Instructional Design Resources

Librarians sharing cool stuff

Session C104 – Inspiration for your Library Redesign October 29, 2007

Filed under: design inspiration,IL2007,web design — jennym @ 4:14 pm

Bennett Ponsford and Christina Hoffman Gola, Texas A&M University


Questions to ask users

  • What type of items are users searching for?
  • How do they discover new resources?
  • What to do with subject and class guides?
    • Audience and function questions
    • format, location and terminology
  • What web 2.0 features are desired?

Methodology: Recruitment

  • Traditional
    • blanket campus emails
    • advertising in student newspapers
  • New Tools
    • FB group
    • blog
    • discussion forum

Results: First Survey

  • People aren’t really looking for pages on the website, they were looking for
  • Searching differences between different user groups
  • Need for information about the library — undergrads needed more how-to
  • Interaction with the Libraries’ website
  • Web 2.0 Issues
    • Limited interest in tagging
    • Limited faculty interest in user-generated content (undergraduates were
      more interested, but still not overwhelmingly so)
    • Traditional preferences for communicating with the Libraries

Results: Second Survey

  • Confirmed earlier results on use of the site
  • Default search
    • Want books or everything, but last searched for articles
  • What to keep on home page?
    • Emphasis on simplifying the homepage, but had no consensus on what that

Results: Bulletin Board

  • Intense hatred of our pop-up windows
  • Frustration
    • Want to search, click on full-text
    • not interested in all the options we give them*** (this is using SFX and
  • Confusion
    • Often can’t even describe where they got lost

Results: Focus Groups

  • Undergraduates didn’t know about Google Scholar, but it was the first place
    that faculty went
  • Integrate systems (catalogs, edocs, etc)
    • users wanted to log in once and have it personalized and not have to log
      in again
  • Discovery of databases
    • not using Libraries’ website to discover – are mostly learning through
      word of mouth
  • Subject and class guides
    • Audience was different than previously assumed
    • Interdisciplinary issue on campus
    • Not discovering them b/c they weren’t in good locations or listed in good
  • Need more ways to allow self-discovery and shared knowledge ****
  • Visual and “sexy” is good (participants encouraged them to “sell the

    • no one even realized they had lots of RSS feeds
  • Use of Web 2.0 tools
    • Undergrads mentioned wikis
    • Use of RSS — glass half full or half empty?
      • About 50/50 are aware of RSS and its use in libraries
      • Where does user education come in (*this is a great opportunity for
    • Personalization features
      • She also mentioned personalization of librarians, as in creating
        Facebook-like profiles for librarians on the Libraries’ website

Web 2.0 in Academic Libraries

  • How far should we go?
  • Academic standard vs. Web 2.0
  • How much education to we provide?
    • i.e. do we want to support use of blogs, wikis, RSS feeds, etc. with


  • Help them find our stuff and then get out of the way
  • Reaffirmed traditional design rules
    • Let the user control the interface
    • integrate systems
  • Determine user groups’ needs BEFORE trying to use 2.0 tools

Next Steps

  • Focus groups, interviews, etc


Erica Reynolds, Johnson County Public Library

Web design is a fairly new, fairly “young” world, but art is ancient — we can
learn from and be inspired by art

Lessons about web design learned at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

Lesson 1: Have a back-up plan.

  • When redesign rolled out, they still gave staff access to old site
  • Went from 5,000+ pages to 250

Lesson 2: Be bold. Be dynamic. Be human.

  • Teen Scene – users can personalize and select their own skins

Lesson 3: When you paint to sell, you paint people.

Lesson 4: Enliven your collection through reorganization and presentation.

  • Break apart your content and see how you can put it back together again
  • Redistribute content to enliven collection
    • Change interface for purchased content based on what patrons want

Lesson 5: Technology changes everything.

Lesson 6: Experiment with small studies and prototypes.

  • Usability studies
  • You have to back up large changes with small studies
  • Card sort
  • Paper prototyping and more paper prototyping

Lesson 7: A desire for beauty and serenity endures.

Lesson 8: We like surprises. And anticipating the surprise is even more delicious.

  • Created a button that says “Surprise!” and people liked to click on it.

Lesson 9: A good guide enhances the experience exponentially.

Lesson 10: Destruction and creation and forever linked.

Lesson 11: Never stop innovating.

Lesson 12: We can be both prestigious and playful.

* Usability stuff is up at


IL2007 – The New Rules of Web Design

Filed under: IL2007,web design — jennym @ 3:10 pm

Jeff Wisniewski, University of Pittsburg

Rule of Seven

  • Limit your content categories to 7 +/- 2
  • This isn’t necessarily true
  • Very context-dependent; if your content is well-organized, you may be fine with more than 7

Three clicks rule

  • …is dead
  • Users will click through on a longer path, as long as they feel that they are really getting to their desired page

Design for 800×600?

  • No
  • Nielsen says optimize for 1024×768 now
  • Focus on flexible, rather than fixed width designs

Don’t look at other library websites for redesign inspiration (this is sad)

Banner blindness

  • Users are used to seeing ads at the top of web pages, so don’t put mission-critical information there
  • You can put information there, but make sure it’s also linked elswhere

Pop Up windows

  • No


  • It’s not taboo anymore, but the technology has to be used properly (I’d like more information on this)

Mouseover menus

  • Slower and not scannable

Opening links in new window can be okay, but let people know you’re doing it

Keep it above the fold?

  • You don’t really have to, research indicates that users will scroll — still, it’s best to keep your most important info above the fold

Put pictures of people on the website, but not if they’re too good-looking. people don’t trust them

“It’s never a bad thing to delight users”


Museums Do it Better October 26, 2007

Filed under: design inspiration,web design — jennym @ 9:24 am

This post on Walking Paper got me thinking (again) about the state of library websites. It’s hard for me to admit that most library sites make me want to cry blood. After all, designing for libraries is a big part of my job. But I’d venture to say that most of us who work on library web interfaces are librarians who happen to like web design and not web designers who stumbled into librarianship. And while I’m sure we’d all agree that we want functional, usable and visually appealing sites that our users want to use, there’s probably a small minority of librarians out there who really have 40 hours a week to devote to this task. And that’s mostly because we’re not talking about a handful of pages here – my Libraries’ website, just as an example, has about 20 gatrillion sub pages that have to be dealt with. When I redesigned the website for UNC’s House Undergraduate Library as a field experience project in graduate school, it took me about 3 months of pretty solid work to get maybe 2-3 dozen pages moved into a new design. The implications for a site as large as those maintained by most academic libraries is nearly enough to make you feel like you finally understand the urban legend about Pop Rocks and Coke making you explode.

But that was all just a long intro to serve as a disclaimer that I’m not recommending that all libraries go out and undertake full redesigns. But as our institutions think into the future, it’s really important to consider that having a pretty site (that is also usable and accessible, of course) can be something that attracts users.

I really appreciated Ellen’s efforts to go forth and find lovely library websites, though I will admit that most of them left me feeling a little eh. But a few days ago, a colleague was showing me the website for The Art Institute of Chicago (FYI, they have little tiny rooms there), and I was suddenly inspired. As a grad assistant, I was lucky enough to do some fun original web design, and I frequently checked out museum websites for inspiration. Since I’ve started my real job, I haven’t done a huge amount of design from scratch, so I’ve let that habit go. But remembering it now makes me wonder why library websites can’t be more like museum websites? Museums, of course, are often related to aesthetics in some way, and I’m sure that ups the importance of the pretty factor. But libraries and museums serve similar functions, right? So why not emulate museums a little more? I’m sure that lots of these places have professional designers working for them, but if you take a close look, you’ll see that they’re really pretty simple and clean (that’s why I like them, really). Check out the Smithsonian Museums for more examples.

What do you think? I can see “but we have too much content to make sites like these!” being an argument, but I’m not sure that’s really the case. Sure, we have lots of online content, and information architecture can become a big headache, but can’t we still aim to simplify and clean things up?


Web Design Survey Results from the other ALA October 22, 2007

Filed under: web design — ellenh @ 3:07 pm

Last April, the folks at A List Apart (FYI, one of those sites that comes up when you Google “ALA”) launched their massive survey of Web Designers. I took it, since a large part of the job that I had just accepted would be web designing. Well, this past week the survey results just came out, and they are pretty interesting.

I’d love to know more about how many web-designing librarians took the survey. When I see the one statistic that 31% of people who categorized their job title as “Other” work for a school, college or university, I wonder if that’s the librarians representing. In any case, I’m going to download their data (they’ve made it available) and play around with it to see what I can find.


More on testing websites in IE October 2, 2007

Filed under: resources,web design — ellenh @ 10:47 am

Thanks to this post at Smashing Magazine, I’ve found a couple more resources for doing cross-browser testing.

IE Web Renderer is great – you just have to put in your URL to see how your site looks in IE 5.5, 6 and 7. You can also get a shot of what the differences are between how your site is rendering in 6 and 7.

Browsershots will give you screenshots of how your site looks in Firefox, IE, Opera and Safari as well as a host of lesser known browsers.

And that’s just a taste of what else this article has to offer. Plus it gives the startling statistic that the percentage of people on the internet who use IE7 has surpassed the percentage of Firefox users. (I just feel sorry for them, really…)


Beautifully designed library websites, part 2 September 26, 2007

Filed under: design inspiration,web design — ellenh @ 1:50 pm

To follow up with my previous post, here is my list of beautifully designed academic library websites, for your design inspiration:

Yesterday, I read on Ubiquitous Librarian, that the Clemson Library website rates the highest for user satisfaction. I took a look at their website, and in terms of design it’s only rather meh, which got me thinking: can you have a really well-designed library website which is both beautiful and functional?


Beautifully designed library websites, part 1 September 12, 2007

Filed under: design inspiration,web design — ellenh @ 9:33 pm

Jenny asked me the other day if I knew of any beautiful library websites. Unfortunately, I couldn’t think of any off the top of my head. Sad, isn’t it? I went looking around the web later, and I came up with these three, which I think are visually interesting and nicely designed.

So far, I’ve only been looking at public libraries. In another post I’ll list some beautiful academic library websites. If there are any…