The User-centered Library Web Site

After this summer’s successful integration of article content in our library catalog, Erin and I began working with our Library Communications department to re-think our Library’s main web site.  We knew that the sheer number of pages had gotten out of hand, and with new analytics data and a history of user assessment in hand, we were ready to establish the design principles that would guide our work.

Library Site Design Principles (Oct. 2011)

  1. Organize by user needs, not by internal structures and facilities — We must allow discovery of services beyond physical and departmental boundaries.  Structuring our website like our internal organization confuses users and builds unnatural boundaries between similar resources.
  2. Streamline access to search & research — For many of our users, search tools (like our catalog and journal finder) and research guides trump anything else we provide.  Let’s make access to those parts of our site as easy as possible.
  3. Present the Library as place, space, & community — Particularly for our undergraduate users, the Library is as important as a study and paper-writing space as it is as a research hub: a home away from home.  Let’s also do a better job highlighting the rich services, events, and workshops that make the Library a place of learning.
  4. Embed instruction where appropriate (not in a silo) — Use inline text, video, and help links to provide instruction where it’s needed, and not in a separate section of the site.
  5. Facilitate rich engagement with our special physical and digital collections — As a broad base of our collections continues to head in an online (and often subscription-based) direction, presenting our named or thematic special physical and digital collections is especially important and can foster public scholarship beyond our University community.
  6. Make our site accessible, responsive, & search engine-friendly — Our site should meet accessibility standards, responsively present information well for mobile, tablet, and other devices, and have a strong presence on Google.
  7. Enable embedded news & updates from our distributed service points — Rather than focusing on web pages as the atomic unit of information on our set, let’s embed feeds from blogs, wikis, and other tools that can change frequently to meet site-specific or time-sensitive needs without disrupting the overall site architecture.
  8. Make content updates easy — Our current system for site updates is often confusing and slow for non-developers, allowing too much freedom in some cases, and not enough in others.
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