July 2020 Seminar: Time critical user centred library web design


Antony Groves, from the University of Sussex gave a lively account of how his team have made ten changes to the library website since lockdown. He talked about benchmarking, user surveys and feedback and plenty of iterations to get things right.

They have had two aims: to make the site accessible to meet Government requirements and also to make the site as useful as possible during the lockdown period. This was a huge challenge in difficult circumstances, but the efforts were rewarded by a ‘Customer Service Excellence’ award.  Antony gave us sufficient details to really bring home the challenges that were faced by librarians in the lockdown, particularly in the specific context of the range of users who needed resources for their study, research and their daily tasks. NetIKX members have commented on how valuable the session was for their own work in this area and there were plenty of questions to Antony to complete the session.


Antony Groves is Learning & Teaching Librarian in the Academic Services department at the University of Sussex. He is the  person who co-ordinates teaching for undergraduates and taught postgraduates across all schools of study. This includes embedded teaching, providing student support and organising the Digital Tuesday’s programme.  He has developed the Library website, Library Subject Guides, Skills Hub and curated content for LinkedIn Learning; and supports students in using the Library resources and services.  He also runs a Library chat service and also blogs for CILIP’s Multimedia Information and Technology Group.

He is a Fellow of the HEA and committee member for CILIPs MmIT.

Time and Venue

2.30 pm Wednesday 22 July 2020. Antony’s talk was delivered via Zoom.




Slides will be available to members soon


Antony Groves has been working at the University of Sussex for 15 years starting in a ‘front line’ role and continuing on into his current job where he is always talking to and supporting a lot of students at both undergraduate and post-graduate levels. He is a member of CILIP and blogs for the Multi Media and Information Technology Group. Antony is a reflective practitioner and believes in making things happen. As of now there are two major priorities – proactively working towards making the UoS website accessible by the government deadline of September 23rd 2020 and reactively working to make the UoS website and services as useful as possible following the Covid19# lockdown in March.
Two key ideas – accessibility and usability. Accessibility can be straightforward things such as font size, change in colour and ensuring that the keyboard is operable. For more on accessibility https://www.jisc.ac.uk/accessibility
‘Strategic approaches to implementing accessibility’, more colloquially – ‘The Kent strategy slides’. 2019 saw over a million visits to the library website, 6,170 on the busiest day – Tuesday May 14th. There has been a shift (a pivot) from physical visits to digital space. The main focus is on the user.
At this time there is a rush to open things up after lockdown without necessarily thinking about who is coming through the door and what they want now. Doing updating and coding makes you ‘removed’ from the user. Government Design Principles are a good place to start – https://www.gov.uk/guidance/government-design-principles
Now this is for everyone. You start with ‘user needs’ and you design with data. You build ‘digital services’ not websites. Remember that ‘A service is something that helps people to do something’. Iterate, then iterate again. We began by speaking to the academic community and gathering feedback. Over 100 pieces of feedback were collected and grouped into four main themes: architecture, behaviour, content and labelling. Top tasks were identified (e.g. searching for and finding books, booking rooms, accessing an account) – https://www.alistapart.com/what-really-matters-focusing-on-top-tasks/
People mainly make use of a handful of tasks so develop these first.
Architecture – “Confusing having two types of navigation”. Behaviour – “Have never used library search tabs”. Content – “More photos of the library and more infographics”. Labelling – “Skills hub should have a description mentioning academic skills”.
Design with data – We benchmarked with other institutions. We looked at Google analytics – most/least viewed pages, along with bounce and exit rates. We ran ‘card sorts’ to determine site structure. We created user stories to help edit pages. This resulted in (two examples) – the new ‘Making your research available’ section has very low bounce and exit rates, and these have also dropped across the whole site indicating that people are finding what they expect to. The ‘Find a book in the library page’ had 6,785 views compared with 1,182 in the 2018 Autumn term when it was located in the ‘Using the Library’ section.
Iteration goes on and on. There is still much to ‘unpack’ and ‘improve’. User testing is currently being organised. Usage is being analysed to see which parts of the website are seeing fewer views and less engagement. Working with teams inside and outside the UoS Library to make the digital services as useful as they can be to our community.
When Covid19# hit the UK we considered carefully how to respond. We devised a three pronged approach : Pivot / Add / Hide. ‘The Pivot’ involved moving the library from a physical presence into a digital space. For example, study rooms were no longer available and room bookings were changed into zoom bookings. ‘The Add’ meant introducing new services. There is a ‘click and study service’ starting this week whereby individuals can book a study place. There is a ’click and collect service’ and ‘Library FAQ’s’ appropriate for the period of lockdown. ‘The Hide’ concerned removing information on the website that was no longer appropriate such as ‘Information for visitors’ Instead, we created a guide to ‘Open Access Items’ and a ‘Schools Guide’.
All this work has been recognised by a ‘Customer Service Excellence’ award.
Antony is pleased that the work of the UoS Library Staff has been recognised but he takes it with a ‘pinch of salt’ as he is intent on doing more ‘user testing’ and receiving much more feedback as well as talking to his community.
In conclusion, notification of the inspirer behind this approach to digital services – “Revisiting Ranganathan : Applying the Five Laws of Library Science to Inclusive Web Design”. Ten changes we’ve made to the library website since lockdown – www.mmitblog.wordpress.com

Rob Rosset 25/07/2020

Study Suggestions

MMIT blog: https://mmitblog.wordpress.com/2020/03/16/revisiting-ranganathan-part-1

MMIT blog: https://mmitblog.wordpress.com/2020/03/19/revisiting-ranganathan-part-2

MMIT blog: https://www.visucius.org/2020/07/27/time-critical-user-centred-library-web-design/