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Tutorials Best Practices Toolkit: Usability & Accessibility


Here again, there is little research focusing on usability for library web tutorials; most usability testing of library pages address the main page (Bury & Oud, 2005). Librarians at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), Library of the Health Sciences employed a landing page pre-tutorial access. The intention of this design was to steer users in the appropriate expertise level (e.g., neophyte, intermediate, advanced).  Faculty feedback indicated that this would be overwhelming for users (Appelt & Pendell, 2010).

  • Researchers at the University of Illinois, using the Think Aloud method and capturing user actions via Camtasia found that students find videos that are 3 minutes or over in length to be difficult.
  • Study responses also indicate that many students prefer to read to learn rather than watch and listen (Bowles-Terry, Hensley, & Hinchliffe).
  • Lori Mestre (2010, 2012a, 2012b) has done extensive research in the usability of online tutorials. In a 2010 usability study comparing static web tutorials and video-based options, she found that all of the study’s student subjects could complete the testing tasks after using the static pages; only 20% of the Camtasia could successfully complete the tasks. Results of her 2012 research indicates that students performed better in accessing assigned tasks by using a static web tutorial with screen shots rather than viewing a screen casting tutorial (2012b).    

 All referenced resources can be found under the Further Resources tab.


Keep in mind when designing and testing your tutorial that disabilities, including low vision, color blindness, blindness, hearing impairment, physical impairment, and cognitive learning disabilities, could affect a user’s ability to view and interact with the tutorial. Making tutorials as accessible as possible should be a goal for anyone creating a tutorial in any format.

Tips for testing accessibility (adapted from Oud, 2011):

  • View the tutorial using only the keyboard to navigate various elements. You should be able to navigate the tutorial using only the Tab and Enter keys, as a user who is unable to use a computer mouse would need to do.
  • Go through the tutorial with the monitor turned off. If the tutorial features narration, notice whether the narration makes sense without the visuals. If the tutorial does not feature narration, download free screen reading software such as NVDA ( to test the tutorial.
  • Add closed captions for any audio. These captions are important both for hearing impaired users and users who are non-native speakers. View the tutorial with the audio muted and the closed captions on.

Section 508 Standards for Video and Multimedia Products can be found here: