B2. Difficulty assessing format of an item

Situation Definition:

A situation that arises from difficulty determining the file format of an item in a DL.

Factor(s) Leading to the Situation:

    • Inappropriate labeling:

    • Lack of features/functions/items/information:

    • Unclear Instruction:

Guideline or Design Recommendation:

    1. Ensure the file format of each item in a DL is clearly and correctly specified and provided to users
    2. Provide instruction on how to use each file format

Rationale and Objective:

The format of an

(e.g. photo, manuscript, audio, and video) is a primary access point for a

user and needs to be immediately recognized by

(1).  Issues arise when users are unable to determine what type of resource they are attempting to access in a DL. For example, “Text” as a simple

descriptor is ambiguous in that it could refer to a link to

, or it could refer to the format of an item. For BVI users, therefore, there needs to be a clear description for item format to clarify that “Text” refers to the type of document (e.g., scanned image for a manuscript) and not a supplementary

; such a distinction would eliminate potential confusion or semantic ambiguity.

Techniques and Methods:

1.1. Define the metadata resource type of a DL item using

type vocabulary designations (e.g., text, sound, and image)
1.2. Define the file format of a DL item using standardized Internet Media Type vocabulary, formerly known as

(e.g., pdf, mp4, and jpeg)
1.3. Specify the file format of a DL item through its label
2.1. Provide general help on frequently used file formats to assist users in recognizing resource types
2.2. Provide general help related to software or application tools needed to access different file formats
2.3. Provide

(Help Tips and/or instructions) on how to access the item being investigated

Recommended Features:

1.1. Metadata resource type (See examples 1.1.a/1.2.a, 1.1.b/1.2.b/1.3, and 1.1.c/1.2.c)
1.2. Metadata file format (See examples 1.1.a/1.2.a, 1.1.b/1.2.b/1.3, and 1.1.c/1.2.c)
1.3. Label with file format (See examples 1.1.a/1.2.a, 1.1.b/1.2.b/1.3, and 1.1.c/1.2.c)
2.1/2.2. General Help (See example 2.1/2.2)
2.3. Help tips and/or instruction (See example 2.3)


1.1.a/1.2.a. Metadata resource type and file format: How to example

  • Specific metadata description of item types (DCMI type):
    • Collection: the resource is described as a group; its parts may be separately described and navigated
    • Dataset: structured information encoded in lists, tables, databases, etc., which will normally be in a format available for direct machine processing
    • Image: the content is primarily symbolic visual representation other than text
    • Text: a resource whose content is primarily words for reading
  • Specific metadata description of item formats (MIME):
    • (scanned) image for hand-written manuscripts (jpg)
    • transcript for an audio interview file (txt)
    • image of newspaper (tiff)
    • transcript for newspaper article photo (pdf)

1.1.b/1.2.b/1.3 Metadata resource type and file format: Good example

    • Indicate resource type (Type [

      ]) and file format (Digital Format) correctly followed by DCMI
    • Indicate specific file format as a label

Example of Item Description, emphasis box added around Type (DCMI): Text and Digital Format: PDF

1.1.c/1.2.c. Metadata resource type and file format: Bad example

Resource type and file format are provided but those do not follow DCMI metadata terms.

Example of record with emphasis boxes added to Material Type: Diagram/Illustration and Media Format: Graphics/Photos, Text/HTML, Video

2.1/2.2. General Help: Good design

HathiTrust provides file format information and what programs/software are needed to open the file format on the Help page.

File format information for downloading book as a PDF, EPUB, text (.txt), text (.zip), or image (jpeg)

2.3. Help tips and/or instruction: How to example

Add tips into a file format

[ tipso tip= “ePub will start an ePub file download. You will need ePub reader software installed on your computer, e-reader, or phone to read this file.” ] ePub [ /tipso ]

Related Resources:

    1. Xie, I., Babu, R., Joo, S., & Fuller, P. (2015). Using digital libraries non-visually: Understanding the help-seeking situations of blind users. Information Research: An International Electronic Journal20(2), paper 673. Retrieved from http://InformationR.net/ir/20-2/paper673.html.
    2. IANA.org. (2020). Internet Media Type. Retrieved from https://www.iana.org/assignments/media-types/media-types.xhtml
    3. Library of Congress. Recommended Formant Statement. Retrieved from https://www.loc.gov/preservation/resources/rfs/index.html
    4. W3C. (2018). WCAG 2.1 Guideline 1.1 Text Alternatives. Retrieved from https://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG21/#text-alternatives
    5. W3C. (2018). WCAG 2.1 Guideline 1.2 Time-based Media. Retrieved from https://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG21/#time-based-media
    6. W3C. (2018). WCAG 2.1 Guideline 1.3 Adaptable. Retrieved from https://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG21/#adaptable
    7. W3C. (2018). WCAG 2.1 Guideline 3.1 Readable. Retrieved from https://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG21/# readable

See Also:

Help-seeking Situations > B. Difficulty evaluating information