Playing with my Site Design

I’m guessing that most of you reading this are subscribed to my blog in one of many ways, and don’t really visit my actual website much, which is cool.

But if you DO visit this blog by going to davidleeking.com, you’ll notice it looks really different! That’s because I’m in the middle of pfutzing with a new look for the site, and will be tweaking it over the next few weeks.

I’m switching from using a Thesis framework to a Genesis framework/theme. So – same content as always, just a different look for 2015. Enjoy!

Website Redesign going live and going Responsive

Well, I didn’t really post much about my library’s website redesign. But next week, we go live with it!

You can check it out now at our beta, pre-launch URL – dev.tscpl.org.

Here’s our go-live process:

  • Work on the site like crazy (we still have a big list of stuff to do!)
  • Today, we posted a head’s up to our customers, and asked them for feedback, too
  • We go live on January 29
  • Then, we’ll continue to tweak things as we notice them for 2-4 weeks.
  • Sometime after the big launch, we plan to have Influx take a peek, to catch stuff we missed.
  • Finally, we plan to do some usability testing to catch even MORE stuff we missed.

So, what’s new and different about our redesigned site? Quite a bit:

  • We went responsive, so one set of code works on all browsers and devices.
  • We have consolidated some of our blogs
  • Really worked hard on our links, our navigation, and directing people to the right content
  • Modern design, modern web fonts, white space, etc
  • On the back-end, we focused on letting WordPress do most of the work, instead of custom-coding. This will make things like sidebar widgets and pages MUCH easier for us to update

And probably much more that I’m missing. So go check it out!

Website Redesign Time!

My library is in the beginning stages of another website redesign. Our beginning thoughts were simply that we wanted to move to a responsive site design, to help out our mobile website visitors (hitting 20% and growing).

Then we realized all that back-end re-coding work pretty much meant a complete redesign. And there are some other things we want to address and improve, so doing a redesign makes sense.

I thought I might post once in awhile about the redesign process. Could be interesting…

What have we done so far?

  • I met with a group of customers, and asked them what they wanted in a website (see the image in this post for the notes on that session – here’s the Flickr link to it)
  • held some meetings with our Creative Group and our web team
  • created some early, rough draft mockups of the site – a main page, a blog post, and a mobile version of the main page.

Today, we kicked off a series of staff brainstorming meetings. In these meetings, I introduce the concept of responsive design, give some reasons why we are redesigning, and show off our mockups. Then, we brainstorm on these questions:

  • What do you like about the current website?
  • Where do customers get stuck when using the website?
  • What’s missing on our website?
  • What do you think can be improved?

Once these meetings are done, the next step will be to summarize the brainstorming sessions, and present that to our leadership team. Assuming that goes fine, then the website coding starts in earnest.

Should be a fun time!

Copying Other Websites During a Redesign

During my library’s last website redesign, we went through quite a few design iterations, and we still weren’t happy. Two people in our Creative Group team (more on that in the next post) … ok, our head of marketing and the deputy director … kept sending us website examples they liked. Sites like shoe stores or clothing shops. Yes, they were beautiful websites, and nicely designed. But they weren’t really all that similar to a library website.

One big difference – these attractive websites did one thing well – they sold shoes or clothes. They didn’t have any catalog to speak of. The websites were full of single pages that pointed to single items.

But a library website has at least two basic needs – a site that talks about the library, and shares useful stuff. And we have a library catalog. So it didn’t really make much sense to me to base our library website design around a site that only does half of what we do.

So I started poking around, looking for websites that focus on two things:

  1. stuff, like a storefront.
  2. a “catalog” of some sort.

Amazon and Zappos? Pretty much all catalog. News sites? Pretty much large multi-blog sites – focusing on stuff. Then it dawned on me – library websites are like Apple. Apple essentially has two separate websites – the main site that focuses on their stuff, and their “catalog” – their online store.

We based our redesign around Apple, in these ways:

  • Top horizontal navigation with drop down menus. We also found some “nav bar inspiration” at NPR’s website.
  • Focusing on a single large ad, then a couple of smaller ones, then more detailed content below that – based on many of Apple’s pages. This directs customers to a few things that you REALLY WANT THEM TO DO, while still having easy access to everything else.
  • A prominent link to the store. That’s where you’d click “Find Stuff” to get to our three catalogs (catalog, digital downloads catalog, and DVD dispenser catalog).

So far, it’s working out great – few complaints, lots of compliments. Our public trainers have told us they cut down training on how to use our website from an hour to 10-15 minutes. Fingers crossed that it stays that way for a while!

Upcoming Webinar – Building the Digital Branch: Designing Effective Library Websites

If you’re interested in building better websites, make sure to sign up for my upcoming webinar for ALA TechSource on June 8 – Building the Digital Branch: Designing Effective Library Websites. Just click the link to sign up!

This will be the second time I have given this webinar. If you attended the first one, never fret! There will be new content – I’m going to talk about how Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library (where I work) built our current website (the redesign went live on March 1).

Here’s the blurb for the webinar:

Every library needs a presence on the web. Whether you work at a large academic library or a public library in a small town, you need to be able to deliver service and content to patrons outside  your building. David Lee King will once again present this popular workshop, taking you through the process of building an effective, user-friendly library website that will expand and enhance your library’s presence in the community.

In this workshop, you’ll learn:

  • How to successfully plan and implement a redesign of your website
  • How to find out what patrons want from your website
  • How to use your website to interact with patrons
  • How to create strategic plans and goals for your website

Sign up NOW!