C5. Difficulty understanding or using a specific feature

Situation Definition:

A situation that arises from difficulty either understanding or using a feature of a DL.

Factor(s) Leading to the Situation:

    • Inadequate knowledge:

    • Inappropriate labeling:

    • Unclear instruction:

Guideline or Design Recommendation:

    1. Label a feature and its components in a way that reflects their functions based on user expectations
    2. Explain how to use a feature effectively
    3. Offer assistance in interacting with a feature

Rationale and Objective:

For designing general DL features and functions, the first consideration might be whether the website is designed in alignment with the goal or mission of the DL (1). Within this framework, features or functions should be designed based on the expectation of users. For example,

users may need clarification on the purpose of a feature and instruction on how to use it. Instructions for each feature or function should be clearly described. For example, step-by-step tutorials or context-sensitive instruction alongside the feature would help users interpret which commands need to be applied to activate the feature. Instructions for features should be described clearly in common language. Many DLs use images or visual symbols, which might be effective for sighted users but may present a problem for BVI users. Textual descriptions of functions are needed for BVI users (2). Since displaying too many filter options may confuse a user, some options can be provided as Advanced Search features.

Techniques and Methods:

1.1. Design the

of a feature indicating its function based on user needs derived from a user study or user feedback
1.2. Provide text labels and descriptions (which may incorporate invisible text for sighted users,) rather than images
1.3. Use

to make DL features accessible to screen readers
1.4. Provide “label” html code to specify the label and/or function of a feature
1.5. Apply measures for reading level (e.g., Flesch-Kincaid grade level) to improve the readability of labels and instructions
2.1. Provide step-by-step instructions/tutorials for each feature
3.1. Provide

tips to explain how to use a feature
3.2. Provide feedback while a user is interacting with a feature

Recommended Features:

1.1. Intuitive and specific feature

(See examples 1.1.a and 1.1.b)
1.2. Text label and description (See example 1.2)
1.3. Accessible features using WAI-

(See example 1.3)
1.4. “Label”

code (See example 1.4)
2.1. Clear instructions, step-by-step tutorials, or demonstrations (See example 2.1)

tips (See examples 3.1.a and 3.1.b)
3.2. Text and sound alerts (See example 3.2)


1.1.a. Clear labels: Good design

Use intuitive and specific terms in the label of features

Two interface option: first uses less specific labels: "Narrow your search by:" with options Subject, Keywords, People, Event, and Organization. Second renames labels with more specific wording: "Narrow your search results by: Narrow results by Subject, Narrow results by Keywords, Narrow results by People, Narrow results by Event"

1.1.b. Clear labels: Bad design

On the page, headings are already provided so the subheading list on the right side causes duplicate heading lists. This takes longer to move around. Removing features that are difficult to access is recommended.

About page with emphasis box around right side menu and the recommendation "Removed" below, right side menu reads "On this page", "The Project", "Team Members 2010", "Team Members 2016", "Funders", "Partners", and "Awards"

1.2. Test label and description: Good design

Features have simple and adequate text description.

A search results page with intuitive features to "Refine your search", "Create a list from these items", and "View Full Item"

1.3. Use WAI-ARIA: How-to example (W3.org)

A link displays a pop-up box and aria-label allows screen readers to read a Close button in a pop-up box.

<div id= “box”>
This is a pop-up box.
<button aria-label= “Close” onclick= “document.getElementById(‘box’).style.display= ‘none’;” class= “close-button”>X</button>

1.4. Use “Label” html code to features: How-to example

“Label” html code applied to a checkbox feature. BVI users can hear “What is your favorite type of salad dressing” French checkbox not checked.”
<label for= “French”>What is your favorite type of salad dressing?<br>
French</label> <input id= “French” type= “checkbox” name= “dressing1” value= “checkbox”><br>
<label for= “Italian”>Italian</label> <input id= “Italian” type= “checkbox” name= “dressing2” value= “checkbox”><br>
<label for= “Russian”>Russian</label> <input id= “Russian” type= “checkbox” name= “dressing3” value= “checkbox”>Retrieved from https://www.afb.org/aw/5/2/14763

2.1. Clear instructions, step-by-step tutorials, or demonstrations: Good design

Europeana Help page provides a step-by-step tutorial for how to search (Europeana, 2018).

Tutorial titled "Searching Europeana Collections: Expert search tips", which lists tips such as use quotation marks around phrases, using parentheses around group searches, using wildcards (* for any number of letters, ? for singer letter), and using AND, OR, and NOT

3.1.a. Context-sensitive tips: Good design

Invisible text is added to provide an overall description of the structure: In the red box, BVI users can hear “The search results section consists of three areas: sorting options, display options, and a list of search results.”

March on Milwaukee search results page with emphasis box around invisible text "The search results section consists of three areas: sorting options, display options, and a list of search results".

3.1.b. Context-sensitive tips: Good design

Invisible text used in red boxes so that a screen reader user can read detailed descriptions.

Emphasis box below "Add or remove University of Wisconsin Milwaukee collections to your search" with invisible text with explanation: "By default, your search results are set to search the March on Milwaukee digital collection. To expand the search to include other University of Wisconsin Milwaukee collections, select the checkbox for the collections you wish to add." Second emphasis box under "Narrow your search results by:" with invisible text explanation: "This feature is a collapsible and expandable list to limit the search results. Click one of the options to select one of the sub-categories under that option to narrow your search results. You cannot enter your own terms. Use the tab key to access the options and press B for the "More" button for more terms."

3.2. Text of sound alerts: How to example

Add ARIA-alert role to notify of the alert

<h2 role= “alert”> You did not put your address </h2>

You can find more information from w3c.org and Mozilla.org.

<button id= “alert-trigger”>
Trigger Alert
<div id= “example” role= “alert”></div>
<!–  The following script element contains the content that will be inserted into the alert element. –>
<script type= “text/template” id= “alert-template”>
<p><span lang= “da”>Hej</span>, hello, <span lang= “it”>ciao</span>, <span lang= “ja”>こんにちは</span>, <span lang= “ko”>안녕</span></p>

Related Resources:

    1. Wax, D. (2008). 7 Essential Guidelines For Functional Design. Retrieved from https://www.smashingmagazine.com/2008/08/7-essential-guidelines-for-functional-design/
    2. Xie, I. & Cool, C. (2009). Understanding help seeking within the context of searching digital libraries. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 60(3), 477-494.
    3. Babich, N. (2017). Best Practices for Search Results. Retrieved from https://uxplanet.org/best-practices-for-search-results-1bbed9d7a311
    4. W3C. (2018). WCAG 2.1 Guideline 3.2 Predictable. Retrieved from https://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG21/#predictable
    5. W3C. (2018). WCAG 2.1 Guideline 3.3 Input Assistance. Retrieved from https://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG21/#input-assistance

See also:

Help-seeking Situations > C. Difficulty with help