We’ve been aware for some time that the Library homepage (or landing page as we've come round to calling it) had been looking tired and over-burdened with links. It also featured a menu system which often provided too many pathways leading to the same destination.
The rationale for the last revamp and ongoing updates had been to provide different pathways to information and services, each of which responding to a different user mindset and/or university role. However, in practice, we found that the presence of so many routes obscured the content and diluted the impact of information on the site as things became buried in various sections of the Library webpages.
We met with the Digital Marketing & Communications team which helped “shake up” and refresh our expectations for prioritising and re-positioning content. Digital’s hotspot analysis of the Library landing page use played a pivotal role in this review, showing us where people made heavy use of links and where there were barren unused sections of the page and menus.
Library staff outlined our ideas and aims of the landing page for the site. Then the Digital team entirely redesigned the page focusing on usability, the streamlining of links and compatibility with a wider range of mobile interfaces which our users are increasingly relying upon to access library website information and content.
Given the heavy volume of use experienced by the Library pages, we needed to be sure that the impact of such radical changes to the landing page would be positive overall and not cause any detriment to our users. Therefore, late in 2014, members of the library webteam engaged in a period of user testing of the new library landing page design.
Our testing activities sought to gather feedback from a range of staff and students representing various interests. With the new design as good as complete, Digital were able to provide online access to the page on a test server. Members of the Library webteam sought participants in the Library foyer and invited them to review the new library landing page on a tablet and undertake a short list of key search and information discovery tasks to identify how they would approach the new website. In addition to this location, the library webteam ventured to the Claverton Rooms where members of staff and postgraduate students obligingly assisted us with reviewing the site in the same way.
In this way, we were able to obtain feedback from individuals representing nearly every academic department on campus. We talked to Undergraduate, Postgraduate and International students as well as Academic staff and Researchers. We surveyed over 50 people in total; 94% were overwhelmingly positive in their opinions of the new landing page. Its increased clarity/ease of use and updated appearance were cited most frequently as positive factors. Of the remaining responses, there weren't any major complaints about the new page in comparison with the previous one.
The key lessons learned in the process were the adaptability of various user groups to changing webpages and the value of obtaining feedback from users to gain better insights into what is (and isn’t) important in the presentation of information and services online. In turn getting this kind of evidence, showing how the landing page meets actual user needs and identifying how people actually browse our webpages, has been very useful in assuring ourselves that the design decisions that have been made and those to come in the future are the correct ones.
Having launched in late March, the new landing page hasn’t created a barrage of negative feedback and we’ve only introduced a minor amendment to a link relating to finding postgraduate dissertations and theses. We’ve utilised the format of the page to highlight the availability of exam papers and will change the item as required to promote other appropriate information throughout the year.
In summary, through our work with Digital in the design, development and launching of our new landing page, we have benefited from a more managed process where changes have been driven by evidence of usage and user feedback as much as good intention from Library staff. With this experience in mind, we are ready and willing to undertake the next steps to renew the rest of the Library pages later this year!