Discovery and Evaluation Part 2

Update Jan. 25, 2017: We’ve been asked to accelerate our timeline for launch. We’re now aiming to launch the site in August, in time for the fall term.  Launch has been changed below. 

Scope & Schedule Defined

The web team has now defined the scope of the new redesign web site. Search will be high on the list of things to improve for our users. With Emerging Technologies Librarian Mark Mounts’ detailed research in this area, we will be implementing several of his recommendations, as well as improving the look and feel of the search results page itself. Google Analytics data shows that the Catalog and the Research Guides receive quite a large amount of traffic.  We decided a redesign that didn’t consider the user’s experience going from our main web pages to other heavily trafficked areas would result in user confusion and/or dissatisfaction. So, now our plan includes a new Drupal web site, along with a light redesign on some non-Drupal systems in order to ease user navigation between all digital services.


The System Flow (PDF) chart outlines the project scope that covers website, catalog, research guides and more. This is a web ecosystem that matters to our users.

We also have created a detailed content site flow, to help us organize and to inform our future wireframing and global navigation. Again, we used Google Analytics data, combined with our research of other academic library web sites to help decide which areas were the most important. We’re also going to leverage some of the offerings from our SpringShare systems, especially embeddable widgets which will allow users quick access to resources in places we think they will be looking for them. (For example, the “Chat with a Librarian” widget.)

The Content Flow map (PDF) shows how we are thinking of organizing content on the web site and how to make it easier for users to find what they are looking for.


With all this information, the team was able to create a draft schedule that has a launch in August 2017. We are using Asana, a project management tool that was suggested by the College web team to track our tasks.

Screenshot of our Asana task list! 2017 will be busy!

As we now begin to build out the new Content Management System, we wanted to make sure to keep all Library staff that may be impacted informed as the project moves along, and get feedback at crucial points in our project. We will be using the User Engagement & Technologies group as our new stakeholders on the project, in order to ensure that all library branches are represented.

Other meetings we’ve scheduled:

Monthly Meeting of OmniUpdate and Research Guide content creators
  • 40 staffers
Bi-Weekly Meeting with core team on SpringShare products
  • Dennis G., Bill F., Amy B. Mark M., Allie A.
Bi-Weekly meeting with core team on Technology, Drupal solutions
  • Paul M., Josh S., Allie A, Amy B., Eric B., Anthony H.
Search team meetings 2x a week
  • Josh S., Allie A., Mark M., Amy B.
Drupal Content Entry Experience meetings weekly
  • Dennis G., Amy B., Allie A.
Wireframing/design meetings weekly
  • Dennis G., Amy B., Allie A.
Usability bi-weekly meeting
  • Don F., Amy B., Allie A.
Editorial Meeting bi-weekly
  • Jane Q., Karen S., Dennis G., Amy B.

Please let us know thoughts and comments. We are looking forward to a great 2017!

About … a progress update

The DCL web redesign team has been developing prototypes for the Library website’s About section – the section that typically has information about the organization, libraries, locations, staff, hours, mission and goals, … you know, ‘About.’  This is also the first real section of the website undergoing redesign after our previous work on the overall strategic direction for the project. The first order of business was to think about the likely audience for this section– who’s looking for this kind of information? In what circumstances? What tasks do users likely seek to complete on the page? What content is needed to support these tasks, and how should this content relate to other content?

Jen is our versatile mini-persona!
Jen is our versatile mini-persona!

Meet Jen.  Jen represents the main user(s) for this ‘about’ content.  Though this isn’t exactly standard, we drew up a composite persona, so ‘Jen’ actually has quite a split personality – she’s a visitor to campus, a new student trying to find her way around, a mid-career librarian applying for a position, and a professional colleague at another institution, benchmarking our Library’s initiatives and programs.

Our content and user research team put together a content strategy document, based on user interviews, insight from web page use stats and a content inventory, and the design team came up with an initial design to dress up the identified content elements.  It seemed very pleasing, fonts, colors, and all … but the end result was a fancy version of lists of links – old habits die hard. Constructive feedback during the design review really pulled the team back on track by clarifying the goal for this redesign project — to design a new and better user experience, “connecting users with the information and the people they need to be successful” (from the project’s strategic brief).

Back to one of the core principles of design and LeanUX — to use the creative, divergent thinking of a fully cross-functional team to brainstorm a number of alternative solutions, focus on user tasks and solving user problems, nimble design via sketches, critique and refine the initial sketches, converge ideas to generate better ones, then TEST the resulting, improved approaches with users.

Many large, marker-covered sheets of wall-mounted paper later, we came up with three very different design sketches, – not as polished as the initial design, but offering real alternatives. We tested them with a small number of identified target users, in person and remotely, and are in the process of sifting through what we learned to come up with a design that takes the best elements from all the candidate designs.

We’re still learning how to design for users as a cross-functional team (most of whose members can devote only limited hours to the project) and improving at being more lean, more agile, more effective, and remembering to keep going back to the user.

Project update … discovery and evaluation

June has been a busy month for the intrepid Library website redesign & Drupal teams!  Here are a couple of things we’ve been working on:

  • We established a project workspace on the Library wiki.  Check it out!
  • After identifying essential tasks that library users need to accomplish on the website, we used a program called OptimalWorkshop to help us do user testing to sort these elements into clusters.  Here are some of the results:
    A similarity matrix shows relationships between content elements.
    A similarity matrix shows how users see relationships between content elements.
    This ‘dendrogram’ shows topics in clusters or branches, based on user-created groups






  • We led our team of stakeholders through an exercise comparing six peer library websites on a specific set of criteria (for example, ‘content style and quality,’ ‘navigation & information architecture’).  The resulting discussions helped us develop a set of guidelines and recommendations that will give us direction on major questions throughout the project.
Screenshots from the Website Comparative Review Summary Report
Screenshots from the Website Comparative Review Summary Report
… a look at homepages (left) and specific pages like librarian profiles and library hours



Writing for the web – content that works

Just a quick post to share this presentation by Ginny Redish, author of the best-selling book Letting Go of the Words. One of her important themes is that web content is a conversation, and like all conversations, there are some guidelines that it’s good to follow:

Take a look through her presentation  – she’s got a lot of great tips and examples!

Library website strategy meeting

On February 5th, the Web Management Group (WMG) met with the Library Management Group for a strategy session for the new Library website.  Web developer Allie Ai reviewed progress to date and talked about lessons learned from the Jones Media Center pilot project.

Brainstorming the Library website message and user experience

Then we engaged in an interactive exercise to define our vision for the Library’s website. We tackled fundamental questions like, “What is the purpose of the Library website?  What makes it crucial to the mission and success of the Library and the institution?” and “What’s the key message? How do we want people to experience our website?” “Who are our key audiences?  What characterizes them?” and “What’s the ONE THING we must get right for the website to be a success?”

Big questions! The outcomes of the meeting were a defined project purpose, key messages and measures of success:  “Users have clear and simple access to their most-needed resources, tools and services … they know what the Library can do for them, and with them, as well as what the Library is doing more broadly”; these are the goals we’ll strive for.

Stay tuned for our project team kickoff later this month!


We’re embarking on an exciting and ambitious project to redesign the Dartmouth College Library website on the Drupal platform.  We want to share our progress and ideas with you, and we hope you’ll follow these updates, give us your feedback and suggestions, and read and learn along with us about user-centered website design from the sites, presentations, books and posts that we’ll discover in the process.

Stay tuned!  It’s going to be an exciting year.

UH Libraries website redesign team site

The University of Houston Libraries recently published a blog post about their website redesign process.  Rachel Vacek, head of their Web Services Department, posted her full presentation with notes. It’s well worth a look – a great roadmap of their progress to date. Here’s a photo showing one of 4 walls of post-its from an affinity diagramming session, where they grouped and categorized results from stakeholder focus group meetings.  That’s a lot of sticky notes!