Billings Public Library Website Redesign

BACKGROUND & INTRODUCTION

Billings Public Library (BPL) was in the planning stages of a full redesign of billingslibrary.org, and focused on easy to access information and welcoming, thematic elements. Their current website was outdated by their own declaration, and while information was in abundance, it became difficult for users to browse, discover, and find the specific pieces of information they were looking for.

Organization and simplification were identified as key factors in taking content from the current site, and reworking it so it became easier for their users to find what they are searching for.

The remainder of this report documents the research, testing results, and final design recommendations developed throughout the redesign project – highlighting key deliverable artifacts along the way.

SUMMARY OF RESEARCH

Emphasis was placed on researching user needs and initial design decisions. The project began by researching user types, then moved into iterative phases of design and documentation – researching those decisions for confirmation. With test results in-hand, final recommendations and deliverables were crafted through analysis of real user actions. Detailed documentation of the process is listed below. 

Step 1: User Personas
In order to define and understand the primary users of billingslibrary.org, preliminary user research was conducted by identifying and interviewing a library subject matter expert (SME) as well as a frequent patron of their local public library. Interviews were performed that asked similarly structured questions, to further understand a library user’s key goals and interests. These interviews would serve as the foundation for building our user personas (represented below.)

In addition to the SME interviews, several literature reviews and multiple web resources were consulted to help define these personas. A full research protocol and reference materials are located in the appendix of this report.

Billings Public Library Personas

Based on the developed personas, a prioritized list of tasks (that the updated BPL website should support) was then assembled and is outlined below.

Persona Based Tasks

Step 2: Tree Testing
After creating a proposed IA for BPL, a tree testing study was developed based on 10 common tasks identified within the initial round of user testing and persona work. 32 participants were recruited to participate in the study, and the preliminary results and recommendations are reflected within the remainder of this report.

Through the tables below (fig. 1 – 3), data shows that the majority of tasks were easily accomplished, or accomplished with little confusion. There are some labels that could use minor enhancement, and a few that could still use greater clarification or simplicity. A full report of the tree testing and analysis is available through Optimal Workshop.

Billings Public Library Personas

Based on analysis of the results listed above, combined with direct quotes from the post-test questionnaire, the following updates were made:

  • Overall simplification and refinement of IA terminology, especially poor performing labels or actions
  • Use more direct terms or visuals to highlight a correct path for the user
  • Explore alternatives to the term “Catalog,” which may be too vague
  • Delineate difference between “getting a library card” and the “user’s personal account”
  • Determine ways to bring frequently accessed information to a higher level of the architecture

Step 3: Click-Through Testing
As a second round of testing, a simple click study was developed based on 8 common tasks identified within the initial round of user testing and adapted per the results of the tree test study. 22 participants were recruited to participate in the study, and the preliminary results and recommendations are listed below.

In the below results (fig. 4), data shows that the majority of tasks were successfully accomplished, or accomplished with little confusion. There are some labels that could use minor enhancement, and tasks 4 & 6 could still use greater clarification or simplicity. A full report of the test and analysis is available through Optimal Workshop.

Billings Public Library Clickthrough Study Results

Through analysis of the test results and user input from the post-test questionnaire, the following updates were made:

  • Clarify actions/labels for “Add to List,” “Save Book,” and “Place Hold” Call-To-Action on the catalog results page
  • Rework entry point for reporting a card stolen (potentially include within “Get a Library Card” page)
  • Explore variation between the labels “Catalog” and “Resource”

FINAL RECOMMENDATIONS

Sitemap
In conjunction with an extensive content audit of billingslibrary.org, a preliminary sitemap was created and utilized within the tree testing study. Through each succeeding round of user research, the sitemap was updated based on analysis and formal recommendation. The final sitemap is featured below. 

Billings Public Library Site Map

Changes or considerations based on testing and task prioritization include:

  • Moving “Location,” “Hours of Operation,” and “Contact Info” to the global header
  • Simplification of the “Catalog” children, by removing age groupings
  • Changing the label for “Resources” to “E-Resources” for clarification
  • The addition of “Account Services” as a child of the “Services” label within the primary navigation
  • Simplification, clarification, and modernization of language and entry points throughout
  • The addition of “Ask a Librarian” and “Live Chat” features

Navigation Structure
After reviewing the results of the content audit and comparing them with the results of user research, it is recommended that the new site take a hybrid approach to the classification scheme. This will place focus on terms that are most familiar to the patrons of BPL. Combining high-level topical labels in the menu’s main categories allows patrons to quickly target their primary objective, and introducing task-oriented labels as needed throughout the remainder of the IA (including within the restructured header and mega menu drop down) helps patrons further narrow their path.

A simplification of the current scheme, combining categories and repetitive entry points is also recommended. Focusing on labels that are easily understood and quickly recognizable is key to the restructuring of this site.

Billings Public Library Site Comparison

RATIONALE – As highlighted within the content audit, the classification scheme on BPL’s current website is overpopulated and dense, caused by duplication and unnecessary (or outdated) elements, leading to unnecessary user difficulty and confusion. Priority items can now be referenced immediately within the header or quickly through the home page of the website.

This new scheme should allow a user to quickly find the topic or task they are looking for, and permit them to drill down further as necessary, within the confines of a clearly guided path.

Wireframes
After completion of the tree testing study, an initial draft of site wireframes were created by hand. The low-fidelity of these comps allows for unbiased discussion and design critique, without getting “married” to a specific visual presentation. At this point, things are still early on in the visual design phase. 

Once the click-through study results were analyzed, a final sitemap was developed, and finalized wireframes were created with increased fidelity. An example of the two wireframe phases are illustrated below.

Billings Public Library Wireframes

Next Steps
In continuation of the design and development processes’ focus on user testing, it is recommended that the adjusted sitemap and higher-fidelity wireframes move into an additional round of UX testing for confirmation of experience improvements. Further iteration may be necessary, and is to be expected throughout the life-cycle of the BPL website. Such enhancements will only heighten and expand the overall user experience of the Billings Public Library website.

Note: An exploratory lift to the BPL brand has been introduced. While not officially requested as part of the website redesign, these enhancements seem to complement the overall site update with a modernized feel, while instilling trust in patrons that BPL is a “library of today.” Additional market testing and exploration may be necessary, should BPL continue to pursue brand updates, as these enhancements were not part of the performed UX research.

 


APPENDIX

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