In my time at West Caldwell Public Library, I have inherited a very interesting role. In my original capacity, my role was to be a Youth Services team member with a specific role in Teen Services. I staff the Children’s Reference Desk, coordinate outreach, and manage collections in both the Young Adult and Juvenile Fiction areas.
Since September 2016, I have added Web Admin to my official capacities. This means I have made most online content for the library, whether it is Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, or our official website in 2016. Most especially, the website.
Becoming Web Admin of a library website is a very unique experience. Even if your website is hosted by a Content Management System and stored in servers off-site, there are essential functions that must be performed daily online. In my short time at West Caldwell Public Library, I have gone through two different iterations of the website. The images below represent the most recent design I adopted for the library.
This variation is based on a combination of Google’s Material Design and research I did on accessible design, mobile-friendly user experience, and modern information management. The primary influencer for this website is, interestingly enough, Nike, the shoe store. I loved the card format of the primary page, the easy access to information directly from the top menu, and strong use of images as organizational tools present on the website.
One of the most intriguing changes to information management for website design in the past few years is the adoption of the long-scroll page. Usually, libraries have shied away from this to favor the instantaneous access that a short page with blocks of information provides. With the adoption of a complex primary menu, however, I felt we had enough wiggle room to experiment with this growing trend.
The result is astonishing. Not only does the patron have instant access to information they need through an expanded but simplified menu structure, but the long scroll of the first page created a format to showcase our library’s beautiful interior design and history, what materials and promotions we have to offer, and educational videos directly on the landing page.
With the structure for the landing page complete, my next task was to ensure that the information patrons needed was on the primary menu. This was a series of starts and stops as patrons came in with comments on the new format. There were things on our old website that became impossible to integrate into the new format. Compromises were made. Quick Link menus became a requirement. We adapted and grew.
The positives of the changes are the following:
- It requires fewer clicks for a patron to get to where they need to go.
- It encourages serendipitous exploration on the website.
- It shows off the physical space of the library in a way that invites new members.
- It seamlessly shows off online resources and special services at the library.
- Less popular pages are now more accessible on the front page.
Changes that could be positive or negative include:
- Although still accessible, the two expandable menu options can look heavy-handed on certain screens.
- The new changes may be daunting to older patrons.
- For statistical purposes, the length of user sessions is no longer a standard measure of success.
- The appearance of the website will not change the number of patrons who seek information about us online. Other SEO factors must be considered.
All in all, I consider this change to be a success. While we want our websites to be functional, design can be a major factor in how the public views a library. Since West Caldwell Public Library already has a beautiful interior design, it helps when patrons can feel just as comfortable on the website as inside the library itself.