Small changes to make a big difference

In her Weave UX article, “Improving the Library Homepage through User Research – without a Total Redesign”, Amy Deschenes writes about the usefulness of making continual, small changes to a library’s website based on patron feedback and the results of user testing. Although user testing, feedback, site statistics, and/or heat maps are necessary to consider while completely redesigning a site, website managers can conduct further testing and analysis after a redesign. This can show how new features are being used by patrons and if they are helping a patron find desired information. By determining how a redesign is being used, site managers can make small changes where users can efficiently find information without becoming disoriented by large changes or even noticing that the site has changed.

Since the Summer 2014 Drupal migration, DRS has been making changes to the new Libraries’ site. A heat map revealed where users clicked on the homepage. Feedback from emails and reference desk questions indicated links and labels that were useful or needed to be changed. Google Analytics showed how long users stayed on each page and their navigation. Through this information, we were able to shorten the hompage and prioritize its links so that it is faster to find the footer’s useful information, such as recommended databases and hours.

In December, the ‘Start Your Research’ section in the top left had four subordinate categories to list links by subject. A heat map revealed that the links under the ‘Featured Collections’ and ‘Faculty & Graduate Students’ categories were underused.

The December 2014 homepage shows a large amount of content under the 'Start your Research' section.
The homepage on December 8th, 2014

Therefore, we got rid of the four categories and reduced the number of ‘Start Your Research’ links to those that are more widely used. We also changed the ‘Resources’ category in the navigation bar to ‘Research Resources’ to indicate that subject guides and databases are found within that category.

The January 2015 homepage shows that the content under 'Start your Research' has been condensed so that users scroll less to find the footer.
The homepage on January 22nd, 2015

By focusing on a few site features, we are able to improve the site’s usability without creating new obstacles for users. As users navigate the updated site, we can use statistics, feedback, and testing to continually improve the site in small ways that are barely noticeable, but helpful.

Looking Back, Moving Forward – New Website is Launched!

Today (July 7, 2014) marks the official launch date of the Libraries’ new Drupal-powered website and the decommissioning of our old site, along with the locally-developed content management system that powers it (the Content Manager, or CM). This is a pretty big milestone for us in a lot of ways. The new site will be easier for us to maintain; it will make it easier to manage our content strategically; and most importantly, we think it will be easier for our users to navigate and find the information that they need.

Libraries' home page in 2001
This was our home page in 2001, pre-Content Manager.

We initially launched our old site in 2002. At the time, having a database-driven website and a content management system was a HUGE step forward for us; our previous site had been simply a homepage which linked out to pages on a whole bunch of different accounts housed on IU’s central web server. On that old site, when we wanted to make a change to the site template (like when we added the two round buttons to the left-hand navigation in the image above), someone actually had to email everybody who managed library web pages, send them the HTML for the new template, and ask them to please change all their pages.

We’ve come a long way, baby!

Libraries' home page in Nov. 2002
Home page in Nov. 2002 (first iteration of the Content Manager site)

We made some improvements to the site over the years – including a couple of visual refreshes, implementation of the Google Search Appliance, replacement of the “Find Information” page with the “Resource Gateway,” and the launch of subject pages, which combined the old “Databases by Subject” with the collection pages. But the basic structure of the site, and the content management system behind it, remained pretty much the same.

Libraries' home page in 2007
Home page following the 2007 visual refresh & implementation of subject pages

By the way, I used the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine to come up with those screenshots. If you want to revisit our old site, that’s the place to go!

And, one last look at the final iteration of the Content Manager-powered site:

Libraries' home page in 2014, pre-migration
Farewell, old site!

Thinking back on the history of our site and how it’s changed since 2002, I decided to look at amazon.com and see what it looked like back then. Over the years, Amazon has changed its site quite a bit – but for the most part its changes have been incremental. You don’t generally go to Amazon and find a completely different site than the one you’re used to using, but they make small changes in design and functionality ALL THE TIME, and those changes add up! Here’s what Amazon’s home page looked like in 2002:

amazon.com home page in 2002
Compare this to the amazon.com of today.

We were playing Everquest and buying Monsters Inc. on VHS…

detail from amazon.com home page, 2002
Those were the days!

Check out the Toshiba Pocket PC. What incredible technology! 😉

Toshiba Pocket PC ad from amazon.com, 2002
Did anybody have one of these?

And of course your 2002 life would not have been complete without Chicken Dance Elmo…

ad for Chicken Dance Elmo toy, amazon.com 2002
CHICKEN DANCE ELMO!

The world has indeed changed since 2002. The Content Manager was a pretty big step forward then, but it’s time to move on! We’re happy to launch the new website and say goodbye to the old – we hope you will be, too.

Mindfulness for a New Website

Mindfulness

 

Earlier this month, Harvard Business Review published “Mindfulness in the Age of Complexity,” an interview with Ellen Langer, who has researched for decades on the effects of mindful thinking across a wide range of fields. Langer defines mindfulness through a psychological lens, as a “process of actively noticing new things.” She argues that this makes us actively engaged in the present, so that we’re “more sensitive to context and perspective.” In other words, we become more open-minded and focused with what’s in front of us in each individual moment, experience, and interaction.

While reading the article, I thought about our hands-on Drupal training sessions, which we began holding a couple of weeks ago. Though still in development, we’ve been unveiling the new IU Libraries website to content managers, walking through the whats and how-tos. One of our hopes is that these introductions will ease the transition from the old-and-familiar to the new-and-very-different. With these training sessions, it seems to me that we are priming users for mindfulness. They’re presented the Drupal environment in ways that give them a sense of the guts of it and how it comes together. And, since the site is, again, still in development, we’re asking for a sense of open-mindedness, indeed an aspect of mindfulness, since new bugs, wrenches, and general Huh?s pop up daily.

Mindfulness begets openness to all things new. Many of the features in the Drupal environment are intuitive, but others are less so, which means there are many new things for users to figure out and become accustomed to. Luckily, most people have seemed open and actively look for new things, as they poke and click around to discover how to do things on their own. From this, I’m reminded of mindfulness in the sense that, as Langer points out, there’s no one way to do something. We can instruct with basic directions for library branch mangers on how to add department pages, or for subject librarians on how to create feature posts, but really, there’s some flexibility in how it makes sense for users once they’re elbows deep in creating and adding content to the site.

Along these lines, by being mindful, the rules, routines, and goals will guide us rather than govern us, so that we’re not restricted to having new things reflecting the legacy site, so that we’re not solving “today’s problems with yesterday’s solutions.” So, in applying mindfulness to learning/working with/teaching the new IUB Libraries’ website in Drupal, I think it all comes down to mindfulness teaching flexibility, which in our case, leads to a better user experience both on the front- and back-ends of our website.

Training Schedule for New IUB Libraries Website

The DRS are inAt last, the new IUB Libraries website is… not quite polished and ready for prime time, but close enough that we are ready to create logins for librarians & staff members so you can begin working on your content! The training schedule has been announced via the Libraries Website listserv and in “Between the Lines” – if you have not yet RSVP’d for the session(s) most appropriate for you, please do so by emailing Anne.

 

Here’s the schedule for group training sessions – all in Instruction Cluster 1 of the Information Commons:

Branch Libraries & Library Departments – Librarians & Staff W 3/12 10:00-11:00
T 3/18 10:00-11:00
R 3/20 1:00-2:00
Subject Guides – Librarians & Staff T 3/11 10:00-11:00
F 3/14 2:00-3:00
W 3/19 2:00-3:00
M 3/31 4:00-5:00
Temporary (Student) Employees T 3/25 10:00-11:00
W 3/26 3:00-4:00
F 3/28 11:00-12:00
General Session – for those who just have a few pages to maintain T 4/1 10:00-11:00
W 4/2 2:00-3:00

NEW SESSIONS – JUST ADDED:

Libraries & Departments: News, features, services, and more – M 4/14 2:00-3:00

Introduction/Refresher: Finding & creating basic content – T 4/15 1:00-1:30

Subject Guides: Posts, concentrations, categories, and more – W 4/16 10:00-11:00

Libraries & Departments: News, features, services, and more – T 4/22 10:00-11:00

Subject Guides: Posts, concentrations, categories, and more – W 4/23 3:00-4:00

Introduction/Refresher: Finding & creating basic content – R 4/24 10:00-10:30

 

The members of Discovery & Research Services (Courtney, Rachael, and Anne) will also be staffing “office hours” for those who have questions or need help with a specific issue on their pages. Look for announcements on the website listserv and in Between the Lines very soon – but because you’re reading our blog and thus are one of our favorite people, here’s the schedule just for you:

Monday, March 17 through Wednesday, May 7 in Wells W531

  • Mondays: 11:00-1:00 (NOTE: no office hours on April 7)
  • Wednesdays: 10:00-11:00 (NOTE: no office hours on April 9 or 16)
  • Fridays: 3:00-5:00 (NOTE: no office hours on April 18 or May 9)

People, get ready – there’s a train(ing) a-comin’!

Updates on IUB Libraries website: Duck – it’s coming!

Ducks flying
preparing for launch!

You’ve been hearing about the Libraries’ website migration for quite a while now – and things are starting to happen fast! If you are on the CM Users list (and if you contribute content to the Libraries’ website, you should be), you have already started to hear about the process.

What’s happened so far:

  • By now you should have put any outdated, unused, unfinished, or “test” pages into “Pending” status in the CM – and maybe you’ve even gotten bold and deleted some of them (if so, you get a gold star). If you still have pages you intend to delete, that’s OK too; it will be easy to delete them in the new site.
  • We have migrated the content of all pages (except for class pages, pending pages, and the old collection pages) from the old CM into the new Drupal site.

What you need to do (or not do) now:

  • Any edits or changes made after December 3 will need to be recreated in the new site. Therefore, please continue to make only necessary, urgent changes to your CM pages and hold off on any major new development until the new site is available.
  • Very soon, we will “freeze” the old Content Manager so that most users will no longer be able to access it. We have identified a few users who have urgent updates to make on a regular basis – e.g. front page news items, staff directory updates, job postings, newly acquired or changed resources – and those users will be given special access to make those updates.
  • If you have other emergency changes that need to be made, such as updates to library services or policies, please email comments@indiana.edu and we will assist you.
  • Watch the CM Users list (soon to be the Drupal users list) for more information and updates!

The new Drupal site will not be available to our website users (students, faculty, etc.) until we (and you!) have had a chance to clean it up and make sure everything is working properly; see the timeline below for details on this process. Through the end of Spring semester 2014, everyone (patrons and library staff) will still use the old website, www.libraries.iub.edu.

Here’s the timeline:

  • Soon – Content Manager is “frozen” for all but identified urgent updates
  • December through early January: DRS works on content and structural cleanup in the new site
  • Early January – Spring Break: staff logins available on new site; Drupal training for librarians & library staff; staff begins cleaning up content on new site and may begin creating new content on new site as needed.
  • Spring Break: New (“beta”) site made publicly available via the old site. Students & faculty may access and use either new or old site.
  • End of spring semester: cut-over. Old site is taken down and the new site becomes the Libraries’ official website.   

Ways that DRS can help you:

  • We have several temporary employees (ILS students) who will be available into the spring semester to help with cleanup and editing work on your pages.
  • In consultation with Becky Wood, Anne will be publishing a Web Style Guide to help you make your web content work better, and to outline guidelines for specific content types.
  • We will continue to stay in touch via this listserv. If any of your colleagues or student workers have web responsibilities, please check with them to make sure they are subscribed to the CM Users list!

 

If you have questions about this process, please talk to anyone in DRS. You can also email comments@indiana.edu or use the “Contact Us” link on this blog to send us a message. We know this is a huge job for everyone and we hope to make it as easy as possible!

 

Image-ine That: Writing good “alt text” for images on the web

As the Libraries prepare to move into our new Drupal-powered website, we are also preparing to think differently about how we use images. The new site, in keeping with current trends on the Web, will be somewhat more image-heavy than the old one. Working with our colleagues in the Advancement Office, we plan to offer guidance to help content creators find and select images that will convey the tone and “brand” our website needs to communicate while being both pleasing and informative for people using the site.

Once you’ve chosen an image, you will want to consider providing “alt text” – a text alternative to the image, stored in a metadata field along with the image (any content management system, including our new Drupal system, provides for this to be entered when the image is uploaded or edited). This text is used by people who use a screen reader to “see” the site for them, and may also be useful for people on a low-bandwidth connection (perhaps in a rural area or a developing country) or even people who are browsing via mobile device who may have images turned off to save on data charges or speed up the time it takes to load web pages. Like most design techniques that can be implemented to improve web accessibility, adding alt text benefits more users than just those with disabilities!

At first glance it may seem like a simple thing to input a few words describing your image. But like all web content (and yes, alt text is content!), it’s worth taking a moment to think about how to create this text so that it will be as useful as possible. Think first about what you are trying to convey with your image. What information does a sighted person gain from it? What is the image’s purpose? As WebAIM explains in an excellent article about appropriate use of alt text, context is super-important here. What purpose does the image serve in the context of the rest of your page? A picture of cute kittens may be simply decorative, or it may be used to describe the stages of kitten development. In the former case, you may not need to provide alt text since the image is not contributing to the intellectual content of the page. In the latter, your alt text may read something like “Two-week-old kittens whose ears have not quite begun to stand up.”

Three kittens illustrate the point about using kitten pictures.
In this case, a kitten is just a kitten.
Credit: Mathias Erhart/flickr

There are some special cases when you may change your alt text depending on context, and 4 Syllables has outlined several of them. For example, what if your image has a caption? And what do you do differently if your image is actually a map?

4 Syllables has also created a great decision tree for use in developing alt text:

decision tree - see 4 Syllables article linked above for full description
credit: 4 Syllables

Like all things related to user experience, a little thoughtfulness goes a long way when creating alt text. Take a moment to consider who’s using your content and what they’re trying to gain from it, and the effort will pay off in web content that is more accessible, more usable, more useful – in short, better for everyone!

Real Questions from Real People: part 5

question markContinuing in our series of questions our librarians and staff have asked about the upcoming website migration! This was a particularly good question, and one that has a lot of different possible answers – so we thought we’d each take a stab at answering it from our varied perspectives.

 

Q: What do you see as the greatest benefit resulting from the switch?

Courtney: I suspect there may be many among us who, while we celebrate the achievement that is Content Manager, also look forward to the time when we can view it in retrospect as “our previous system.” More seriously, I think the move to Drupal will put us in a position to be better able to be nimble in responding to user needs and in implementing ongoing improvements in functionality as a matter of course. Drupal has a large development community which includes a number of libraries so I believe we will reap benefits from being part of that larger effort. Not to put too fine a point on it: won’t it be fantastic to be able to say, ‘Hey we’d like to do X. Great, someone has a module for that already. Let’s implement it’ or ‘Hey we’re interested in Y. Looks like those libraries are too. Let’s talk with them and get something shared going we can all use.’ I think so.

It will also be great to have a site that is better integrated in terms of how it presents our services, collections and resources. I believe our users see us as a single entity – the IU Libraries – and it is my hope the new site will be a more unified Web presence that mirrors that understanding of us, rather than the tendency of the current site to reflect our administrative organization in a way I’m not sure always best serves our users.

Mary:  I think that one of the most important tasks accomplished by the new library web site will be its ability to broaden the definition of “resources” to go beyond electronic databases, books and journals to encompass the subject librarian’s expertise, important free resources on the Internet, images and other non-print materials, and current news in the field.  This broader approach will help users identify the resources to use to complete their research or answer their questions.  I think that the ability to provide one area for all of the information that applies to a discipline or subject is going to be the most profound change that we make.  It builds on work started in the development of the current web site, but takes users beyond just purchased online materials by highlighting the subject librarian and his or her expertise.

Anne: As the go-to person for “help how do I fix this page” problems, I have to say that making it easier for us to create and update content on our site is a huge benefit! I think this will lead to a better-structured, better-organized site that is more up-to-date, more usable, and more useful. My recent blog post about working with page owners covers some of this (see my first and third bullet points in particular), and Courtney makes some related points in her section of this post you’re reading right now.

We will also be in a better position to make good use of images on the new site, as the design is much more image-heavy (perhaps “image-conscious” is a better term) and the way Drupal handles and organizes images on the admin side will be an improvement too. Today’s Web users expect – and find it easier to process – a multimedia experience rather than just screens full of text, and between the new design and Drupal’s image management capabilities, we’ll be able to satisfy these expectations a little better.

Real Questions from Real People: part 4

Drupal logo
The “Druplicon” – Drupal’s official logo

At today’s DUX brown-bag, we had a few questions about Drupal from folks who are curious about how it works “under the hood.” I’d like to offer a few resources that might be helpful for those who have that level of curiosity – with the reassurance that you do NOT have to understand much about Drupal in order to create and edit content on the new website, any more than you really have to understand how spark plugs work in order to drive your car.

So for your basic “what is Drupal?” question, the Wikipedia entry on Drupal is not a bad place to start. It gets fairly geeky, but it’s a good overview.

Another site to investigate is Drupal.org, the official site of Drupal and the Drupal community. The “About Drupal” page in particular is a good place to start. There’s a ton of information on the site, and it gives you a good sense of the scope of the community and how many people are using this platform worldwide.

For information specific to the library world, you can start with Colorado State University’s  LibGuide – it has tons of resources and information related to the use of Drupal in libraries. Thanks, CSU!

The “Libraries” community on Drupal.org is fairly active though it is geared primarily for web developers and other geekish types rather than your average website content creator.

I have a copy of Ken Varnum’s book Drupal in Libraries on my desk, and if you’d like to borrow it for a few days, just let me know! The book has a companion website which is quite useful.

And finally, if you really want to get your geek on and take a class, UITS doesn’t currently offer anything on Drupal but you do have a couple of options. ALA offers an online course on “Using Drupal to Build Library Websites” which is currently closed but will be offered again in the future; I took this course some months ago and found it to be pretty well-organized and understandable. The Library Juice Academy is offering a similar “Introduction to Drupal for Libraries” class, which runs from June 1-28. Neither of these options is free, and both will probably give you way more than you really need to know in order to add content to our new site, but if you’re interested they are good learning opportunities. Lynda.com also has some Drupal modules; note that they offer training in both Drupal 6 and Drupal 7 – our site is being built using Drupal 7. One caveat for all of these learning options: our site is going to be customized for us, and the admin interface will probably look somewhat different from what you see in these courses and videos. But the basic concept of how a Drupal site works will still be there.

Questions? Please ask!

 

Real Questions from Real People: part 3

Continuing in our series of questions we’ve been asked about our impending website migration. This might be my favorite question yet.

Q: How are you going to stay on top of all the “page owners” to make sure we really do our part?

image of woman holding five kittens
Did someone say “like herding cats”?
(image credit: flickr/dugspr)

A: I’m so glad you asked! I have a few thoughts on that, and I’m also happy to hear from any of the aforementioned page owners if you have some ideas as well.

  • This one is important to me and drives much of my planning: By making it easier for the page owners to do what they need to do. The new content-management system will be more up-to-date than the old Content Manager, and should not cause some of the problems we’ve seen over the past few years (the recent incompatibility with IE10 being one of them). If we all get to spend less time troubleshooting and chasing down “bugs” we will have more time to do the actual work of updating and maintaining the content on our site. Since Drupal is an open-source system, we have a larger community (worldwide!) working to catch bugs and issues as they arise, and figure out how to fix them – no more relying on “Anne will try to figure it out and then go ask Garett” for every problem. 🙂
  • Relatedly, we hope to be able to provide better training and documentation than we have in the past. With a system that offers fewer functionality “surprises” we’ll be able to spend less time focusing on quirks and foibles, and more time working with page owners/content creators on best practices and potential efficiencies. I also hope to adopt more of a “train the trainer” model, create a helpful style guide, and offer better documentation/help files in general.
  • Drupal makes it easier to create structured content. This has two implications: it makes our content easier to maintain and reuse (e.g. writing a piece of content and then including it in two different locations on the site), and it makes content easier for our users – faculty and students – to find on the site. If your content is easier to maintain and you know it’s being found and used, it’s much easier to get your web work done!
  • On my end, I plan to implement a more structured editorial calendar. This will make it easier for me to help you make sure your content is reviewed on a regular basis and updated as appropriate. I’ll also be able to review things like site accounts and editing permissions, academic-calendar issues (perhaps dropping a note to those who’ve published orientation-related content in the past to remind them it’s time to post this year’s info, for example), and so on. I don’t anticipate or want a workflow model that requires every page to pass through my editorial hands before it’s published – at least not until cloning techniques are perfected so I can be on the job 24/7! (and frankly, not even then!) – but I will be able to keep a closer eye on things and be more proactive in offering help and guidance.
  • Finally, better communication with page owners is going to be important. Anyone with editing permissions on the new site will automatically be subscribed to the CM Users listserv (which will magically evolve into a Drupal Users listserv – ta-da!). This will remain a low-volume list that won’t overwhelm anybody’s inbox, and will enable DUX to stay connected with everyone creating content on the site with updates, tips & tricks, best practices, and other important information. I’m definitely interested in hearing from page owners as well, and would love to see this list become more of a community – with suggestions, observations, and questions from a wide range of content creators. I think we can do this and still keep the email volume low, but I’m also happy to entertain other ideas for how to communicate.

If you have questions, thoughts, or ideas about this topic, please leave a comment on this blog post – or get in touch with me directly via email, Lync, phone, or standing between me and the diet Coke machine and not letting me appease my addiction until I’ve heard what you have to say!

poster advertising a cat-herding service with headline "Git Along Lil' Kitties!"
image credit: flickr/RichardBowen

Real Questions from Real People: part 2

Today I answer three more queries in our continuing series of Real Questions from Real People about the coming library website migration.

If I can ask about the design … the search box says “Search All.” What’s it mean? Search website? IUCAT? OneSearch? etc

screen capture: new search box
Screen capture of the search box from the first visual design comps

I’ve added an illustration above from the first set of design comps (which we will be sharing at the April brown bag event) so that everyone can follow along. The new search box will work similarly to the current library search AND to the new IUCAT search; it will be similar to the current library search in that results will be returned from a variety of targets (site content, Serials Solutions e-journal info, OneSearch, etc) and it will be like the new IUCAT search box in that users will be able to search all or to opt to restrict their searches to a particular subset of results [see below].

new iucat search options
Screen capture of the new IUCAT search box with options visible

The search results page will allow users to view results organized by facets and facets may be determined either by type of information (resources) or by target (OneSearch@IU). That said, we are still working with the consultants’ UX and development teams on how exactly the search page will be laid out and what exact targets it will search, so I don’t have anything more detailed I can share … yet.

Are you incorporating Libguides into the Drupal design? Or will this be separate?

Eventually we would like to be able to move toward a tight integration between Drupal, LibGuides and our campus course management system (Michigan has a great pattern for this in place) but for the time being the systems will be fairly separate. We will link to LibGuides, of course, and we should be able to harvest data from LibGuides so they can be included in search. Until some decisions are made campus-wide about Sakai (aka Oncourse), we are going to hold tight on anything further, though.

Would the interaction between the new website and the new IUCAT be any different?

For starters, no, it will probably not be that different in that we will still link to IUCAT widely from across the site; but because the new IUCAT and the new website will each have more functionality we can work with, we are hopeful that the interaction will eventually be different and better. One thing that will be hugely better right away will be the ease of finding and using permalinks for the new IUCAT anywhere, not just in the new website.

 

Have questions? Want answers? Attend one of our brown bag events to discuss the migration with us (details) or drop us a line.