As a profession we are constantly striving to ensure that we provide the best possible services and resources to our users. This concern has resulted in a myriad of approaches and methods being utilized in an attempt to establish the quality of services and resources and lead to improvements in them. Online resources in particular have been the focus of much research in recent years, with work being undertaken in many areas, including, for example, information retrieval, information-seeking behaviour and usability studies, different approaches which share the same ultimate goal of making resources and systems easier to use by endusers.
As a result of the shift in recent years from the use of performance indicators to measures of outcome and impact within libraries (Brophy, 2004), a Quality Attributes approach is proposed in this paper. This approach allows for a holistic assessment of the quality of services or resources and encompasses usability. The classic definition of quality as ‘fitness for a purpose’ was developed by Garvin (1987) into a model of eight dimensions or ‘attributes’ that can be used as a framework for determining the overall quality of a product or service. This approach has since been adapted for use in libraries and information services by Marchand (1990), Brophy and Coulling (1996), Brophy (1998) and Griffiths and Brophy (2002, 2005). Griffiths and Brophy adapted the Quality Attributes further by changing the emphasis of one attribute, changing the concept of one attribute, and introducing two additional attributes (Currency and Usability), thus producing a set of ten attributes which can be used to assess the quality, usability and impact of services and resources. These attributes are: Performance, Conformance, Features, Reliability, Durability, Currency, Serviceability, Aesthetics, Perceived quality and Usability. Usability, often used as an assessment criterion in its own right, has been defined by ISO 9241-11 as ‘the extent to which a product can be used by specified users to achieve specified goals with effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction in a specified context of use’ and, as Nielsen points out, ‘It is important to realize that usability is not a single, one-dimensional property of a user interface. Usability has multiple components and is traditionally associated with these five usability attributes: learnability, efficiency, memorability, errors, satisfaction’ (1993, 26).