OU library website home pageOur new library website went live earlier this week at www.open.ac.uk/library after many months of planning, development and testing.  The site itself is largely built using Drupal on the OU’s standard drupal infrastructure which uses a restricted range of drupal modules to make it easier to support and keep up to date.  The object of the exercise has mainly been to move away from the old library website technology of Cold Fusion as that is being phased out.   So although we’ve taken the opportunity to update a few features and introduce a more modern and corporate standard look and feel, the main aim has been to change to a more modern platform.

The guiding principles have been to try to address issues raised by users in surveys and feedback.  So we’ve been trying to improve the navigation, simplify the search features and make our help and support offer more obvious through the website.  So our helpdesk email, webchat and phone contact numbers are in a block on every page, we’re also showing online training sessions prominently on the home page as users have commented that they couldn’t find them easily.

We’ve also introduced a new ‘How Do I’ feature using the drupal Similar Terms module.  How do I screenshotThis shows links to other help pages in the website that are relevant to the page that you are on.  So it uses metadata within the page to match with metadata on other help-type pages and then shows a list of relevant pages.

The other main feature that is a bit different to before is that we’ve extended the dynamically-generated content to most of the Library resources pages.  This uses ajax to show lists of selected resources from a back-end MySQL database.  The website developer has been able to update the way the subject lists (Selected resources for your study) function, so instead of having to pick from one drop-down list, then a second drop-down list, then click a radio button to see resources, there is a more modern approach with a menu and filter buttons.

One of the limitations we have is that we have a lot of links to the website and course activities in Virtual Learning Environment courses, so we’ve had to keep the old website running while we get all those updated.  It does have the advantage of making the changeover a bit less fraught as both sites are still running, but does change how you have to aproach redirection as you can’t redirect everyone away from the old site.

We’ll be assessing the feedback over the next few weeks and working out what further evaluation and testing we need to do.  There will also be a whole list of thngs to do to plan the closedown of the old site, add further features to the site and prepare for the next set of challenges.