Recently, the User Services Advisory Committee of OPAL has been deciding on what changes to make to our Innovative Interfaces OPAC (online catalog - for now, the current version is here and the in-progress version is here). It has gotten me thinking about what our users want. Librarians can argue back and forth until they are blue in the face about which link to put where and how visible to make certain options, but our users never do things the way we want them to or the way we think is best.
Judging by a quick search of the library literature, there doesn't seem to be a great deal of usability testing conducted on OPACs. Perhaps this is because we, as libraries, only have a very minimal amount of control over the appearance and options. Most of the control rests in the hands of the companies charging us extraordinary amounts of money for OPACs that are always several steps behind what our users expect.
So maybe it's time to usability test the OPAC. It would be really interesting to see what our users find confusing and what they expect. Then, we can make those changes over which we have control so that they best meet our users' needs.
And actually, that brings up another question. What do the companies that create and maintain these OPACs do in terms of usability testing? Do they do much testing? Any? Because you know the search giants of the world must do an incredible amount, so shouldn't some be done for the catalog, too?