Design Critique: NYU Libraries Login Screen

Usability Theory and Practice LIS-644
Rachel Pisciotta


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The NYU Library System consists of a large number of Libraries and Library users including global and consortium libraries. All users are directed to the same sign-in screen that will either allow or prevent the user from requesting items for delivery, InterLibrary Loan, electronic resources, and recalling items from other users.

 Critique 1

As a supervisor at Bobst library I help my users navigate this page on a daily basis. Branding is very important to NYU, and the design team works hard to have an attractive and aesthetically pleasing web page. However, there are a few design issues that prevent users from being fully functional. The first problem that that appears on the log-in screen is the confusing use of a button on the left side versus the ability to type a user ID and password on the right side. NYU users are supposed to click on the torch to be directed to a different log-in screen where they should user their NYU Net ID and password to log-in.

NYU login

All consortium Library users, such as The New School and Cooper Union, and Friends of Bobst users that have paid to have access to NYU material that have a manually updated Library account are the users that should be using the right hand side of the screen to log-in. Many users have reported at first glance they assume the NYU torch is yet another part of NYU’s branding and they go immediately for the user ID and password side of the screen. In terms of visibility, a user that is attempting to log-in to a log-in screen would assume that they are able to type their username and password into text boxes for username and passwords, instead of clicking a button to be directed to yet another log-in screen. In order to determine which side the User Should use to log-in they are supposed to looked at the Library Privileges guide:

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At first glance the privileges guide is completely overwhelming. It takes minutes to even find the appropriate user status to click and there are far too many options.

One of Norman’s important principles is visibility and making what has to be done obvious, which this log-in screen and the library privileges guide do not accomplish. It also demonstrates poor mapping, as more than half the users that will try to type their username and password into the username and password boxes will not be able to log-in.

Solution 1

Instead of the two options confusing options currently given to users, users should be directed to a screen where they can select their user status: NYU Users, New School Users, Cooper Union Users, Friends of Bobst users, and NYU Global Users. Then from there they should be directed to one sign in screen that will work for their user status.

Log-in Example

Critique 2

Another important principle of Norman’s is affordances that provide clues for correct opering. Instead of providing clues for what must be done, the affordances on the current log-in screen make things more confusing. First, the language suggests that users with a Bobst ID sign in to the right side, and that users with N Numbers should sign in to the right side, as well. Bobst is the main library at NYU, and many new students that have never logged on before will see the language “Bobst ID” on the right hand side and assume that is where they are supposed to log-in. However, “Bobst ID” is actually meant for Friends of Bobst library users that pay to have membership access to the library and have Library accounts manually created for them. It is also confusing to have the greyed out example in the user ID box be an N Number, as all NYU users have an N NUmber. This implies that everyone should use an N Number to log-in, however, when NYU users click the NYU torch to log in they should use their NYU Net ID in the user ID section, not their N Number. The example for the password section is also confusing, as only a small number of users are actually supposed to use the last 4 letters of their last name as a password, yet that is the main example that is given to all users. Already, there are multiple ways for the user to be denied access from what is supposed to be a simple sign in screen.

Solution 2

A good solution would be to find a way to constrain the user to only one sign on. Instead of offering two completely different sign in options, the website should offer one sign in option that works for all users with a brief description next to the User ID that says “NYU Users sign in with Net ID, all other users Sign in with N Number”. Then next to the password text box the explanation should be “User created password. Friends of Bobst use last 4 letters of their last name.” The language should be short and concise, but have all the information needed for all user types.