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Improving the Home Page

By Brian Egan on July 9, 2009 6:22 PM | Permalink

Note: Please see the Drupal Primer for information about Drupal. This post has to do with our new home page design going live in August, which won't yet be running on Drupal.

I've been looking at the mockup I did for our new home page, and I have to tell ya: I can do way better. While I think it is an improvement over our previous home page, I still feel like the design isn't really addressing the needs of our patrons, and I don't think it'll win big points on (my primary concern).

In order to correct this, I decided to do a library website review to find things that I liked, and incorporate them into the updated mockup, which will also address feedback we received from library staff. Now, unfortunately, most library websites aren't the most attractive on the planet, but a few caught my eye, and several had good concepts to borrow.

  • Cecil County Public Library - Here's a design I actually really like. When you land on the page, you have two very distinct boxes, "Discover" and "Search." to which my eye was immediately drawn. The site also reinforces branding well (although the logo at the top may be taking up a bit too much room). The sections are organized by color, which can be helpful. From usability to coding to design, this might be a my favorite.
  • University of Washington Libraries - This site just seems easy to use. They organize their information into distinctive boxes, with bold headings. My first time on the site I thought that it provided a number of useful links in a scannable way. Ironically, I think the purple color of their search box actually makes it less visible, as it is the same color as the background. I also like they way UW uses the "ask a librarian" feature. In my opinion, the website should help patrons find what they need precisely so that they don't have to ask us, making their search experience quicker and easier. UW makes the feature available throughout their site at the top-right. There if you need it, but not in your face.
  • Willamette University, Mark O. Hatfield Library - A fairly attractive, useful site. I like the way they lay out the Catalog, Reserves, and Databases. They shy away from the Tabbed-search method, which may be more usable as the information isn't hidden from viewers. They also do a nice job, underneath the search, of providing a number of useful links the way UW does. The one critique I would give is that the page is all one sort of green color, with no real focal point for a user when they land on the page.
  • Drake University, Cowles Library - I'm really not a fan of this site overall. Seems sparse and not very useful, but one interesting feature on the home page is their large icons to find various materials. I think it may take up a bit too much space, but certainly an interesting technique.
  • McMaster University Library - This is actually a library site built in Drupal, and is very interesting in some ways. On the home page, I like their search tabs, hours for branches, and "popular links." I'm not sure Library News is so important as to dictate as much space as they give it.
  • BYU, Harold B. Lee Library - This site is actually fairly attractive, and lays out their box structure in an easy to see way. The fact that the catalog is bright white with a large graphic immediately draws your attention to the search space, highlighting the most important tool on their website. I'm not sure their organization of information is as helpful as UW, however.

I looked at more library websites over the last couple of days than I'd care to mention. I think I've got some solid ideas, and appreciate all the feedback that has been given to us. Good critique is the lifeblood of a designer.

Stay tuned, dear readers, for a new mockup will be coming sometime soon!


Submitted by kkeller on
While I wish we had whatever "It's all One Thing" solution that UW is using, given that we don't I *really* like how Willamette University has divided up their website. The tabs are big and right up top, resources are clearly and briefly explained, the most used items get the "hot" space, and yet, it's easy to drill down into a very specific resource.


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