Improving the Usability of Organizational Data Systems


For research data repositories, web interfaces are usually the primary, if not the only, method that data users have to interact with repository systems. Data users often search, discover, understand, access, and sometimes use data directly through repository web interfaces. Given that sub-par user interfaces can reduce the ability of users to locate, obtain, and use data, it is important to consider how repositories’ web interfaces can be evaluated and improved in order to ensure useful and successful user interactions. This paper discusses how usability assessment techniques are being applied to improve the functioning of data repository interfaces at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). At NCAR, a new suite of data system tools is being developed and collectively called the NCAR Digital Asset Services Hub (DASH). Usability evaluation techniques have been used throughout the NCAR DASH design and implementation cycles in order to ensure that the systems work well together for the intended user base. By applying user study, paper prototype, competitive analysis, journey mapping, and heuristic evaluation, the NCAR DASH Search and Repository experiences provide examples for how data systems can benefit from usability principles and techniques. Integrating usability principles and techniques into repository system design and implementation workflows helps to optimize the systems’ overall user experience.

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