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A. Oulanov

Medgar Evers College of the City University of New York (UNITED STATES)
The present research is an exploratory experimental usability study conducted amongst the library faculty and staff at the Medgar Evers College of the City University of New York. This research shows perception of the online resources in a particular industry by the library faculty and staff from the user perspective. After studying these online resources and their usability, the library faculty and staff can make their judgment whether these resources could be recommended to the patrons in an academic library for their research and use. Also, the recommendations can be made for the sites’ redesign and improvement. The Web sites examined for this case study were the sites of three competing home improvement companies: Home Depot (HD), Lowe’s (L), and Ace Hardware (A).

Nielsen (2000) indicated that testing the usability of a Web site from the user perspective is important in the process of the assessment of its performance. In the past two decades user focus gradually replaced systems focus as a part of the process of the paradigm shift in the field of Business Information Systems (Kuhn 1996, Shneiderman 1998). The user focus approach to testing the design of these three Web sites called for a usability survey. The survey was conducted at the Charles Evans Inniss Memorial Library of the Medgar Evers College of the City University of New York. The universe of the respondents was the faculty and staff of the CEIM Library.

The random sampling procedure was utilized for this research to be experimental and to allow efficient statistical testing. An email message inviting the participants to answer the online survey was sent to the library faculty and staff. Two follow-up emails were sent later. There were sixteen respondents out of approximately thirty people in the research universe. They were asked to familiarize themselves with the three home improvement Web sites and fill out the online questionnaire. Fourteen of them filled out the survey questionnaire completely. (Follow this URL for the survey:

The Results indicate that the only real difference that inarguably exists between the three home improvement sites of this research in terms of Design is in Ease of Use. It is also primarily between the HD and Ace. (HD – 4, 3125, L – 3.7857, and A - 3.3571). There might also be a marginally significant difference again between HD and A in terms of Navigability (HD – 4.1250 and A – 3.3571). All the other features of the design of these sites are at the parity level. The findings of this usability research of the Design of these websites can be helpful in redesigning and improving the performance of the HD, L, and A sites. The overall research is helpful for the library faculty and staff to evaluate and gain familiarity of these resources and pass on their knowledge and recommendations onto the library patrons and other users.