The Libraries’ latest Strategic Plan places great emphasis on the experience of users of our physical and virtual collections, services and spaces. These include access issues related to physical and virtual library collections, services and spaces. A common point of entry to information in and about the Libraries is our website, which has not undergone a significant redesign since 2008. In the subsequent years, our reach has extended across the globe, adding an additional layer of complexity to an already challenging information landscape.
The various tasks required for the creation of a truly usable website of our scale were organized around a series of broad-based questions:
- How can we create a strong global identity for the Division of Libraries that succeeds without sacrificing the unique nature of each of the Divisions components?
- How can we organize content in a way that makes sense to a broad range of audiences?
- How can we offer the highest quality service through a variety of physical and virtual modes in order to serve our large and growing global population of researchers?
Designing for Success
The redesign strategy was spearheaded by a Project Team composed of the Libraries’ Web Development and User-Experience groups at NYU Libraries. A somewhat broader perspective was gained by input received from the Web Presence Group, which includes library staff and faculty. Ultimately, however, it was feedback from many users that guided the design process through numerous iterations. Learn more about how we gather, analyze and interpret user feedback.
Preliminary research led the Project Team to a series of best practices in Information Architecture and User Experience (IA/UX). These included:
- Gathering requirements and goals from stakeholders (internal and external)
- Organizing content and information architecture based upon stakeholders’ and users’ input
- Creating structures based upon the principles indicated above, and testing these structures for usability
- Modifying structures to address usability problems identified in the testing process
- Producing a set of labeling conventions to ensure consistency of language and structure
Ultimately, we adopted a structure in which content can be broken down into its basic components for easy reusability and flexibility. This allows us to organize an extremely complex body of information among three categories:
Tools and Technology
In order to achieve our redesign goal, the Libraries needed to find a content management system (CMS) that would support our project’s specific needs. We decided that Siteleaf, an easy-to-use “static site generator”, was just the ticket; this CMS is a tool that enables us to work with our current structure and tools to publish locally-produced content along with subscription and other third party tools and applications. We can pipe in librarian-authored subject and research guides, as well as rss feeds from across the Libraries’ channels.
Websites for institutions as complex as NYU Libraries must address a wide range of user groups through the use of clear, intuitive language and design. In order to create the most accessible site possible, we solicited input from a diverse range of users; this input — from strategic planning through design and execution — informed us each step along the way. Each successive iteration adds a degree of user-friendliness, that is based upon continuous user testing and feedback.