This page gives an
overview of the findings of the usability study and considers the changes
to NEVAC procedure which may result from the findings. For detailed accounts
of the individual participant's reports on the study please press the
users button, (above).
The National Electronic
and Video Archive of the Crafts was founded in 1992 in the Faculty
of Art, Media and Design at the University of the West of England, Bristol,
(UWE). It includes over 200 hours of video and audio interviews with British
craftspeople, all of which have been digitised and can be viewed by appointment
at NEVAC's home at UWE. One major strand of our research is to make the
archive accessible and searchable via the Internet. As a result, this
usability study was undertaken to establish whether the existing NEVAC
material met the expectations of the archive's potential users and also
to evaluate how they would like any web-based video database to look and
MAJOR POINTS OF
INTEREST WHICH HAVE ARISEN FROM THE STUDY:
- The current range
of interviews were interesting and informative.
- The archive fills
a gap in material for teaching /learning about the crafts.
- The informal nature
of the interviews was appreciated and valued.
- Users felt there
was not enough video material of craftspeople making their work.
- Users felt that
any web interface must value the visual over text.
- There was not enough
context: you need to introduced to the interviewee, interviewer and
be told a little about them. Too much knowledge is presumed.
- Other crafts need
to be covered apart from ceramics.
- There is too much
concentration on great names of the crafts: the 'little people' are
- The lack of editing
made it unclear what was happening, (i.e.. there are colour bars which
are confusing and could have been left out).
- The quality of
some of the film-making wasn't good enough.
- There was a lack
of structure between different interviews: each was conducted differently
so it was difficult to compare.
- Interviewers were
prone to put words in to the mouths of interviewees.
- Not enough variety
in the style of work made by those interviewed.
- Not enough use
is made of the medium of video: too often it is just a 'talking head'.
The following text
comes from NEVAC's report to the AHRB, (submitted after the study).
It gives an overview of the outcomes of the study and introduces some
of the issues which are dealt with in detail at the bottom of the page.
- The usability study
was conducted with five participants, representing the user group identified
in the bid: a practicing potter, an undergraduate ceramics student,
a Research Fellow in Ceramics Studies, a recently graduated ceramics
student and a retired academic, oral historian and design historian.
- The aims and objectives
of the usability study were to 'critique the practices developed
by NEVAC for identifying and describing the video testimony in the archive
and to amend and develop it in the light of a set of critical written
appraisals made by a range of users.' Using audio recordings of
all of the discussions held during the two day study and the detailed
written reports submitted by the participants, it has been possible
to identify positive and negative aspects of NEVAC and its methodology.
- In light of the
findings, NEVAC's approach to recording interviews may change and a
revised structure and layout of the web-based video database has been
proposed. Whilst NEVAC's methodological approach to describing the videos
for retrieval by the database was not directly criticised, it was clear
from the study that however the database was accessed by users, it must
allow for complex searches and interrogation, while ensuring that less
knowledgeable users are not excluded or intimidated by its complex underlying
structure. In order to achieve this it is envisaged that a further usability
study using a wider range of users, will be conducted to help clarify
the design and structure of the web interface.
- In our initial
application to the AHRB it was specified that this was an 'initial
study' involving a specialised user group and therefore a more wide-ranging
study would eventually be needed. Another finding of the study in relation
to the layout of the web-based video database was that it should contain
icons and visual pointers rather than simply text. This was not an unexpected
finding but the degree to which it was emphasised and valued by the
participants was surprising.
- The main research
question was 'how far do the procedures for describing the testimony
in the NEVAC database satisfy the needs and expectations of a group
of users with a postgraduate or professional interest in Craft History?'
The study answered this question in a wholly unexpected way. The
participants felt that we needed to take a step back and ask whether
the recorded material itself was what they wanted. They felt that the
existing material didn't meet their varied needs and that we should
take these needs into consideration whilst filming interviews. For instance,
not enough account is taken of the user who is interested in technique
and therefore the interviews should include more information about methods
of making, and film of finished work.
- This particular
finding goes against the original aims of NEVAC in that the primary
area of interest was the life story of the interviewee rather than accounts
of their techniques or film of them making their work. The study is
therefore prompting a revaluation of NEVAC's whole approach to interviewing
craftspeople in order to address the needs of potential archive users.
The issues raised by this particular group of users have also shown
the need for a more wide-ranging usability study, concentrating on a
less specialised user group. Only when this has been done will the needs
of all potential users have been addressed and the findings of this
study will be able to be properly assessed.
- In answer to the
main research question the study found that the current procedures for
describing the material were not detailed enough for this particular
user group. Too much knowledge was assumed and thus 'web-surfers' that
happened across the material would be likely to have little idea what
the material was about. This was also true of the undergraduate participant
who didn't know who many of the interviewees were, despite our expectation
that most ceramics students would. As a result, all of the material
should include basic information about the interviewee and images of
here to return to the top of the page