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Librarian Design Share

inspiration for library creatives

Author

Jess Denke

Assessment and Outreach Librarian at Muhlenberg College

Library Website Redesign: An Interview

This isn’t a common Librarian Design Share topic, but one of the biggest design projects a library can undergo is the redesign of their website.  I am fortunate to work with two individuals who recently led redesign efforts at the Muhlenberg College Trexler Library, and I met them to discuss their process, priorities, challenges, and advice for other library’s attempting this endeavor.

Introducing

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Brittany Robertson, Library Technology and Digital Experiences Librarian
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Nicholas Cunningham, Public Services Assistant

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What inspired the website redesign?

Brittany shared that the redesign was inspired by assessment of the user experience.

“We knew that our site was difficult to navigate based on information from surveys and interactions with staff and faculty.  Our site was also dated, and we needed to update the underlying infrastructure. We could see from Google Analytics that most of our pages weren’t getting a lot of traffic.”

old website.PNG

Brittany and Nicholas shared with me the steps that they took to redesign the website, which, by the way, took 1 year from start to finish and “I’m not sorry that the full redesign is over,” Brittany said, “but it’s important to see the website as an ongoing project, needing continuous improvements.”

What was your process?

  1. The library’s web applications team initially decided to do the website redesign – it consists of several  individuals from each library department. However we created a design subcommittee (4 people, one from each department) so that design conversations were inclusive but the work could progress forward.
  2. The web applications team participated in an initial brainstorm about “what we wanted to accomplish with the new site.”
  3. By considering the needs of different types of patrons “the subcommittee came up with a couple of ideas for layouts, and engaged in a couple of rounds of feedback and editing.”  Layouts were shared with the full web team and then each department.
  4. A design was chosen and each member of the library staff helped to organize and review content.  “It’s a big site, and we’ve come up with the plans of a maintenance schedule so that all the content is reviewed annually.”
  5. We completed one round of assessment with students.  The assessment process (a series of tasks to be completed by the student) was reviewed by the IRB.  Changes were made to the website if students had consistent trouble locating information.

What were the main changes to the site?

Brittany and Nicholas described the changes they made to navigation, which was their first priority.  They determined that about seven menu items is ideal for successful navigation in order to “get patrons to where an item might be.”  They hope that if a patron can intuit where a piece of information would be based on headings then they would find it successfully. They altered site navigation design so that it resembled the design of other library platforms, including OCLC discovery and EBSCOhost databases, making navigation familiar and easier to use.  Similarly, consistent use of color scheme helped to tie all library interfaces together.

How did you stay organized?

They used agendas, taking minutes during meetings, and spreadsheets of tasks that they checked off as they were completed.  The hardest part? “Remembering what decisions were made and why,” Brittany said, “…we did struggle with that a bit.”

The final result – and the future

The website is visually appealing and ready for another round of user experience assessment, which will be completed later this year.  You can take a closer look at the navigation and content by exploring trexler.muhlenberg.edu.

new-website.png

Brittany is currently thinking seriously about accessibility – and implementing the accessibility changes that she’s already worked hard to design.  She recommended consulting W3 for accessibility guidelines and noted that she does want to test the final result with a screen reader.  She has worked hard to make sure that users of all abilities can navigate the site successfully with techniques such as shortcuts to skip navigation so that the entire menu isn’t read before the user can move on to the main page content.

Advice for Others 

When I asked them for advice they might give to others seeking to redesign their library website, Brittany and Nicholas emphasized flexibility and communication.

“Don’t get tied down to one idea” – Nick

“Get anyone who wants to come up with an idea to do it– but it is really hard to get people to come up with ideas.” –Brittany

“Whatever plan you set for the redesign process, chances are you’ll have to modify it/make it longer and there is nothing wrong about that.” – Brittany

“Creativity is a challenge” – Nick

And finally…

“Have a set date to go live.  Otherwise projects tend to drag on endlessly. “ –Brittany

We have PRIDE!

June is LGBT+ Pride Month, and I am so happy to see libraries participating.  One particular display caught my eye because of its inclusive use of the pride flags.  IMG_6403.jpegAndrea Georgic of the Northland Public Library in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania shares,

For pride month this year, I wanted to create a more visible and inclusive display for our patrons. We’ve hung banners and pendants across the top of this display before, and since so many people in the LGBTQ+ community have created colorful flags to express their identities, I figured what better decoration than that. Representation is important, and I wanted to reflect as many people as possible, so I did some searching and chose as many flags as I could comfortably fit above the display. I also wanted to create an opportunity for conversation and learning by representing groups that are often forgotten or unknown. We’ve already had a number of patrons ask about the different flags or tell us they looked one up that they weren’t familiar with. I also chose the larger display this year for visibility and to showcase as many of our LGBTQ+ books as possible.

Andrea used Power Point to make the flags, and Canva for this flyer:

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At Muhlenberg College, we utilized a pride banner on our website, in-person display, and for button give-aways.

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I made this in Adobe Illustrator, taking the traditional pride flag (after a lot of uncertainty after seeing all of the varieties!) and blending the colors for some added fun.  I agree with Andrea, representation is important.  I’m now inspired to include more flags in upcoming celebrations of pride.  Thank you for sharing, Andrea!

All of these materials are available on the Librarian Design Share drive under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license.

Did you do something to celebrate?  We would love to see examples of your library’s pride!

Humanizing Outreach Services and Marketing

Every once in a while, I see a library outreach campaign that challenges the traditional boundaries of library service.  Here’s the brief summary of the reason I’m writing today:  In August 2012, Doug Campbell, University of North Texas Research and Instructional Services Librarian, moved into Kerr Hall, the largest residence hall, as Faculty-In-Residence.   Campbell provided reference services on site and took students out for coffee on Saturdays.  To read the details of the work, read Campbell’s reflection.

These services were supported by an amazing marketing campaign, complete with swag, yard signs, a video, and flyers.  Housing Marketing Coordinator Mark McLeod worked as Art Director for the project and provided feedback to student designer Eric Richter.

text is: "Doug goes where Google can't. Thousands of resources that Google won't find. Need library help? Ask Doug." with a cartoon image of a face profile with brown hair, glasses, and beard.text is: "need library help? ask Doug. It's okay to ask." with a cartoon image of a face profile with brown hair, glasses, and beard.

McLeod shared with us:

As far as the process goes, the idea was that Doug was the “face” of the library in the residence halls (dorms), and since he has (or at least had) a distinctive beard, we used a combination of his face, mostly the beard and glasses, as an icon along with text page text to convey the librarian idea.

The artwork was pencil sketched and scanned into Adobe Illustrator.

We probably spent more time concepting the idea than actually doing the artwork. There were a lot of sketches we did for ideas that didn’t really convey the meaning. The “Doug face” idea was fairly simplistic, which was a good thing since the message conveyed really fast.

I think that utilizing Doug’s distinctive beard as a prominent feature in this marketing campaign logo is a fun way to help students recognize the librarian who lives just around the corner!   Would you consider being the “face” of your library?

Check Out These Audio Books

I am a huge fan of audio books.  I listen to them in my car constantly.  I don’t need any encouragement to try another.  However if I did need encouragement, I would certainly stop by this display by Katrina Spencer at Middlebury College’s Davis Family Library.

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Katrina says,

 In the fall of 2018, I launched an effort to diversify my library’s audio book collection hosted by OverDrive. Previously, it almost exclusively featured white authors. However, it wasn’t enough to place works by authors of color on our platform. We needed additional types of diversity to be represented; users needed to know that dozens of new acquisitions had just been made; and a culture of their use needed to be developed. So, I initiated a multi-platform campaign to inform patrons on how to use the technology and to inform them of our wares. In a display set up in a high traffic zone adjacent to the Research Desk, about 15 “book dummies” or wooden blocks were covered with book cover art to display new titles in our collection. I used two mannequins, dressed in popular attire, to represent students who might use the audio books, and I dressed them in popular clothing, adorning their ears with headphones. Along the border of the display, handouts were made available with 5-step instructions on how to use the audio books. What was most effective in making this display a success was when I staffed the desk and personally invited passersby to take a handout.

The display isn’t the only thing that Katrina created:

In a continued effort to promote use of our audio book collection, I developed two slides that would be in rotation on a television screen at the Circulation Desk, another high traffic zone. The slides include book cover art for two works in our audio book collection, Everything’s Trash, But It’s Okay by Phoebe Robinson and Less by Andrew Sean Green. These titles were intentionally selected not only because they display beautiful cover art, but also because they represent at least two genders and at least two races, a small and simultaneously significant nod to the diversity of audio book users to whom I was marketing the collection. Beside the images are step-by-step instructions for how to use the audio book platform and images of headphones and smartphones, modern technologies that reinforce that the promoted materials are mobile and for listening. While the corresponding, physical display for audio books was taken down after about a month so as to reclaim the Research Desk’s space, the slides can remain in rotation indefinitely.

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These displays are engaging, clear, and informative – and I love the personal touch to encourage people to listen.  Katrina made the flyer for the display in Adobe Illustrator and the digital display in Power Point.  Both are available on the Librarian Design Share under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license.  Thank you for sharing, Katrina!

Read the Text

This semester has been a blur – instead of regularly posting on LDS (my apologies!), I’ve been writing, teaching, and rushing through a website user experience assessment.  We’re updating our website and need some student feedback and fast!  After completing the IRB application, I jumped on outreach in order to draw student attention, which resulted in the following poster – I love the alignment of text, emphasis, and the fact that it came together so quickly.

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I used Adobe Illustrator to alter the spacing between lines of text (leading) and between characters (kerning) in order to make the text easier to read and attractive to view.  Muhlenberg College students enjoyed the opportunity and a few days later we had the feedback we needed!

As always, the original file is shared on the Librarian Design Share google drive under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license.

When Design Begets Design

I personally love creative projects that build upon one another.  That’s one of the reasons that this poster from Jessica Richmond and Kate Transue of the Bucks County Free Library is so cool – digital designs became patches became a great poster presentation at the 2018 Pennsylvania Library Association conference.

badge squad

The library contracted a graphic designer to custom create the digital badges and the utilized The/Studio to print them on fabric.  But they weren’t done utilizing the designs!  Jessica wrote,

Our poster introduced how our library system successfully revamped an online program to create year-round in-house programs.  We already had graphics that were used to create fabric patches as incentives for the programs, so we knew these would be a focal point.  We also wanted to use one of our library’s branding colors to create a clean, consistent design, so we chose blue to complement the graphics.  Using a tri-fold layout helped us organize the information.  The center panel became the conversation starter and featured the basic concept of the programs, the graphics, and the skills & outcomes while the two side panels went into detail about the background, development, and specifics of the programming.  Instead of signing the poster with just our names and titles, we included a photo of us giving a thumbs-up next to our library’s logo.  Not everyone noticed this detail, but we definitely saw smiles from those who did!

Jessica and Kate utilized Canva to make their poster.  They described the experience as “user-friendly” and “modern.”  Jessica and Kate utilized a few Canva features to create this clean design.  The first feature they highlighted was the ability to create custom dimensions in order to fit their tri-fold display.  They also mentioned that their library has saved their branding colors as a palette within Canva and so color selection became even easier.  Jessica and Kate were happy with their Canva experience.  However they noted,

Our only complaint was the lack of a ruler and/or gridlines to see exactly where everything lined up. We did end up downloading the poster a few times and pasting it into Publisher to make sure the panels would be exactly centered. Otherwise, we were very happy with the choice to use Canva, and even happier with the result. The print itself also turned out incredibly clear because we were able to use the custom dimensions.

Kate and Jessica’s design story demonstrates the techniques that we often use to accommodate our tools or abilities.  When your design desires overcome your capabilities, it may be a good option to ask for help!  Their library’s investment in great graphic designs provided great reward.

Jessica and Kate’s design can be found on our Google drive.  Remember, all submitted work will be published on this site under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license.

Design for Accessibility: Writing your content

One important principle of web accessibility is also a lesson I learned from my mom:  use your words.    Thanks, Mom!  In web accessibility, this principle applies to the writing of web content and in the description of images through the use of alt text.

Think about the difference in these two sentences:

  1. Librarian Design Share is doing a series on accessibility. Read our first post here!
  2. Librarian Design Share is doing a series on accessibility. Our first post outlines the importance of checking the accessibility of colors for flyer and web design.

All I tried to change was the language to which I attached a link.  Instead of using an ambiguous “here,” I used language that describes the landing page.  This way, users do not have to guess what resources are available to them by context clues.   I think that abiding by this principle also results in more interesting content!

Similarly, when using images in your web content, it is important to fill in that alt text field.  Alt text is the content that assistive technologies will read to users, and by ignoring that field you are, in essence, excluding those people.  It is important that the alt text is descriptive of the image, and highlights the important pieces of information contained within.

a screenshot of alt text editor

You might try and argue that the images you include in your web content are just for decoration.  By failing to fill out the alt text field in these circumstances you are denying people your expression of playfulness, beauty, nuance.  However, there are other situations where failing to include alt text would decrease the important information available to your readers.  For example, how often do you upload a .jpg of a flyer with event descriptions, dates, and times?  Without including this information in another place on the page or within the alt text, this information would be lost on the visually impaired.

So remember my mom (or yours!) next time you’re creating web content and use your words!

Design for Accessibility: LibGuides

Library resources can be hard to locate, but all of the university libraries I have worked at have used Springshare libguides, called help or subject guides, to make resources more visible to the public.  Perhaps yours does too!  If this is true, I have one tip for great libguides:  design for accessibility.  If you design for accessibility, your guides will be better for everyone.

While the intention of libguides is to make resources more easily found, they can still be a significant hurdle to individuals with sight impairments or literacy challenges.  Thanks to Springshare, the solution is actually quite simple:  use the information structures available to you.  First, create boxes with names that help students identify what information will be found within.  Using headings like “Finding background Information” and “Finding scholarly articles” will help students identify where to find the information they need.  Then, within these boxes, choose the correct information type or structure.  If you are including a link, use the “link” structure – the same goes for “database” or “book from the catalog.”

Why is this useful?  Because assistive learning technologies, like Kurzweil, utilize the hierarchy of data structures to allow users to skip from one to the next quickly.  Therefore, if a user is interested in finding scholarly journal articles they can easily skip past the box labeled “Finding background information” and go to the box titled “Finding scholarly articles.”  If they know they want to search in Worldwide Political Science Abstracts they can easily skip through the other databases listed.  The alternative to this quick hop through information resources is a comparatively slow process of listening to a lot of text in order to find the desired resource.  I’ve seen this many times – librarians commonly select to use the “Rich Text/HTML” structure, which allows you to include text, and links, at will.  The lack of structure in this kind of content makes it inaccessible and unwieldy.

One of the nicest information types to use is “book from the catalog.”  By allowing users to paste the ISBN number for a book into the proper field, Springshare automates and standardizes the rest of the bibliographic information included in the recommendation.  This is also important for accessibility – individuals can learn a significant amount of information without having to leave the page and the standardization allows users to anticipate what information to expect on the page. Utilizing this information structure also makes your guide look nice!  The cover of the book can easily be included, and the visual element breaks up the text-heavy guide.

accessible libguides

Revising libguides to abide by this accessibility principle provides great value to the library’s user community.  If your library uses another application to direct students to resources, take a look at the structures available or be sure to utilize the correct html element in your guide creation process.  Leveraging the hierarchy of guide design and descriptive elements of html can make a huge difference for the access of individuals with differing needs.

 

Refreshing Library Documents

Updating document designs can be difficult – old files can be lost or saved in formats that cannot be edited.  Muhlenberg College’s Trexler Library determined that our floor plans needed a redesign, and Public Services Assistant Stephanie Hanni was up to the task.  She describes her process:

I started with updating our logo, which was long overdue. First, in order to make any changes, since I was dealing with a flattened image that someone else had created, I had to add small white squares to everything I wanted to change.This effect would give myself a clean slate. You see, with flattened images, you can not simply erase things that you want to erase. So, in Publisher I created a white square (which is located under the INSERT tab > click on SHAPES). This gave the illusion of erasing the items that I wanted to replace. Then, I just added the new image (i.e. printer) on TOP of that white square (to make sure the image comes to the front, go to the FORMAT tab > click on BRING FORWARD). This process can be painstaking, especially if there are odd shapes were a square may not cover everything. You could use a white circle or even triangle, depending on the need. To create the top and bottom parts of the maps, all I did was insert a RED and GRAY square and stretched them to fit. I created a few layers to give the top a ‘striped’ effect. Lastly, all the images I found were through Creative Commons. I made sure that they had a transparent background, and just simply inserted the images into Publisher and sized them to fit. This was a simple, easy way to give the library maps the makeover they deserved.

The floor plan directs library patrons to collections, work spaces, help desks, and offices.  It can be found on the library’s website and throughout the building.

Library Map Redesign (2018 Level A).jpg

Thanks to Stephanie for sharing her process and final outcome.  Stephanie’s floor plan is available on our Google Drive. All submitted work will be published on this site under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license.

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