The New Web Site: An Interview with Libraries Head of Systems

Paul Philbin 001
Paul Philbin, Head of Systems, UVM Libraries

The Dana Medical Library Newsletter sat down with Paul Philbin, Head of Systems at UVM Libraries, and the project manager for the new Libraries Web Site to talk about the making of a new web site, the most significant changes and his favorite features.

1. Why did the Libraries create a new web site?

The primary reason for creating a new site was that we heard from users that they had to drill down too far into the site to find useful information. Pages visited most often were simply too far removed from the home page. Another reason was that we received complaints about the Web site’s appearance. For example, the photos hadn’t been changed since the original design of the site.

2. Why now? Is there any significance to the timing?

Actually, we wanted to do it a lot earlier. Originally, we considered a content management system and looked at different open source products, and then there was some thinking UVM was going to purchase a university-wide content management system. All of that took some time to figure out. Designing the site as it is now was a 2-year process.

3. On a related note, tell us a little bit about the process of creating a new library web site.

Three groups of UVM Libraries employees worked on the site. One group did a content review of the old site to see what information needed to be brought over to the new site. Another focused on technical issues and a third mocked up what the site would look like—more the design issues; for example, wire frames. The technical review group considered all of the technological issues of creating and maintaining such a large site, including Web 2.0 technologies and making the content database-driven so that updating and maintaining information would be streamlined.

We also hired a person from CTL [Center for Teaching and Learning], Inés Berrizbeitia, to design some of the look of the home page and the secondary pages. Inés did some of the initial layout and artwork, created the rotating header images and suggested color schemes with lots of back and forth.

At the same time a group in the Libraries was working with a designer and University Communications to create a new logo, tagline and design family for print and online documents produced by the Libraries. So the Web Team worked in consult with them as well on the design of the site.

All of the programming was done in house, but we did purchase a 3rd party software—LibGuides, a limited CMS [content management system] for creating research guides.

4. Why does it look the way it looks?

Well, as I said before, there were a lot of complaints about the look of the old site. So we knew right away that this site should be more attractive and image driven. That’s why there are images for the News, Spotlight and Events columns on the first page, as well as in the header. We also wanted to include the branding of the Libraries—the red and green and the logo. Most of the home page fell into place right away.

We also knew that we wanted to bring the hours, the search bar and other important information up front to keep users from having to drill down too far into the site. We had been using Google Analytics on the old site for a while, so we tried to position information on the home page based on that usage data from the old site. We tried to put most used information front and center.

5. What are the most significant changes?

We’ve extracted some of the most used data from the catalog and pulled it out to the top level of the site. For example, the DVDs, the UVM Theses and Dissertations and the New Books and Videos, which are still searchable via the catalog, are now browsable from the first page. We also provide an RSS feed so patrons can stay up to date on the newest additions. We thought it was important for users to be able to identify the intellectual contributions of UVM’s graduate students. And of course, the site’s a lot more attractive—that’s significant.

6. Are there any further changes coming?

There’s more work to be done in the Find section on the home page, and we want to continue analyzing the usage data, both on the old site and the new, and pull the most used information forward. We know, for example, that online reference sources were used a lot and it was important to users to be able to identify databases that had full text content, so we’ll want to look at making improvements there. We also want to explore more dynamic database management of the site, so it is easier to maintain and keep current.

7. Has there been any patron feedback so far? And will that shape how the site changes in the future?

Yes—in general comments have been very positive. And definitely, we take into account patron suggestions. Some we’ve already employed.

8. What are your personal favorite features?

I like the look and I like the images, so when I open a page or refresh the site, the image is always new and attractive. It gives the illusion that the page is changing constantly.