AHRB funded usability study web-site
Overall findings of the usability study
Complete reports written by each of the participants in the study
Basic information about NEVAC and a link to NEVAC's web-site
Links to associated web-sites and further reading

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 operate.


Positive -

  • 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.

Negative -

  • 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 largely excluded.
  • 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 their work.

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