Ask A Librarian

Libraries Redesign Website to Enhance Use

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
February 15th, 2015

The West Virginia University Libraries have redesigned their website to make it easier to use from wherever someone connects.

“More and more people are using mobile devices, and our mobile site was out of date,” said Tim Broadwater, web designer for the WVU Libraries. “We wanted to create something with responsive design so people can use our resources on whatever device they have.”

Responsive design involves creating one website that can adapt its layout to conform to the viewing environment.

“It doesn’t matter if users are on a desktop with 1,900 pixels of resolution, a tablet with 768 pixels, or an iPhone with 320 pixels, they’ll get a comparable experience that’s customized for that device,” Broadwater said.

For the past five years, the Libraries operated two websites: a main site and a pared-down mobile version. The defunct mobile site allowed users to chat with a librarian, find available computers, renew books and search for some resources.

Although mobile users could access the full website, maneuvering around the miniature version of the site was frustrating. On a phone, searching for materials required constantly enlarging and shrinking the contents on the screen.

The extensive revamp also includes changes to the website’s appearance and usability.

Jessica Tapia, web services librarian, said the new site has fewer layers of navigation to find a particular resource, and there are more links to the most popular items.

Another upgrade is the addition of a single search box that allows users to search for articles, books, databases, ejournals, and the website itself.

The redesign team also examined the language used on the site and replaced library jargon with terms students understand. For example, “course reserves” replaces “eReserves,” and “study rooms” replaces “room reservations.”

Social media plays a part in the update by helping students connect with librarians and discover needed materials and interesting collections. Prominent links to the Libraries’ Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Instagram accounts are on each web page.

“These changes will make it easier for undergraduates to do research,” Tapia said.

The most eye-catching feature is a video background on the Libraries’ homepage. The video highlights scenes from the WVU Libraries. Most mobile devices default to a still image.

The West Virginia and Regional History Center’s website also received a major facelift. The site now resembles a museum website’s aesthetics, with rich imagery that features several of their collections.

“It’s a total change for the WVRHC. It is very different,” Broadwater said.

The revitalized website is the result of months of analyzing various aspects of websites from more than 150 academic libraries. So far, the feedback has been positive, but Dean of Libraries Jon E. Cawthorne said he welcomes all critiques so any snags can be quickly remedied.

“I’m thrilled for the Libraries to provide users – within the University community and beyond – with an attractive and enhanced gateway to our resources and collections,” Cawthorne said. “Our team put a lot of work and time into revamping the Libraries’ website, and we plan to continually make improvements to ensure a great experience for everyone visiting the site.”

Watch a video exploring changes to the Libraries’ website.

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