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Workshops… and yet more workshops
In parallel with some of the technical preparatory work we’ve kicked off a series of workshops with our staff.  Organised by one of the web team we are using them as a way of getting library staff involved in the process and generating some discussion about aspects such as user requirements. These ideas then lead on to a prototype information architecture and a set of ideas that  can be tested with users to validate or modify them.

So far we’ve run three different workshops.  About half of the library staff have been to at least one of the workshops so we’re pretty pleased at the amount of engagement we’ve had so far.  And they’ve brought up a lot of interesting ideas and some challenges.  In this blog post I’m going to outline the activities that we’ve been running and put down some thoughts about the things that are coming out of the workshops.

Workshop 1
We kicked off the process with a small workshop with participants drawn from the two groups in the library who are most closely involved with the website: our website editorial group and our User Experience Group.  Between them there is representation from across the library, with a strong core of learning and teaching librarians, who have day to day contact with users via our library Helpdesk service.

The workshop was asked to carry out an exercise to identify the different types of users of our website, identify what their needs were, why they were coming to the website, and what tasks they were trying to accomplish.   The background to this is that at the moment there is a single website that tries to meet all user needs, yet the library services that are available to students are distinctly different to those available to academics for example.  So, whilst knowing how to renew a library book is important for an academic based on campus it isn’t much use for a student who isn’t able to borrow.

Workshop 2
This workshop was open to staff across the library as part of our regular programme of Staff Development activities.  In an hour-long session a fairly large group were asked to carry out two activities.  Firstly a card sort exercise, taking the current 2nd level website titles and structuring them into what seemed like a logical structure.  They were also asked to comment on any terminology that was unclear. 

As a second exercise the group was asked to look at some examples of retail websites and look at them from the point of view of their Help and Support services.  This exercise was to get staff away from a narrow view of what library websites could be (as there is a tendancy for them to end up with similar features – although you could argue that they are trying to meet similar needs). 

Workshop 3
The final workshop had a smaller number of staff (about 10) from across the library and again looked at the website structure.   The workshop looked at the output from the earlier structure workshop and refined it further.  It also looked again at page naming and how best to handle the different requirements of distinct user types.

Outcomes and reflections
There were a few key messages coming out of the workshops. 

  • Separate landing pages for some of the main user groups may be a good idea – this implies users having to login which opens up some customisation and personalisation potential but means that users would have services relevant to them on the home page
  • A simpler structure and simpler terminology e.g. About Us rather than Library Information
  • Language should be used that is more familar to students
  • Some pages need better names, could be dropped or merged – there was quite a lot of feedback that it wasn’t clear what some pages were about
  • Where pages have information aimed at different user groups then they either need to have a consistent format (i.e. always with the student information at the top), or be split into separate pages that are fed to appropriate users

Next steps
As an output from the workshops we now have a prototype Information Architecture and some ideas around naming conventions.  Our next step is to start to check these ideas with users, probably through surveys at this stage.  So we will want to check what they want to see on the home page, how they would like the site to be structured and what they would prefer sections to be called.   Ideally it would be good to use something like treejack to help with testing the structure.

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