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Upper Sandusky Community Library


The Upper Sandusky Community Library approached the Kent State University Information Architecture and Knowledge Management graduate degree program for recommendations on ways to improve the website’s information architecture and overall user experience. According to the library, the website appeared outdated, contained too much information and was inefficiently organized. To provide the library with recommendations on a new website, a 6-week project plan was developed to include the following research and design methods: project documentation, proxy interviews, literature research, personas, task development, content inventory, site map, classification scheme, usability testing and wireframes.

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User research: determining the audience and their needs

Based on proxy interviews with librarians and through a literature search, I gained an understanding of library website users, their goals, commons tasks and behaviors.  My findings revealed that:

Typical users. Municipal library website users are older in age, parents who have young children and teenagers.

User goals. To become more skilled or versed on a given topic, to educate a child, to visit a library and to get involved in the community.

Common user tasks. To access a library catalog, reserve a book, request materials or a book from another library, log into a library subscription database, reserve a meeting space and perform research for a project.

Accessing information. Library users are more inclined to find information through browsing rather than using search. Additionally, most users access their library’s website from home or on a mobile device.

Personas and tasks: representing user segments

From the user research, I developed a series of personas intended to represent different primary and secondary user groups. The personas helped prioritize design decisions throughout the development process. Additionally, in order to prioritize common users tasks, I created a task list grid, which was organized based on persona.

Persona task list. Each task was given a rating based on qualitative and quantitative research findings. Quantitatively, if a task was mentioned by all interview participants and was also found in the literature research, it received a high priority rating. Additionally, taking into account interview participant comments, if a subject strongly emphasized or endorsed a task, it could have received a medium to high rating.

Content inventory: collecting and evaluating content

I cataloged content from the current site into an inventory and determined what information should be repurposed, what content needed to be reworked and if new content was required.

The inventory revealed over 30 major navigation titles/topics available from the home page. Subsequently, the content within these sections included body text, images, PDFs, data tables, contextual links and external site links. The site employed a broad and shallow hierarchy with a topic-based organization scheme.

View Complete Content Inventory

Sitemap: mapping the project's hierarchy

To represent the new website’s hierarchy and structure, I constructed a detailed sitemap to organize new and existing content. Additionally, all user-driven priorities were placed on the sitemap to show key access points in the website’s global and local navigation.

Usability testing: evaluating the project

I conducted a study to evaluate the effectiveness of the labeling structure and architecture using Treejack. Overall, the website performed well among test participants scoring an 88% success rate. Following design iterations, a first-click impression test was performed on a series of wireframes using Chalkmark. The study revealed that users found the taxonomy, labeling, navigation and organization to be designed effectively.

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Wireframes: establishing structure and prioritizing content

I sketched a series of wireframes, including the website’s home page, as well as key process flows – finding events, logging into an account page, contacting a librarian, using the library database, finding building hours and reserving a room. The sketches were converted into digitally rendered wireframes, annotated and evaluated during usability testing.

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Prototype: creating a representation

I transformed the wireframes into non-functioning high fidelity prototypes. The prototypes included a desktop and responsive mobile version of the home page, along with key user processes.