Best practice approaches of portals such as Yahoo! and the DfES’ could help wider information services such as the library community improve its offering, according to a leading specialist in information management.

The way in which web portals organise, aggregate and integrate their information has proved so successful with users that the broader information community could benefit from ‘portalising’ many of its services.

Such is the premise of a new book Portals: People, processes and technology, which sees leading researchers and practitioners explore how portal techniques are being used, in addition to monitoring emerging future trends.

The book, which has been edited by Dr Andrew Cox, a Lecturer in Information Management at Sheffield’s Department of Information Studies, includes a paper co-authored by Cimex head of user experience Aspasia Dellaporta.

Pressing the importance of user needs analysis during the portal design process, the chapter provides commentary on ‘knowledge elicitation methods’ used, such as questionnaires for feedback, requirements task walkthroughs, interviews, focus groups, user observation, paper prototyping and heuristic evaluation. The paper also offers a case study of a portal evaluation for, the DfES youth portal developed and maintained by Cimex.

“User centred design begins with a thorough understanding of the needs and requirements of the users,” says Dellaporta. “Such evaluative processes are increasingly recognised to be critical stages in developing any system, but particularly portals as they present particular challenges for identifying useful features and content, organising it and presenting it in an effective and efficient way. The days of ad hoc development are receding.”

Portals: People, processes and technology is published by Facet Publishing.

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Published on: 12:00AM on 15th September 2006