The Upper Sandusky Public Library needed their site redesigned which involved an overhaul of their information architecture. A redesign involved making information more accessible, relatable, useful to library patrons.
A research study was conducted to find information on library patrons. Two municipal library staff members were interviewed from Royal Oak Public Library and the Berkley Public Library. Interview goals included determining who users are, common tasks they take on the library website, what they are trying to accomplish, and where they are accessing their respective library’s website. To complement the information gathered from the interviews a literature search was performed with information gathered from online sources. Key findings include:
User Goals: Educating children and helping them grow, becoming more versed in different subjects, getting tasks done quickly and comfortably
Information Access: Users access information mainly on mobile devices including phones and tablets. This is mainly done in their homes.
These interviews were performed in-person as well as over the phone. Interviews were about 10 minutes in length and conducted by a professional user researcher. Questions included:
Library patrons are mainly parents with small children as well as teenagers in high school.. The Royal Oak Public Library librarian stated that as much as 25% of users are accessing the site via mobile, otherwise users are accessing the site via desktop computer. Mainly users are accessing the site to check on hours and contact information. Users are accessing the website before they decide to make a trip to the library, most likely to check if the library is open and if what they are looking for is available. Other tasks include looking for events, searching for book availability, accessing homework help, and checking their accounts for late fees.
Patrons also have access to an interlibrary loan system online where they can request books and pick them up at their local library. Though this is convenient it leads to a third party site (away from the library’s home page) and causes some confusion for patrons. Overall library users want convenient and accessible information.
It should also be noted that a well organized website in a CMS (content management system) allows for library staff to update the website without much web experience; this was noted by the ROPL librarian.
A literature search was conducted to dive deeper into information about online library patrons. Ebsco, Pew Research Center, and Public Libraries Online were the main sources of material during this search. Ebsco states that 40% of students find their library’s website moderate to very challenging while 15% never use them. This creates opportunity to change common problems users have found. Apart from trying to find hours and contact information, searching is the primary function a user takes on a library’s website which is confirmed by Ebsco and Public Libraries Online. This should include an ability to browse through the site while also having a contextual search bar available. The more accessible information is to the library patrons the better the website experience. This also includes keeping navigation simple.
Demographic information that was revealed by the Pew Research Center is that, “Women, young adults, higher-educated adults and parents are among the most likely to have visited libraries and used library websites.” This goes in tandem with the information gathered in the librarian interviews.
In response to the interviews and literature search performed, two personas were created to prep for the redesign of the USPL’s website.
Creating a well organized and logical information architecture for the library’s website means a better user experience for library patrons. Building upon previous research, personas, and tasks the site is a step closer to a finished redesign.
After performing a thorough content inventory a few insights were gained. Many external links did not work, page titles were very long, and information was overwhelmingly unorganized.
After performing a thorough content inventory a few insights were gained. Many external links did not work, page titles were very long, and information was overwhelmingly unorganized. The quality of the actual content within the library’s website was not necessarily poor but how it is currently organized needs to change. One issue that persists throughout the site are broken links. There are many of them on the homepage, such as 18-24 in the content inventory. Pages either link to broken URLs or to irrelevant information. This leads to confusion for the user. This poor experience discourages them from returning.
Reworking & Creating Content
By creating a new information architecture for the library’s website, users should be able to find the content they want quickly and easily. The home page for example, will have less links but more relevancy. This will allow for nested menus with related content. With clearer pathways to current content the user will be able to keep themselves oriented within the website.
The USCL has a fragmented classification scheme. This makes it difficult for the user to be able to navigate. Through previous research, it was discovered that users go to the library’s website to perform various tasks. The primary classification scheme derived from the content analysis performed would be task based. According to user behaviors discovered in previous research, users need to perform certain tasks on the site such as looking for hours and reserving meeting rooms. By surfacing up the most relevant type of navigation scheme to users, they will find the site more relatable and useful.
Below is the sitemap for the redesign. This accommodates repurposed and reorganized information as well as adding new pages and elements to improve the library site’s experience. The taxonomy was tested via Treejack and adjustments were made.