The Web Improvement Team (WIT) is excited to announce some changes coming soon to the Rutgers University Libraries website. Since September, we’ve been speaking with our users (students, faculty, and staff) and analyzing survey and usage data to determine how we can begin to improve our website user experience. We’ve been exploring best practices for user-centered design, content strategy, responsive design, and accessibility. Through one-on-one conversations, focus groups, and data analysis, we have learned more about our users’ essential tasks and resources, pain points in the current design, and user preferences.
Here are some of the takeaways from our first round of user research:
- Users are very task-oriented, and generally come to the site knowing what they want; the scope of their use is quite narrow
- The current homepage was thought to be too busy and complex
- Pages are hard to read, with small text and too much content
- Users spend very little time on most pages, and rarely scroll below “the fold”
- A relatively small number of resources are especially heavily used (hours, room booking, A-Z database list, ILL, library account)
We based our first round of changes on these findings. Our goals became to:
- Surface and prioritize the most frequently used resources and services
- Freshen up the look and feel: reduce visual clutter on the homepage, enlarge fonts for sitewide readability
- Refine the presentation and content for a few key pages
- Minimize initial disruption to lower-level pages
Our overall approach is one of incremental change over radical redesign. Making incremental modifications based on user data ensures that those modifications are genuine improvements (as opposed to change for the sake of change, or change based on guesses or assumptions). If we’re proven wrong, smaller changes are easily reversed or refined. Although change can be uncomfortable at times, a continuous cycle of improvement and evaluation builds a sustainable, usable website that delivers a positive user experience.
You’ll also notice that a lot of things haven’t changed: the red navigation bar, most of the underlying content, the mobile presence. These, too, will change in time, but require considerable user research, usability testing, and content control. There will be opportunities for students, staff, and faculty to get involved in future research.
The new website is expected to be in place by late December, in time to greet students in the new semester.
Stop by our poster at the State of the Libraries if you want to learn more!