Oskicat | Research

Assignment for "Needs and Usability Assessment," Spring 2014.

Teammates: Molly Robison, Dan Tsai

Oskicat is UC Berkeley's library portal

Oskicat is UC Berkeley's library portal


  • Can students locate specific resources they need using Oskicat?
  • Can students discover relevant resources for topic searches?


  • Design tasks and task order for the study
  • Moderate and take notes for lab studies
  • Create video illustrating key issues, plus recommendations
  • Contribute to written report


Issue: Expectation of being able to reserve books online.

All participants expected that they would be able to reserve books online. Once they got to the book records, they searched for a way to reserve the title online.

Recommendation: Add more location information to records for physical resources.

Participants had trouble making the leap between locating the record and figuring out how to find the actual book. For example, adding “2nd Floor” to the catalog record so people have a better sense of how to locate the book in the library. This also reinforces that the item is a physical resource.

Issue: Quick Search doesn’t return relevant results for newspaper articles.  

All three participants started with Quick Search to try to find articles in task 2. They missed both the “Find articles” tab and the “Looking for articles?” link. They had the expectation that Quick Search would return results as well as it returns results for books.

Recommendation: Increase clarity about search capabilities for articles.

Participants missed the existing links; one suggestion is to make the “Looking for articles?” link more prominent.


Users clicked on the library links such as "Bioscience & Natural Resources" multiple times while trying to figure out how to find physical books, and were frustrated when it took them to the individual library's main page.

Issue: “Location” link doesn’t go where expected.

All three participants clicked on the library name link under “Location” to find more information about how to get the books in tasks 1 and 3. Some clicked on the link multiple times. They expressed surprise that the links took them to the front page of the specific library, rather than to more information about the book’s location within that library.

Issue: Call number doesn’t go where expected.

People weren’t sure what to do with a call number. As part of trying to figuring out how to get the book, the participants all clicked on the call number link. Rather than taking them to more information about the location of the book, it took them to a list of adjacent call numbers. All of the participants were surprised, and one expressed extreme irritation.

Recommendation: Direct the library name links to information about the library within Oskicat. 

Users wanted to stay within Oskicat and find more information about the library building’s location. Include the address, hours, and other relevant information.

Screenshot of results video for the Oskicat usability tests

Issue: Links open in the same tab, which takes users away from information they want during discovery. It seems that when users were looking for more information about how to access a physical resource, they wanted to orient themselves by keeping Oskicat’s digital record open in a separate tab. One participant verbally expressed frustration multiple times when links she clicked on opened in the same tab. Another participant, who had used Oskicat before, had a workaround: he right-clicked on all links to open them in a new tab.

Recommendation: Links to outside pages should open in a new tab. The participants wanted to maintain separate tabs when going to pages that direct away from Oskicat.


To help understand how well students can find physical and digital materials, we conducted usability tests with three users. We can each student through three tasks, varying the order in case increased familiarity with the site affected their ability to or speed in complete tasks. The tasks:

  1. Find a book by name and identify where you can find it in person. "You are trying to find a book titled “Python for Bioinformatics”, see if it is available and if so, see where you can get it."
  2. Find a journal article. "For a journalism paper you are trying to find newspaper articles relating to San Francisco in the 1800s. Find a book on reserve for a course."
  3. Find a book on reserve for a course. "You are enrolled in a course and your professor has placed some books on reserve with the library. I would like you to try to locate it. You don’t remember the titles of the books, but the course is EE 122. Find out what the books are that you need, and where you can find them."

After the asks, we talked for the students briefly about their general feelings about Oskicat, and how they felt while completing the tasks.