OPAC Usability Problems of Archives: A Case Study of the Hong Kong Film Archive

OPAC Usability Problems of Archives: A Case Study of the Hong Kong Film Archive

Ada Chi Wai Chung (The University of Hong Kong, Pok Fu Lam, Hong Kong) and Dickson K. W. Chiu (Faculty of Education, The University of Hong Kong, Pok Fu Lam, Hong Kong)
DOI: 10.4018/IJSSOE.2016010104
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This study aims to explore common pitfalls of design and functional issues of Open Public Access Catalogue (OPAC) systems for archives for the general public and suggest solutions to approach such problems. Other than general users, this study also suggests ways to enhance the OPAC system to make it more user-friendly to users with special needs, such as the elderly and children. This paper uses a case study approach to evaluate the usability of the OPAC system in the Hong Kong Film Archive (HKFA), which is a representative and important archive of its type. The paper provides practical insights on common pitfalls of design and functional issues of OPAC for archives under such context (such as searching user-friendliness) and suggests technical solutions (such as Web 2.0 and more user friendly input devices) to approach such problems. Although we carried out this usability study mainly based on observation without direct interaction with their target users, we already discover adequate and significant problems for the discussions and suggestions in this paper. The paper includes implications and suggestion for archives to improve the usability and functionality of their OPAC systems, which is a key to their public services. Recently, implementing public Web-based access to archives has become popular. However, there are just few usability studies on such OPAC systems, especially for archives facing the general public instead of just professionals.
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Literature Review

Users often concern the user-friendliness of an information system, but what is user-friendly really mean to them? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, user-friendly means “easy to learn, use, understand, or deal with”2. According to Wikipedia, it also refers as usability, meaning the ease of use and learnability of a human-made object, which can be a software application, website, book, tool, machine, process, or anything a human interacts with3. As McLaughlin, Simon, and Gillan (2010) described, a key benefit of usability is increased customer satisfaction.

In order to design an OPAC that is easy-to-use and satisfy diverse user information needs, there is a need to understand common problems encountered. Besides common users with different level of computing experience, elderly and children users with special needs also need to be consider.. Solomon (1993) and Larkin-Lieffers (2000) suggested common problems such as not knowing the correct spelling, having a high computer anxiety, and also age-related physical barriers. Yee (1991) also summarized some difficulties that library catalogue users commonly encountered.

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