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UX Research Internship at BU Libraries 
UX Research on Boston University Libraries' Databases List 


My Contribution​

UX Researcher

  • Designed user research tests and studies, conduct usability tests, interviews, and journey mapping

  • Processed and reported testing session results

  • Advised for potential improvements to Libraries' sites based on research and available data

Project Size

14 weeks working with Libraries Staff at BU Libraries​ (stopped at 8 weeks due to Spring 2020 Covid-19)


Usability Testing, Interviewing


The A-Z Databases List is one of the most used pages on BU Libraries’ website, but it needs to be improved. UX Research has never been done on this page.


However, this page has a few problems that could be solved by implementing new design solutions. To start off, I wanted to think of a few things that would differentiate the Databases List our BULS (Boston University Libraries Search):


Questions to think about:

  • I’m on this list..

    • Which one do I choose?

    • Where do I start?

    • What is in search?

    • How do I use these databases?

    • What even is a database?

    • Why would I not just use BULS (BU Libraries search)?

      • Even though databases can be searched through BULS as well, BULS also contains articles and books available at BU.

      • Databases list is specifically for searching for databases only. 

      • For the Databases List: if you click on a subject area, you may see subject guides, course guides and contact information of librarians who are experts on this subject that can help the user find the data they need.

  • What other content could be on the side bar?


On the first look of the page, we can already see many changes that could be made. However, since the site runs on Wordpress, design choices are less flexible. After trying some of the sites functionalities, BU Libraries UX team and I concluded some design issues that should be fixed, without needing to test.

Screen Shot 2020-03-06 at 2.30.45 AM.png


In order to maximize our efficiency, we needed to consider the time frame of this internship, and choose one research topic to work on. At the start of the internship, I’ve learned about several UX research methods, including: A/B testing, interviews, comparison testing, card sorting, first-click testing, tree testing, online surveys, 5-seconds test, and usability testing.


BU Libraries has been performing usability tests (Wayfinding tests) and they let users perform tasks and think out loud. One will then see the success rate and observe specific reactions and details. Thus, there will be no need to test on a lot of users because of its qualitative nature.

  • Sidebar:  what is the best thing to put there?

    • After selecting the subject -> popular database for each subject? -> get subject expert opinions + based on clicks for each database

  • Questions to think about: 

    • Do people understand what each term means?

    • Hover: should we put text on hover (and are they too small) or show introduction to database as a subtext under the name of each database?

    • Subject categories: are they the best? Should certain categories be renamed? How should they be organized?

  • Challenge: 

    • Lack of staging of prototype; limited amount of times we can code and experiment

  • Target Users: General BU Students

  • See if people would interact with the guides, if more people are staying on the databases list than go to the guides page. See if it also makes sense to have them search for things in BULS.

We decided to change the sidebar content, then conduct a usability test on the A-Z Databases List page.



Screen Shot 2020-03-07 at 11.14.51

When a subject category is chosen:

  • Before: 

    • Introducing Policy Map​

    • New / Trial Databases

    • LIbrarians

    • Subjects & Course Guides

  • After: 

    • Subjects &​ Course Guides

    • Librarians

    • Getting Started with Databases

    • When to use a guide

    • Top Databases

    • Quick Guides

    • Note: Due to technical issues, "Getting Started with Databases", "When to use a guide", "Top databases", and "Quick Guides" must be there.


Screen Shot 2020-03-07 at 11.22.07



This is our first baseline usability test on the A-Z Database page at BU Libraries. We will establish a baseline for user interactions with identifying databases, sidebar content, subject categories, database types, and other related pages for A-Z Database. The users will always start on the A-Z Database page for this test. Specifically, we will:


  • Observe how users identify databases based on a subject area or a course

  • Observe how users interact with the database list

  • Test if users interact with drop-down menus, course guides, hover, and newly added sidebar content

  • Observe how users attempt to find different types of resources (images, videos etc.) related to their subject area or course


Methods & Session Details

  • Location: Alcove 2, 1st floor Mugar Library

  • Equipment: MacBook Pro laptop with Chrome, set to default display 1440 x 900; no audio or video recordings, notes only

  • Recruiting: In lobby of Mugar from 10:30am - 12:00pm; for incentives offered an option of $10 Starbucks gift card or t-shirt (3 chose gift card, 2 chose t-shirt)


Participant Script

  1. Can you find and get online access to the database PsychINFO?

  2. Can you find images related to fashion?

  3. You’re doing research for a class to learn about social equity in the cannabis industry. What library resources would you use?

  4. Can you find primary sources on the transatlantic slave trade?

  5. You are a Questrom student trying to find financial datasets. What library resources would you use?

  6. You’re doing research for MET CJ610 (Cybercrime, in the Criminal Justice department) and your paper topic is on prevention methods. What library resources would you use?

  7. Can you find current African newspapers?

Screen Shot 2020-03-07 at 12.04.23
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Screen Shot 2020-03-07 at 12.04.54

***Note: Unfortunately, the internship had to end here early due to Covid-19, but the BU Libraries Staff will use the results to continue UX Research for the Databases List in the future.

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