing the usability test back in February, especially as it was the first time I had ever done one. In retrospect, had I realized that the students I would test would be mostly science and engineering students, I may have tailored the questions to be more like ones they would be likely to have in real life. Instead, two of the scenarios involved finding information about a popular best-seller and a classic work of literature. Though the skills needed to find that information are the same whether science or literature is emphasized, it might have helped the students connect more with the test.
I'm a bundle of nerves at the moment. Although in a sense it does not technically matter how the presentation goes, I really want to do a good job. I think that some of the things I've discovered while sifting through the results of the test could have a real impact on the redesign of DiscoverLibrary, and could help the people who are using the site on a daily basis. I hope that when I present my findings, the audience is receptive and in a position to incorporate some of the changes I propose. I don't want to imply at all that DiscoverLibrary is a bad product, because it isn't, but some small things could make it more pleasant to use--clearer buttons, consistent terminology throughout the site, and an ability to incorporate advanced search options with a minimum of trouble, for example. I hope that my audience feels the same way.