Identity Management Usability Project

In this project, Stuart Church from Pure Usability is carrying out research about the usability and user experience (UX) of current identity management systems that users must negotiate when logging on to library systems and accessing online resources.

The first stage of the project included a literature review and a consultation with identity management taskforce members to generate a better understanding of the landscape in which identity management is implemented. Stuart asked the taskforce for their views via a short online survey and we discussed the survey findings in a webinar.

The survey findings included:

  • Benefits of identity management include: compliance, efficiency & risk management (for institutions) and access to resources (for end users)
  • Challenges are: complex licences, complex relationships of end-users with the institution, assumption that it’s an IT problem, and fragmented IT landscapes.
  • There is some expectation that identity management will become more granular and more sophisticated in the next two years.
  • Culture is really important – issues need to be understood and communicated effectively by middle- and senior- managers.
  • Barriers to better identity management include: complex licences, interoperability and fragmented IT systems, lack of time & resource.
  • Potential UX issues are: Multiple systems for logging in, user awareness of what they are entitled to, understanding how Google Scholar fits into their workflow

Stuart’s presentation summarising the survey findings:

In the webinar, we also agreed that looking at user experience issues when accessing resources via different mobile devices is also a priority for the project. The current way identity management is implemented doesn’t seem to match mobile access very well. Users have to move from institutional websites to apps for different content and it’s often unclear how to use the apps provided by publishers when it comes to authentication. Some of these points were addressed in a recent workshop  on mobile issues.

The next phase of the usability project will involve designing an online survey which we hope to distribute quite broadly through institutions represented on the identity management taskforce and beyond. In January, Stuart will also visit a range of institutions to interview librarians, IT support and HR staff who will be able to offer insights into the problems end users are facing and conduct interviews and user testing with students and researchers. This will help to understand real live usage scenarios, users’ search problems and the systems they are using to solve these.

Questions and Hypothesis to be explored by the project include:

-What do users do when they fail to get access to a resource?
-How do users think about search?
-How can local interfaces be adapted to make discovery easier?