Today’s blog has been written by Gopal Dutta, who works in the Library’s digital services team.
We’ve made a few changes to how our website is organised so we thought we’d take the time to explain what we’ve done and why.
What we’ve done
We’ve changed the labelling of our ‘top navigation options’ which are the headings you’ll see across most of our webpages.
Here’s what the labels used to look like:
And this is how they look now:
We’ve also changed what’s in each of these labels — we’ve removed some of the options that were available and added some new ones.
Why have we done this?
We’ve had plenty of feedback over the last 18 months, from staff and students, who’ve found our old labelling system confusing and vague. Our previous eye tracking research also revealed that our users struggled to know which menu to use and how to find information on them.
We thought the best approach would be to ask our users how we should organise things, so we conducted a big research project from March — May, where we interviewed about 40 staff and students. We gave everyone the same ‘card sorting’ task to complete. Thanks very much to all of the participants! We asked for help through our team of subject librarians and across our social media channels and received a great response:
What is card sorting?
Card sorting is a UX (‘user experience’) method which can be used to find out how users of a website group the different services, topics and items conceptually. In our case, we designed a deck of 38 cards which was made up of what we consider to be the key pages: a mixture of our most popular pages and also things we get asked about a lot. Here’s what the front of the cards looked like:
On the back of each card, we had a short description of what the page was about. Each test participant was asked to go through the full deck of cards and then ‘sort’ them into six groups. The idea is that services and pages that the user considered similar to one another would be grouped together. We then asked them to label each of the groups they had created. Participants were allowed to leave up to four cards ‘unsorted’ and we also asked them to mark out what they considered to be the most important four cards. Here’s an example of a completed participant form:
Once we had completed all of the tests, we separated out staff and student sheets and put everything through a data analysis spreadsheet.
What did we find out?
Reassuringly, for us, we confirmed a huge amount of crossover between staff and students in terms of how they conceptualised our different services. Out of the six new groups we have created, staff and students broadly agreed on the labelling and composition of five of them!
We also discovered that different people used the words ‘resources’ and ‘information’ in different ways. For this reason, we’ve tried to steer clear of using these words at all in our new labelling system, to prevent any confusion.
As a result of the research, we’ve created a few entirely new groups: ‘Printers & IT’ reflects the fact that these issues are important for students so we’ve tried to collect all of the information about them in one place. We’ve also created a group called ‘Staff & Researchers’, to more clearly signpost those services aimed at these specific users. And we’ve created a group to highlight our Museums & Archives.
The main driver behind these changes has been to clearly differentiate all of the groups, so that there’s less chance our users could mistake one group for another.
We’ll be evaluating the new group structure in November, so look out for our promotion to take part in this. We’d welcome your participation! And for the next academic year, we’ll be looking to improve the overall design and layout of our homepage. If you’ve any feedback on the new structure of the website, or have any suggestions, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.