Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Olin Library Website

I would really like your contribution to this -- post a comment, please.

I have written about this before, twice in fact, but now we are on the verge of making some real progress so it is worth revisiting. I have never been particularly impressed with our website. I don't think it is very attractive or functional (in terms of both architecture and functionality) and I think we can do a lot better. We have made some progress with functionality over the last year and expect to make more soon, but we have held off on the attractiveness because ....

Rollins is currently involved in a project to ramp up its marketing efforts and the College's web presence is obviously a big part of that. Some of us from the Library met with the folks who will be redesigning the College's web presence last week to talk about our audience, what they do on our website, what functionality we need, what we see coming down the pike, and other concerns. It was a good meeting.

One way to approach this is look at what we like about other websites that can inform our rebuild. Last time I wrote about this we got lots of comments. Here are the sites that were mentioned:

Brigham Young University -- Yvonne liked this one. The only thing I don't like is that the white box does not resize. It is a fussy box anyway, and this makes it even fussier. Well not the only thing -- the colors clash as well.
British Library -- The only things I don't particularly like are the navigation bar in the center of the screen and the horizontal orientation
Bowdoin -- I am not as big a fan as I was, except of their federated searching solution, but that could stand out more.
Bucknell -- This one did not get mentioned, but it should have been. First they are using xml. Sweet. Look at that picture with text in the middle -- object lessons on how they change teaching and learning, and they change as you visit the site. The search of the (Bill -- Sirsi!!!) catalog is right there in the middle and look at that calendar function. The whole impression is full, perhaps tending to fussy, but generally, very good.
Gustavus Adolphus -- Still like the clean lines and space, but why call a good blog "Library News"? They could be more creative than this.
Middlebury College -- I still like it, but there are still too many links, and why not have a federated search function on this opening page?
Oberlin College -- What was their new site is now in production and still looks good. I like the blog, but there are too many options under "find", and why aren't they federated search boxes?
Smith College -- I still like the direct link to subject guides in the "find resources" drop down menu, and the quick search of the catalog, as well as the float over menus. The left side is still fussy though.
Sonoma State University -- Another one Yvonne liked. It is clean and has the search of the catalog right there, and I like the haiku.
University of Rochester -- Dani Picard liked this one and they have the distinction of basing design on thorough usability testing. But why have the owl break the line that way? Ugh! Some of the functionality behind the "finding" (why the gerund?) links is great, but why have different lengths of buttons, and why not find a way to put the search right on the front page?
Webster University -- Naomi liked this one. I like the white space but not the font or those little black blobs. Also why say "look for" instead of "find"? As Roy Tennant says, "librarians like to search, everyone else like to find." Finally, the link to the survey results (great idea!) is ugly.


snk said...

Apparently, I am no connoisseur of library webpages. No one ever said "pretty as a library webpage" (with apologies to Douglas Adams!)

I do agree that clean lines and minimal text is better, though I see very little difference from one to another. I like the starkness of the British Library page, but it almost looks like one of those generic search sites that you get dumped onto when you request a web address that doesn't exist... Bucknell's feels very busy- neat, but too much visual stimulation! Sonoma might be my favourite of the bunch... Simple, clean, uncluttered, motionless...

Please help out the non-librarian folks: What is a "federated search function?" I see multiple search boxes and can't tell which is which...


Anonymous said...

I like Bucknell's site because:

Users can search the catalog from the home page

Library hours are on the home page

Links are grouped under headings like "Library Research" and "I.T. Support," which I think are clearer than terms like "Services" and "About the Library."

This site strikes me as very user-friendly. But I would love to have a haiku! (Could we maybe offer a free beverage or something to students who submit one?)
~ Darla

Anonymous said...

Hi Jonathan

I am a big fan of CLEAN and CLEAR.

To this end, I like Gustavus, Smith, and Oberlin (my favorite of the group). I see a real distinction between Gustavus & Oberlin on one hand, which has a lot of text the eye can easily scan....and Smith, which is so minimal it starts to become complicated. It requires you to roll around looking for text, which slows the reader down. When I land on a page, I quickly scan it looking for a keyword that will snag my attention, which is harder to do with roll-over links.

A couple of other observations:

I'd like the entire page to be on display without scrolling down (which I had to do on about half of these sites.) I've got an old browser, but so will many of our patrons.

Of all the Federated Search boxes, I like Bowdoin's best. It is clear how the user can tell the system to search for book, articles, or all. The British Library's is nice too.

I'm not a big fan of making the federated search TOO prominant. I think it dominates the British Library site, and the user has to go on a hunt if they want to pick a particular database.

I'm not a big fan of the BYU website because it has so many colors, sizes, and shapes that are competing for attention. I think the classiest sites limit this kind of thing to avoid the gaudy-factor.

As far as making things intuitive for novice users, I certainly think Rochester did a nice job with their upper left quadrant under the "Finding" area. I agree with Jonathan's assessment that the variety of box size and colors could be improved upon....but I like the conceptual arrangment of the resources.

Redesigning the website will certainly be an adventure!


Stacy said...

I kinda like Ohio State's library site:

I like the quick links on the left side and the news links on the right (looks like their parking lot is having some work done, too!). And I really like how you can mouse over the subject headings at the top to get drop down menus with more info.

The University of Kentucky's page is surpringly stark:

But maybe there's something to be said for simplicity and large buttons.


Paul G. said...

The Good:
U of Pitt - The tabs are great. I'd love to get the code for that.
Miami - I like the way the info is organized/divided on the page; everything is also compact.
The Bad:
Chester - a complete mess. Where can I find...anything?
The Ugly:
OCLS - maybe I just hate pastels....

Anonymous said...

Jonathan, here's some feedback for when you start considering the "attractiveness" of the Olin's website....

This site is rather "loud" at first, but it really identifies the library with Brooklyn College. The use of different shades of red tie in with the brickwork of the architecture. Perhaps Olin could consider the Rollins colors, architecture, etc?
Dorothy commented she likes the "entire page to be on display without scrolling down" - this fits that requirement. Functionality wise, the search, library hours and the How do I ? drop down menu are all in an obvious place.

I agree, Sonoma State's site is clean but it lacks any corporate identity - it isn't obvious this site belongs to Sonoma until you come across their "small" logo in the top left corner.

I like Bucknell's use of xml graphics and the update ticker. Perhaps you could display librarians teaching in the technology classrooms, samples of objects from the archives, events from the library's calendar, interior shots, etc. This ties in with the cycling images of academic life on Rollins home page. Thanks.


Jonathan Miller said...

Shawne asked "What is a "federated search function?" I see multiple search boxes and can't tell which is which..." Good question! As the entry in wikipedia says "Federated search is the simultaneous search of multiple online databases and is an emerging feature of automated, Web-based library and information retrieval systems."
The quick search of the library catalog on the Smith College library website is not federated search. It just searches one database: the catalog. The "cast a net" tab on the search box at Bowdoin is a federated search using Webfeat, one of the leaders of federated searching.
But it gets confusing because most of the tabs at Bowdoin aren't federated searches. So the trick is to make it clear to the user what they are searching and what they can expect from a search box without overwhelming them with text. Tough to do. Do any of these websites succeed?

Chris Loring said...

Jonathan...always interesting to hear what other people say about one's site. Ours is now 5 years old and we are asking ourselves about what we need to do to make it work better. Hmmmm, "fussy"


The Saipan Blogger アンジェロ・ビラゴメズ said...

How about a 4-year blog scholarship? It might be the first of its kind in the nation.

Sponsor a student, or several students, to write about life as a Rollins student.

That would be a cool addition to the Rollins library website.

The Saipan Blogger アンジェロ・ビラゴメズ said...

oh, wait. You already have one. I'm reading it right now.

Scratch that idea.

Anonymous said...

Also check out UNC's library page. It's clean and seems very user friendly,and I like the fact that you can search the catalog, google scholar or for articles without really leaving the first page.