I recently attended Designing for Digital in Austin, a conference that brings together UX professionals and strategists from libraries and library-adjacent institutions. I shared a talk on strategies for operationalizing UX, giving some project-based examples from the work we’ve done at the RAC. I’ll be reporting more on this work in future posts, particularly as it relates to our design and development of a new archival discovery system as part of Project Electron. However, in this post I’d like to share some highlights from other talks at Designing for Digital 2020 that connect to our UX work at the RAC, including topics related to accessibility auditing, measuring UX maturity, and a resource to support usability testing. I want to note that this conference occurred as COVID-19 cases were first being detected in the United States, and while the conference was still held in-person, many folks also participated and presented remotely, and many of the conference slides are available online.

Highlighting a few great talks

Accessibility Auditing

I was pleased to see a number of presentations addressing digital accessibility as an important aspect of UX, which has been a focus of my recent work at the RAC. It was particularly useful to see how other institutions are moving beyond an introductory understanding of accessibility to more robust audit and design work. A great example of this was the presentation “A Web Accessibility Audit is Easier with Teamwork” from Amy Deschenes, Enrique Diaz, and Maura Ferrarini. They presented on the work of a cross-functional team of twelve at Harvard Libraries that conducted a major audit and remediation of 14 library systems based on the WCAG 2.1 AA guidelines to be in line with Harvard’s recent Digital Accessibility Policy. They shared a lot of specifics about their project management approach, workflows, and specific tools used for testing and communicating actionable findings, which I found very useful and potentially scalable to smaller teams.

Measuring and building UX maturity

I also wanted to highlight a talk from Jaci Wilkinson and Scott W. H. Young titled “Assessing UX Maturity, Advocating UX Growth” that synthesized results from the DLF UX working group’s findings from a literature review, as well as a research study on organizational UX maturity in academic libraries for a paper now available in Information Technology and Libraries. The work looks to Nielsen Norman’s 8 Stages of UX Maturity as a measure, and identifies factors that boost UX maturity in academic libraries including leadership support and resource allocation such as having a dedicated UX group/committee, a dedicated UX lead, collaboration across departments, and the inclusion of UX in strategic planning. I’m excited to delve more into the paper and findings from the literature review, because I think archives have a lot to learn from our library colleagues in this field, and this kind of research can give us important strategies and tools for leveling-up our own UX practice or increasing collaboration with existing UX practitioners in our institutions.

Usability Testing Toolkit

Finally, I want to highlight a resource that I learned about from Tobi Hines and Kevin Kidwell’s talk “Usability Testing Toolkit: Methods, Processes & Best Practices,” which is their usability testing toolkit made available by the Usability Working Group at Cornell University Library. I’ve been working on some usability testing templates to better operationalize our testing and enable staff across the RAC to more easily engage with the work, and really appreciate these as a resource. The templates made available by UX @ Harvard Library have also been a great resource. I’m glad to see institutions sharing their workflows and scripts.