If you build it, will they come?

A couple of weeks ago I added logging to five of our OPAC tweaks to see if they were being used, and also which is the most popular.  We’re not in a particularly busy period at the University, so I would expect usage to be higher during peak periods.  Also, I only logged clicks coming from our 46 dedicated catalogue PCs and I’ve excluded stats from the weekends.
So, here is the top five countdown (cue suitable “Top of the Pops” music — I’ll plump for Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love“):
Number 5 – Other Editions
On average, we got 6 clicks per weekday on the “other editions” links.
Number 4 – Keyword Suggestions
On average, we got 14 clicks per weekday on the “serendipity” suggestions.
Number 3 – Similar Subjects
On average, we got 36 clicks on the “items with similar subjects” suggestions.  Interestingly, the number of clicks has risen consistently throughout the 2 week period — we’ve not advertised any of these features, so people are using them when they stumble across them.
Number 2 – Also Borrowed
On average, we got 154 clicks on the “people who borrowed this, also borrowed” suggestions per day.  This ranged from a minimum of 105 to a maximum of 199 clicks on any single weekday.
Number 1 – Spelling Suggestions
On average, we got 222 clicks on the “did you mean?” spelling suggestions per day.  This ranged from a minimum of 155 to a maximum of 279 clicks on any single weekday.

So, what can we glean from these stats?
Firstly, if your OPAC doesn’t currently provide spell checking, then start asking your vendor why.  If your vendor doesn’t make any positive noises, then grab your nearest programmer (or even better, give a computing graduate a temporary job) and charge them with integrating Aspell into your OPAC.
Secondly, to the best of my knowledge, all of the feedback about the “also borrowed” suggestions from our students has been very positive.  If the book you want isn’t on the shelf, then the next best thing to asking a Librarian for alternative suggestions is to know which relevant books your compatriots borrowed.  We’re currently in a period of 24 hour opening, so having access to (hopefully) relevant suggestions at any hour of the day is ideal for students
Lastly, the serendipity and “other edition” suggestions appear less frequently than the others, so it’s no surprise that they have the lowest number of clicks.  What might be interesting to try and find out is the likelihood that a user will click on them when they are displayed?
There’s been quite a bit of discussion about Web 2.0’s “permanent beta” and whether or not we should be using our patrons/borrowers/students to test out new features within a live OPAC.  However, if you can monitor the usage and solicit feedback, then it allows you to roll these features out and (if necessary) quickly remove them, or make them optional.
Finally, although 2 weeks worth of data isn’t really enough to justify it, here’s a graph of the top 3 with total number of clicks per hour (click for larger version):

It’ll be interesting to see if that comparatively high usage of “also borrowed”s in the mid to late afternoon continues.  I’m guessing we’re similar to most academic sites, in that we mostly get people returning items in the morning, and mostly taking items out in the afternoon.

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