For the Web site redesign, we're interested in learning more about our users' behaviors and their motivations for coming to our site. One method of documenting the various types of users and groups accessing and using the site is through the use of personas. Personas are fictional individuals that represent users of your Web site or application. Personas typically include a fictional name of the user, demographics about the user, and their goals and motivations for coming and using your site.
Creating personas for Web site design is a common practice and is often initiated in the early discovery and analysis phases of a Web design project. Personas guide design teams, helping them stay focused on the end user and their goals. Throughout a design project, "designs can be constantly evaluated against the personas and disagreements over design decisions can be sorted by referring back to the personas." (usability.gov)
Personas are the result (and an artifact of) user research, often drawn from interviews and usability studies with end users. They may also be derived from secondary research. As we embark upon our Web site redesign, we're using a number of sources to create our personas. We've engaged an outside consulting firm who will conduct contextual interviews with our library users next week. To formulate our library personas, the consulting firm will work with the Libraries' Web redesign team to analyze interview data as well as research from other universities (see Cornell University Libraries, University of Washington Libraries and Macquarie University Library).
Libraries' staff have access to several virtual seminars featuring some of the most respected names in user-centered design and information architecture (IA). These 90-minute seminars are organized and hosted by Jared Spool, recognized leader in usability research and founder and CEO of User Interface Engineering (UIE). Consensus in the DLI dept. is that the quality of these is excellent--we've found it useful to schedule group viewings, allowing time for discussion afterward.
Find seminar descriptions and URLs for viewing in Confluence at: Usability & Design Virtual Seminars. Here's a quick list of titles:
Leverage Search & Discovery Patterns
Peter Morville & Mark Burrell
Why Designers Fail, and What to Do About It
Designing Better Navigation for Web Applications
The Scent of a Web Page: The Five Types of Navigation Pages
The User is Always Right: Making Personas Work for Your Website
The NCSU Libraries Web redesign team is using a user-centered, iterative design process for the 2010 redesign. What this means is that we focus our energies on the end-user throughout all phases of the project, constantly seeking feedback and iteratively updating our site per the feedback we receive.
In the user-centered design process, four phases make up the bulk of the work: discovery, architecture and design, development and implementation. Our goal in the discovery phase is to better understand our users and their motivations for coming to our Web site. In this phase, we'll identify exemplary sites; perform a content analysis of what exists on the current site; develop personas or archetypes of users using the Web site; specify user tasks and goals; and look at usage statistics for the current site.
In architecture and design, we take what we've learned about our users and begin to architect and layout the site specifics. We’ll develop navigation models and create low-fidelity prototypes. We'll use wireframes to communicate what the site structure will look like. From the wireframes, we'll create designs.
The architecture and design phase is very iterative in nature. Once we develop a wireframe or a design, we’ll elicit feedback both internally and externally. We'll use the feedback to refine our wireframe or design and ask for comments again. This process is repeated until we have a final deliverable.
During the development phase of the project, we'll actually build the Web site, including migrating content into the Drupal CMS platform. We expect that this process will be iterative as well, as we're planning to perform usability tests on the site once it is built. Feedback from usability tests and open sessions with external and internal users will inform the final stages of the project and help us solidify the design of our new Web site.
Once the site is launched, we plan to continue using user-centered, iterative methodologies to update the site. We'll conduct usage surveys, and studies about its ongoing use.
We look forward to your feedback about the process we're using. Feel free to drop us a line.
As we mentioned in an earlier post, we expect to build our new site using a Content Management System (CMS) called Drupal. Drupal is a popular, well-supported open-source CMS platform. Part of the discovery phase of the redesign project involves determining how much of our content it makes sense to move into Drupal for version 1.0 of our new website.
Using a CMS requires us to think about how our content should be categorized, grouped and reused across the site. We'll do this by specifying content types and their attributes, and by using taxonomies (content tagging sytems) to further categorize and create relationships between content. Essentially, we're creating a large database of content elements that can be queried and assembled in various ways and presented as web pages.
So what does this mean in terms of the way we, and our users, interact with our site?
Our users won't know the difference--a site built using a CMS will still appear as pages viewed in a browser. But the way we create and work with content will be a bit different.
We will use the Drupal interface to locate pieces of content by content types, and edit them using a Drupal editor. Most web publishers will not need HTML skills to create and maintain content. Once we have migrated all of our content into Drupal, the staging server will no longer be necessary since content can be kept unpublished in Drupal until it is ready to be published. Drupal also tracks changes and versions, making it possible to roll back to previous versions.
While this will all take some initial investment of effort to put in place, moving to a CMS now will position us to associate content in more powerful and dynamic ways in later iterations of our site design.
For our upcoming Web site redesign we've been looking around at other Web sites for inspiration. In our search we've looked for sites with clean, fresh and modern designs. We’ve also been searching for sites with specific components we’d like to emulate, such as mega drop-downs and interesting, compelling implementations of search. To get a feel for the types of sites we’ve been finding, navigate over to our dropio site, where you can comment on the sites we've identified. Remember to check our dropio site periodically, as we plan to add snapshots throughout the Web redesign process.
We'd love to hear from you. What are you favorite sites? Have you come across a library site that you find exemplary? For our internal readers, our Web redesign Confluence site has an entry for exemplary sites. Check it out. We look forward to your feedback.
This spring and summer, the NCSU Libraries is launching a project to redesign its public Web site. A library-wide committee has been charged with helping to plan and design the new site. The goals of the redesign include creating a fresh, modern and welcoming site, with a clear personality brand for the library; streamlining homepage access to search functionality and core user tasks; creating a Web site that accommodates a dynamic, continually-updated online presence, with a clear emphasis on innovative library initiatives and offerings; and designing a Web site infrastructure that is flexible and nimble.
We’re taking a user-centered design approach to planning the redesign. Throughout this effort, we’ll post our processes and lessons-learned, as well as artifacts such as wireframes and design compositions for you to comment on.
In the coming weeks, be on the look out for posts from us asking for your feedback. We’ll need your help in determining how the new site will work to meet your needs. We look forward to hearing from you!