Notes from the redesign team


Usability Testing

Over the past 2 weeks, we conducted usability testing of 2 proposed search prototypes and of our proposed navigation menus for the Web site redesign.  View the following presentation for a summary of our findings from both studies.

To test navigation menus, 32 users were recruited in situ in the D.H. Hill Library lobby and asked to complete 4 of 15  possible tasks using a working prototype of navigation menus only. Each task required the user to open a navigation menu and indicate which menu item they would select to look for the specified information. Facilitators recorded up to 4 of each user's menu selections, in order of selection. The facilitator's assessment of task difficulty was also recorded.

What we found in this type of testing is that the menus were learnable, and that users quickly developed mental models for the global navigation. The 'Find' menu resonated as a broader term than 'Search.' The 'Services' menu worked well as a catch-all. The 'About' menu was used as expected. And, the 'Research Help' menu was somewhat ambiguous for end-users.

There was general confusion about where to locate databases. This problem existed in the search testing as well.

For the search testing, we again recruited participants from the lobby of D.H. Hill Library. Twenty eight undergraduates, graduates and library staff participated in testing 2 separate search models.

Each participant was asked to complete 2 tasks using one of the search models; many participants volunteered to answer more than 2 questions. Facilitators documented what tab the participant initially selected for the task, the search term used, and the path the participant took to complete the task. Facilitators also coded how difficult it was for the participant to complete the task.

A total of 14 participants answered 46 questions about the first search model; 14 participants answered 38 questions about the second search model. Our goal in this testing was to determine whether users pre-select tabs in a tabbed search model before entering search terms. We also wanted to look at how users interact with tabbed or non-tabbed search results.

What we found from this type of testing is that while tabs generally resonated with end-users, there was confusion between the journals and articles tabs. This was consistent with the navigation testing, and highlights the general issues about how to present journal and database articles in libraries.

What are our next steps? We plan to fold in recommendations from the 2 studies into our homepage wireframes. We also plan to build 2 search prototypes in the context of the new homepage - one with a tabbed interface and one with a single search box with links to silos. We'll then conduct more usability testing on the working prototypes.


Thanks for your feedback!

Thanks for your feedback on the recent wireframes we posted. We've updated our wireframes per your suggestions and based on recent search box and navigation usability testing we've conducted (we'll post more about this in the coming week). Let us know what you think!


Give Us Your Feedback!

We need your feedback on our wireframe prototypes!

For the past several months, the Web site redesign team analyzed the information architecture of the current site, mined through usage statistics and interviewed undergraduate students, graduate students and faculty to determine a new layout and structure for the NCSU Libraries Web site.

Check out the resulting wireframes and sitemap.

As you're looking through the wireframes, keep  in mind that they are blueprints, meant to convey layout and content; they do not have colors or images, and the fonts that are used in the wireframes are not the fonts we'll use in the final design. As you're glancing through them, also keep in mind the goals of the new homepage and the larger site:

  • Streamline access to search functions and core user tasks
  • Provide ways to contact librarians throughout the user experience
  • Highlight core tools and provide paths to top tasks
  • Promote the library through news & events messaging
  • Promote new innovations in library technology and learning spaces

Give us your feedback on the wireframes by leaving a comment on the blog, providing a suggestion through our feedback widget (in the right column on this blog), or by emailing us at

We look forward to your comments!


Meet Us in the Lobby for a Quick Survey!

The Web redesign team will be in the lobby of D.H. Hill Library (right in front of the Circulation desk) this evening from 5pm - 9pm conducting quick surveys about the new Web site's navigation. We'd love to talk to you and get your feedback! Candy will be provided!


Mega Dropdown Menus

The Web Redesign team has been creating wireframes for mega dropdown menus. Mega dropdowns are "big, two-dimensional drop-down panels [that] group navigation options to eliminate scrolling and use typography, icons, and tooltips to explain the user's choices" (Nielsen, 2009).  As we've been brainstorming the design of these menus, we're looking around at other sites for inspiration. What we're seeing are really innovative, compelling designs. Take a look: