A New Sight; Our New Site!

Hopefully by now you’ve discovered our new website design – maybe you’re even reading this after clicking the link on our home page. However you got here, we hope you’ll agree that this design is a big step forward in many ways.

Though the new design definitely features a much brighter look, the changes aren’t just cosmetic. We’ve changed how the site is built, added tools to improve usability and tried to put things where they’ll be useful and easy to find, especially our online services that are available for you 24/7.

We’re using new software, called Drupal, to manage the website. It’s the same software that the Ottawa and New York City libraries have recently adopted, along with the White House, to help manage their online information.

This software will make it easier for us to update the site, and we  look forward to taking full advantage of new features to keep the website vibrant and interesting with useful new content that’s easy to find and easy to read.

We also used an innovative approach to select the design. Rather than trying to reinvent the wheel and design the site from scratch, we decided to start by finding websites that we liked, whether they were for libraries or any other type of organization, to get an idea of how our site should look and feel.

When we found a design that we liked, we also wanted to make sure that it wasn’t just someone’s opinion, that there had been a formal process to ensure that it worked well for users. We confirmed that our favourite was the result of several thousand dollars of work with a professional design company, including focus groups and user experience testing. We had a winner.

So in addition to a brighter, friendlier design, our new look makes it easy to move around, keeping the information accessible from anywhere in the site. The line of tabs across the top for the different sections is persistent navigation, meaning it’s available on every page, and there’s also an always-available search bar so users can search either our catalogue or our content from anywhere in the site. Finally, In addition to links within the subject pages, there’s also left-hand navigation that expands when there are additional pages related to where the user is in the site.

Speaking of the search bar, we’ve added a feature that our catalogue doesn’t have yet; when you do a search in the search bar, your search terms are included in the web address of the search results. This means that you can bookmark your search results in your browser for future use. It’s a small thing but it makes it easier to get back to your search results  and we think that’s important, especially so for hard-to-find items.

The slideshow on the home page is a great place to start any visit to the website. It lets users quickly scan through to see what’s new at the Library. We’ll be featuring new arrivals, upcoming events, Library news, links to interesting sites and more. The pictures can be enlarged or clicked to access additional information.

We’ve also added several features that make the new site accessibility compliant.

  • The size of the font can be increased or decreased to improve readability
  • All images use alt tags for compatibility with screen readers
  • We ran the site’s colours through several tools to confirm that it was readable for those afflicted with colour blindness

Finally, the colours for the design couldn’t be more local. While walking in Waterworks Park last fall, one of our staff found a leaf on the ground that hadn’t turned just one single colour, but had streaks of several different colours running through it. We scanned the leaf and used software to match the colours to create the palette that we use today.

So that’s the story of our new site. We love it but that only matters if you do too so we’d appreciate your feedback. If you’ve got comments for us – good or bad – or suggestions for things you’d like to see on the site, please feel free to add a comment to this article or drop us a line at patkinson@st-thomas.library.on.ca.

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