Middlebury

LIS Website Recommendations

This is a draft of the LIS Website Team's recommendations. This draft is under review and does not contain the final recommendations of the team.

Introduction

Based on the recommendations of White Whale, navigation should be designed to follow the goals of the site, not necessarily the org chart of the organization. It is not important to the people trying to get information from our organization that we are "LIS". When we conducted a heat map analysis of user clicks on the current home page in 2008, we discovered that site visitors clicked on either the word "Library" or the words "Information Services" in the site footer, thinking that they would get to a different page depending on which word they used. Google Analytics[1] reveal that the library portion of the LIS site is responsible for nearly half of all LIS site visits, or well over half if the LIS home page is included as part of the library. As such, it is not important that we maintain the entirety of the LIS web presence in a single platform, but should instead match the content to whatever platform is best at delivering it to people visiting our site.

We recommend that the LIS Website consist of the following elements:

  • A landing page with contact information, location information, hours, and links to our content offerings.
  • A blog that contains information about the organizational mission and structure as well as news and articles from LIS staff.
  • A wiki that holds the technical and procedural documentation maintained by LIS staff, chiefly the Helpdesk and Telephone Services documentation.
  • A website in Drupal for access to Library resources.
    • Subject guides for academic departments and disciplines in SubjectsPlus.
    • A search portal for Library resources

We also recommend that there be some consistency across all sections of the LIS Website.  Every page should have a unifying graphic element (eg, a logo) to make it clear to the user who has arrived via search that they are on a Midd-LIS page.  Every page should invite feedback ("Was this page helpful?).

Diagram(Visual representation; opens as a Word Doc)

Entrance / Landing Page

The strategic recommendations from White Whale[2], the vendor handling the design and information architecture or our new website, include that the top search results each have their own editable landing page directing users to information about that term. "LIS" was consistently a top search term as shown by the 2008 analysis[3] of our search engine. As part of implementing the recommendation from White Whale, encouraging the use of search on our new site, and providing a quick portal into the different parts of the Library & Information Services site, we should create our site's entrance as the landing page for the search term "LIS" and associated terms.

This landing page will have the following information:

  1. A brief description of "what is LIS?"
  2. Contact information for LIS administration, the Helpdesk, the Info Desk (we may need to get clarification on the future role of the Info Desk...), and links to places where users can submit questions and suggestions for LIS (eg, LIS liaisons, Suggestions Blog, Advisory Groups, etc.).
  3. Locations (linked to the Campus Map) and Hours of our physical operations
  4. A link to a list of LIS staff on the central Directory
  5. A link to the LIS blog
  6. A link to the LIS wiki with an additional link to the Helpdesk section of that wiki
  7. A link to the Library website and the subject guides
  8. Either a link to, or an embedded form for, a search portal specific to LIS (depending on implementing technology of search landing page)
  9. Related links to organizations like CTLR

Numbers 2, 3, 4, and 9 are to replace completely full sections in the Information Architecture of the current LIS website[4]. Google Analytics[5] revealed the each of these was the overwhelming content selection of their respective areas of the LIS site. For instance, the "Hours, Locations, Maps" link on the current About LIS site received 1557 clicks off the About LIS landing page in the last year, while the second highest clicked link was LIS Organization with only 88 clicks. Clearly, we need to present the information in sections 2, 3, 4, and 9, which all received similar click ratios, as a level of the Information Architecture more prominent than the information with which they presently reside. This LIS Search Landing Page presents this opportunity.

The platform we will use to implement the search landing pages is, at this time, unidentified. However, for the purpose of conceptualization you might imagine that each search term's landing page would be a page in a wiki specifically allocated for search. For LIS, this will very likely end up looking like the main page of the LIS wiki, but with the information listed above. Because the MediaWiki platform templates are not particularly appealing in a design sense, we might aggregate the wiki page content up to a presentation layer, while leaving the actual content and editing interface within MediaWiki. Such implementation decisions will become more concrete as the Web Redo Project progresses. Our team will follow the lead of this project in implementation decisions pertaining to search.

In addition to search, this page will be accessible through GO (as go/lis) and through the information architecture hierarchy of the new website.

LIS staff comments in support of this proposal:

I feel the main # 1 issue with the website is organization. There is no easy navigational methods to the site for the layman person. in other words..make it more user friendly. Google search like structure or equivalent.
I often need to get to the staff/faculty help re telephone stuff (voice mail greeting, etc.) - it seems buried and I would think a lot of people use that fairly often - bring it forward, please.
Too many layers When at the info desk, it is sometimes very time consuming to find an answer for a patron. I often find it difficult to figure out what heading to look under.
[On "Hours of Service] put top level, ez to see immediately
[On "Hours of Service] Needs to be more prominent. Maybe on every page?

And 7 of 29 comments on the question "Do users often contact you for information that is available on the website?" mention "Hours", with many being the only thing mentioned.

LIS student employee comments in support of this proposal [survey results citation]:

Currently, the links on the LIS page are in an unformatted list. It would be more visually appealing, and easier to click, if the links were formatted.
Search does not seem to locate desired pages all the time
The categories on the lis page are confusing. I use the "go" shortcuts instead of navigating from the lis page. It would be better if we reduce the number of the categories.
[about library research guides] The organization is a bit unclear and could be stronger
[on hours of service] during irregurlar hours like vacation period, could it be made more evident on the websit [sic]
[on hours of service] This section is very weak. It is difficult to find hours online, particularly for the helpdesk
[on space availability] the link to this page can be made easily accesible
[on space availability] I have no idea what's out there, let alone what's available. A list online would be great.

The LIS Blog

LIS staff contribute to a wide array of blogs on Middlebury's Wordpress installation. As new working groups and teams are formed, each has a tendency to create their own blog. This blog then needs to be publicized, requires people to subscribe to a new feed of information, and requires the content authors to switch contexts between the many blogs they may edit. On July 1, 2009 we identified 22 blogs run by members of LIS[6], with the majority belonging to working groups or projects. The number has since grown. The strategic recommendations document from White Whale[7] points out this issue and the need to provide a navigation tool for the blogs hosted and included in the Middlebury blogospehere. The recommendation in that document is to have a unifying navigation bar for all Middlebury blogs and a master feed or page that lists those blogs.

We recommend that LIS take this a step further and unify their blog-based communications within a single blog. We will change the URL of the "All Things LIS" blog, which is now used to enable web-based distribution of the LISt email newsletter, from blog/list to blogs/lis. All LIS staff will then be made authors of this blog, with the ability to approve their own posts. We will then encourage, but not require LIS working groups and teams to move their communications into this blog, using categories to separate out posts and allow subscribers to focus on the content which most interests them. For working groups with established blogs, we can migrate the existing posts and comments into the new "All Things LIS" blog and add categorization. LIS personnel who maintain personal blogs will be allowed, but not overtly encouraged to migrate their communications into the central blog, provided the content is related to their profession. The completion goal of this effort is the creation of a blog which is truly "All Things LIS".

Use of a blog will ensure up to date and real-time content rather than waiting for multiple posts to be approved in bulk. Real time blogging can minimize staff time needed to gather and organize topics for monthly/weekly newsletters.

In addition to the posts that will keep our community informed of the work LIS does, we will use Pages in the blog to contain information about our organization including the organizational structure, mission, values, and goals. This content will be moved largely from the current About LIS portion of the CMS. These pages will have a smaller set of editors, tasked with keeping that set of information current. Users will be able to navigate to these posts through a navigation widget in our of the blog columns. The theme and presentation of the blog will be selected from the set of design templates delivered to us by White Whale as part of the Web Redo Project. Should the we require additional design work to one of those delivered themes, the LIS Website Team will determine what resources are required to achieve the necessary design.

Our survey analysis[8] shows that the platforms our users are most comfortable with of all the content platforms LIS supports is the blogging system. However, the results of the survey show a mixed level of comfort with this tool:

[Staff]

  • 4...Not at all comfortable
  • 13..Less Comfortable
  • 19..Moderately Comfortable
  • 6...Comfortable
  • 17..Very Comfortable

[Students]

  • 2...Not at all comfortable
  • 0...Less Comfortable
  • 6...Moderately Comfortable
  • 7...Comfortable
  • 4...Very Comfortable

However, compare this to the results for comfort levels with a Content Management System:

[Staff]

  • 10..Not at all comfortable
  • 14..Less comfortable
  • 15..Moderately comfortable
  • 9...Comfortable
  • 9...Very comfortable

[Students]

  • 10..Not at all comfortable
  • 3...Less comfortable
  • 4...Moderately comfortable
  • 2...Comfortable
  • 0...Very comfortable

Much can certainly be said on the topic of whether our CMS is "user friendly", but we have run the CMS platform for over five years at this time with 1-2 FTE developers devoted to its maintenance, Helpdesk sponsored training sessions and workshops, and an array of content providers from all areas of LIS. The current blogging system has been in effective production for under a year with fewer training opportunities and staff support. Despite this disparity, LIS staff in general have created more new content in, and feel more comfortable with, the blogging platform. It is important to note that the blogging system has allowed staff to freely create their own blogs and author their own content without approval requirement from management or LIS administration. We see this as evidence that allowing staff the opportunity to create their own content without a strict supervisory structure leads to increased confidence in the use of technology and the production of more content by LIS staff members.

We recognize that this is a significant departure from the editorial model of LISt. In looking at the blogs created by LIS staff in the year that the blogging server has been available, we are not able to find any instance of content that could not also be presented in this format. We trust in the judgment and professionalism of our staff and the ability of our management to correct us when appropriate. We feel that the benefits gained by having a unified location for receiving news and information about the work our organization does outweighs the small chance of miscommunication. Our goal is to make syndication of content easier for the consumers of that content so that email announcements about new blogs like The Segue from Segue or the Middlebury Printing Project blog are not necessary and to enable and encourage updates on those efforts by the staff most involved in them.

LIS staff comments in support of this proposal:

[On "Staff accomplishments"] This is sort of there in terms of the LIS Enewsletter that is published online but is not a regularly updated web page on it's own; nor can just anyone contribute something without jumping through the "right channels"

However, we recognize that there are significant hurdles to overcome in the adoption of any solution involving blogging. Our survey analysis also revealed that LIS staff were uncomfortable using RSS feeds. In fact, LIS staff were more comfortable with the CMS in general than RSS. We support three means of addressing this issue:

  1. LIS staff should be encouraged to explore RSS through publication of materials like RSS in Plain English. In addition, as implementation of Google Apps for Higher Education continues, LIS staff should be encouraged to explore and adopt Google Reader as a platform for RSS delivery.
  2. The "All Things LIS" blog should (at least initially) be available through email subscription using the Subscribe2 plugin. This will allow those unfamiliar with RSS to receive updates from the group through more traditional communication methods. Helpdesk staff should be prepared to assist in the creation of mail rules for LIS staff to send this information to a folder for later review so that LIS communication does not introduce an interruption into normal work.
  3. The Helpdesk should be encouraged and supported in their rollout of Microsoft Office 2007. With Outlook 2007, users can subscribe to RSS feeds in their email client. This marriage of RSS and email presents the information in a context familiar to users while segregating it from normal communication so that it does not distract. If User Services requires additional support in this rollout effort, we strongly recommend that LIS provide such support.

We also recognize, as we must, that the survey results show that there are LIS staff members who are resistant or opposed to communication through blogging technology. We propose that the most effective means of changing this attitude is for LIS Administration to lead by example and support their claim to provide increase transparency into LIS priorities and decisions through use of the blogging platform. Open and honest communication of the attitudes and feelings of LIS Administration, with the willingness to hear replies from staff will foster a community of understanding amongst staff. However, this effort requires communication from both ends.

LIS staff comment opposed to increased blogging:

are ill used; most appear to be people positioning rather than being useful
personally I dislike blogs

The LIS Wiki

LIS produces and manages a signficant amount of documentation, which is currently maintained in print publications, documents on the file server, pages on the content management server, and pages in the LIS wiki. We want to unify this documentation to ensure that it is maintained and updated, provides easier access to information, and eliminates duplication of effort. Our Helpdesk and Circulation staff have already begun the process of compiling information in wikis, which give access to all LIS staff to keep that information updated and accurate. We recommend that this process be continued and accelerated so that the LIS wiki becomes the central repository for documentation produced and maintained by our organization.

The Web Redo Project will require a content review and migration of all pages on the CMS. For those pages containing documentation still relevent to the organization, we recommend they be moved to the LIS wiki as part of this content review. At the same time, we recommend an inventory and analysis of the documents on the LIS file servers. Those still needed by the organization should be made into pages on the LIS wiki. This is an important clarification from past documentation efforts: we recommend that documentation which can be represented as a web page should not instead be a PDF or Word document file.

In considering the the issue of how to separate content designed for external users and internal staff, we conclude that the opening page of the wiki should ask the users to identifiy themselves as Student, Faculty, Staff, or LIS staff. This will enable us to provide them with the best access to the most relevant materials. For example, a student searching for information about book circulation needs different documentation from a staff member joining the Circulation staff. We do not need to prevent the student from seeing the staff information, but we don't want him or her to be confronted with irrelevant information either. We will not make any of the wiki inaccessible (private) and note that information like passwords should not be present on any part of the LIS website.

We will identify the resources needed to accomplish the documentation migration as an outcome of the LIS Website Team.

[Student comfort with wikis]

  • 2...Not at all comfortable
  • 2...Less Comfortable
  • 7...Moderately Comfortable
  • 5...Comfortable
  • 3...Very Comfortable

The Library Website

We propose a webpage dedicated to the library operations of LIS. Users will be best served with a page dedicated to accessing the resources and services provided by the libraries. The resources are both on-line materials: books, journals, digital collections, subject guides etc. and live services: reference assistance, circulation services etc. Thus we propose that the Library site be built as a stand-alone site in Drupal with a new set of design templates that adequately allow for free presentation of appropriate information.

Helpful guidelines and examples of successful library pages can be found at http://www.libsuccess.org/index.php?title=Website_Design

Content of this page should include:

SubjectsPlus

SubjectsPlus offers a way to organize subject related information such that it is easier to search and maintain than was achieveable through the content management system. Therefore, we recommend that LIS continue to use this tool for subject guides and aggressively include links to those guides in all search landing pages and main website pages for their subjects. When the SubjectsPlus "course view" module is ready, we recommend using it for course-related research guides.  We also recommend that the SubjectsPlus application be extended to provide RSS feeds of the subject guides so that their content can be more easily indexed by search engines and aggregated into other areas of the overall college web presence. This work will be conducted by the Web Services workgroup as part of the Web Redo Project.


[Student feedback on library research guides]

  • 5...Unfamiliar with
  • 7...Could be improved
  • 8...Works


[Quoted student responses on subject guides]

does this exist ...
Way too much information. I'd rather spend that time reading the articles.
The organization is a bit unclear and could be stronger.
If content is searchable across different guides
Is there any way to search across different guides on one single page?

Forms

The current LIS website incorporates forms of many different types provided in different formats. A few examples:

Electronic Reserves Copyright Clearance Form        Word doc
Reserve List Form                                                 Word doc
Library Instruction Class Request                           cForm

Music Order Request Form                                    cForm
Multiple Copy Permission Letter                             pdf
Proxy Borrower Application (PDF)                           pdf
Library Book Order Form                                        php

Banner Security Access Request                           php
Film Rental Request                                              KeySurvey

All participants in the makeover need to examine the use of forms in their sections of the LIS site. Use of a common forms tool should be encouraged. Before this can happen however, the appropriate tool or tools must be selected. The implications of this choice reach beyond LIS to all areas of the college. Issues of cost, support by LIS and end user independence must be fully considered when selecting the forms tool. In addition the LIS Help Desk group is in the process of anaylzing the current incident tracking system used and exploring the viability of creating a self-service web portal.  This self-service web-based portal proposal would allow for a single place to submit web-based forms (e.g. Request for Film Screening) along with the ability to find other form resources.  A requirement of such a portal must be its ability to integrate seemlessly with theincident tracking system.  Several packages have been reviewed and evaluated against the Help Desk requirements and needs of the college.  To this end the Help Desk is currently reviewing options, packages, and whether or not its current HEAT system can be upgraded to provide this functionality to the end user community.

LIS within the IA of the College Site

Links in the top levels of the College website (e.g., under "Academics" from the College homepage, and potentially in "Quick Links") that bring users to LIS content must tell users what they can expect to find. The labels of these links must describe the content of the destination page, and they must make sense to the user. Therefore, the LIS Website team should be given the opportunity to determine how links to LIS content in the top levels of the College website are labeled.

References (log in to view)

  1. Google Analytics, July 26, 2009
  2. White Whale, Strategic Recommendations, May 20, 2009
  3. Chris Norris, 2008 Search Terms
  4. McBride, Ian, Google Analytics for LIS, July 26, 2009
  5. Google Analytics, July 26, 2009
  6. McBride, Ian, LIS Website, July 1, 2009
  7. White Whale, Strategic Recommendations, May 20, 2009
  8. Merz, Barbara Survey results - summary, July 27, 2009
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