Hello and welcome to our new University of Miami Libraries Website Redesign Blog. As the name suggests, the Libraries are working on a redesign of our web presence, and we thought it would be useful to write up some of our experiences. Useful how? Well, we see it serving a few overlapping purposes:
- Raise awareness. Website redesigns can be off-putting for regular visitors. Things that were in one place, are now in another place. The user’s desire for stability is in conflict with the designer’s desire for improvement (which in turn can be driven by “under the hood” technological developments in the field of web design). So, even if you stopped reading at the name of the blog, at least you know that change is coming.
- Engage users. Even if you don’t like change, there are probably things about our web presence that you think should be changed. We hope that some of you might be interested in the details we provide about our process and findings, and further hope that you will be willing to participate in our user testing and experiments.
- Keep you in the loop. We are asking people to help us do various UX (user experience) activities, and we want to report back to you what we learned, and how this knowledge will be used as we develop the site.
- Historical Record! Libraries and librarians love to capture information, in case it might be useful later.We hope that this blog will capture the process so that a few years down the road we can see what we did, what worked and what didn’t work, and let that inform the (sorry) next website redesign.
So, what are we doing, why are we doing it, and who is doing it? Currently, our web presence is distributed across a number of software platforms and services, and uses a mix of open source (WordPress, SubjectsPlus, custom) and proprietary (uSearch, CONTENTdm, ILLiad) applications. Some of these applications reside on UM servers; some are hosted in the cloud by vendors. The focus of our first development work will be on the two locally-installed content management systems (WordPress, SubjectsPlus) which make up the majority of what might be called our “website.” We will begin with the main website, the subject guides, and the sites for the distinctive collections (Cuban Heritage Collection, Special Collections, University Archives) and then move on to the branch websites. We will not be looking at the uSearch discovery system (aka the Library Catalog) at this time.
There are a number of reasons why we are doing this now. Superficially, the current website is almost five years old, which is thirty five years in human time–imagine your poor child wearing the same clothes for thirty five years. But beyond the clothes, we have outgrown some of our current underlying systems, and want to upgrade and simplify the underlying web architecture. We also have new systems in place (uSearch) and in the works (a replacement for CONTENTdm, our digital repository software) that we want to integrate with. There have also been a number of organizational changes since the current website was developed–we have a new dean, three new associate deans, a new Digital Strategies unit, an enlarged and invigorated Communications team, and a new Learning Commons. The existing web presence does not adequately represent this changed environment and focus.
While the actual design and development will be undertaken by the Web & Application Development (WAD) department, we have assembled a project team with representation across the Libraries. The Website Redesign Advisory (WebRAT) team will advise and help shape the redesign, as well as reaching out to the rest of the UML community and making sure everyone is listened to, informed and on board. The User Experience (UX) team is helping with surveying and testing our current users and site, as well as prototypes as we develop them.
The Discovery phase of the project was completed in the fall 2016 semester. The Plan & Design phase began in the fall and continues through the spring of 2017. The Build Out phase will begin in late spring, and be completed in summer 2017. The first stage of the redesigned site should be ready to launch in advance of the fall 2017 semester.
Thanks for your time! We plan to post on a new topic every Monday for the foreseeable future.