Over recent months, we have carried out a new user test to improve the information architecture for certain parts of the website. Among other sections, we assessed the access offered to the digital collection from the Library’s website. The large number of resources and the wide range of tools represent an important obstacle for users when they search for information.

These are some of the stand-out observations that you may find interesting.

  • To find the state of the art in a given subject, faculty choose to use Google Scholar first, and the Library’s resources and search engine second. Students tend to use the website’s search engine first.
  • The majority of users liked the fact that access depended on the type of content, as this lets them discover new resources, although they were not always familiar with the different types.
  • Users do not fully understand the separation of articles and databases. The concept of databases in not well known, especially among students.
  • When searching for a specific article, the majority of users would go straight to the website’s search engine to get the full text if available.
  • Faculty would mention certain databases or journals in their specialist areas, but the majority of students could not give any examples.
  • All the users were satisfied with the single search box for accessing all of the Library’s contents.
  • Among the resources, users expected to find open resources such as websites, blogs, etc.


One search box and resources menu

One search box and resources menu

The main finding is that there is the need to make it as easy as possible to access the contents.

This means offering different channels for access to meet all the possible needs and respond to all levels of information skills.

Users also value any way to find new resources very highly.

Related posts:
Is a single search box the solution to our problems?
Search engine at the library website: curiosities


Drupal, our choice

A couple of weeks ago we had the chance to present the new Virtual Library website project at a conference organized by the University (UOC). The conference was designed to showcase projects with an important technological component being developed at the University.

One of the aspects looked at in the presentation was the selection and configuration of the software chosen – Drupal – and how it allowed us to respond to the needs arising.

What were our technical requirements?

  • Scalable.
  • Customizable. To be able to adapt the tool to our current needs and those that may arise in the future.
  • Trilingual. All content has to be in three languages.
  • Ability to generate a workflow for decentralized publishing by multiple editors.
  • Ability to integrate the University’s internal (UOC identification system, query service) and external tools (Summon, SFX, Millennium, MetaLib).

Why did we choose Drupal?

  • Open-source.
  • Accessible and user-friendly SEO.
  • Robust.
    • Consolidated.
    • Large support community.
  • Flexible and offering control.
    • Modular, scalable and customizable.
    • Views. To be able to show content depending on the criteria set.
    • Control of roles and permissions, both for end users and content editors.
    • Multilingual.

We had to produce some custom developments in Drupal:

  • Content type (set templates for the creation of different types of content: news, services, resources, alerts, etc.).
  • Module to adapt Drupal’s functions.
  • LTI module to connect to the UOC’s Virtual Campus.
  • Theme to adapt the user interface.
  • Use of Block Theme and blocks. Blocks allow us to show or hide information or show different information depending on the user profile.

Services presentation

Content types and blocks

Other aspects that we took into account:

  • The design method for the solution used in all phases of the project (user-centred design).
  • What the new website represented for users.
  • Conclusions: problems and challenges for the project and the future.

You can find the complete presentation (in Catalan) on the University’s institutional repository.


Towards 2.0 user training


At this time of constant connection to the internet, mass use of social networks, instant messaging, mobile devices and apps, and instant access to information at any time and from anywhere, and right when we need it, we need to reassess the services offered by libraries to adapt them to a new technological context and new user needs.

“we need to reassess the services offered by libraries to adapt them to a new technological context and new user needs”

For some time now here at the UOC Library we have provided a response to the new user needs arising from these technological changes and trends.

In the specific case of the training offered by the Library over recent years, and specifically since 2009 when we produced the Training Plan (a plan which is currently being updated), we have made a concerted effort to focus on e-learning via the University’s Virtual Campus and new multimedia formats that include audio, video and text.

The roll-out of the UOC Library’s new website has let us take another step, further enhancing our commitment to self-learning and audiovisual formats for Library users, both for training in the use of the Library’s services and resources and in basic information skills so they can work independently to find, manage and use information.

We believe that multimedia, which in most cases means short videos that we call knowledge pills, is the format that best meets the training needs of our users in the current context.

“multimedia, which in most cases means short videos that we call knowledge pills, is the format that best meets the training needs of our users”

Thus, the training offered by the UOC Library is based, fundamentally, on a series of self‑learning videos to accompany the Library’s services and resources and a series of videos to help users work independently to find, manage and use information.

The catalogue of videos undergoes an annual review and update. The Library also offers the possibility for users to request specific materials on any subject from the Bespoke Training Service.


Focused on the user!

User tests form part of the user-centred design process and let us assess the level of usability of the tools we design.

The results of the tests help us identify improvements or rectifications that need to be made to the decisions taken.

Likewise, it is a very enriching process, helping to forge closer links with our users and to get a better idea of their needs and expectations.

In a post a few weeks ago, we explained how the UOC Library had designed a new website, based on UCD methods, and how we had carried out a user test. The objective of this test was to assess aspects including navigation, content organization, some of the basic functions, the new design and the terminology used. The tests were carried out with students, faculty and researchers.

Some of the most important conclusions that may be of general interest included:

Resource search. Most of the teaching staff preferred using the internet, Google Scholar or databases they already knew. Half of the students would use the site’s search engine.

What do they do when they can’t find an article? Most of the teaching staff would use the Library’s Document Supply Service, while students would first try Google Scholar or the Library’s help service.

Personalized information. The participants assessed all the sections and functions that allow for some kind of personalization of the information, including:

  • Consulting loans and reservations made.
  • Consulting resources on a subject area.
  • New acquisition recommendations by user profile (based on the area of study or work and on loans and searches made).
  • Recommended resources or those related to students’ courses.
  • Recommendation of resources to be added to Virtual Campus classrooms.

Content organization. Differentiation between resources and services, which is so common at university libraries, was not immediately obvious to all users.

The personalized service. Students appreciate the personalization of the style and the ability to identify the librarians responsible for each service.

Self-training. Most users positively rated the video format as a channel for self‑training. They also positively rated the fact that there were videos offering different levels of depth into the subjects, going from basic to more advanced knowledge.

Content for researchers. The contents on offer in the website’s Research section were rated positively, but there was a wide range of opinions on what contents might be included in this section.

Design. The fact that the University’s brand was recognizable was rated positively, as was the site’s clear design.

If you would like to see the report with the full results, you can find it in the UOC’s institutional repository (in Catalan).

Involving the user. By Frits Ahlefeldt

Interesting related links:

  • The Open University presents the results of its activities to involve students in the development of new tools in this post.
  • The presentation by the User Experience Department at the Library of the University of Michigan on its functions, the methods used and some of the results obtained.

Cross-posted with iCommunity blog.


Summer, a time to change the website

Summer 2013,

1. Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (The Open University of Catalonia, UOC)


As a result of a user-centred design (DCU) process, this new website emphasizes the single search box, better explanations, quality and transparency applied to the Library’s services and processes.


2. The University of York


They have redesigned and restructured their website in response to the user’s feedback. They also highlight a new tool which allows you to submit enquiries online and search FAQs.


3. The University of North Carolina


They highlight the following enhancements: a single highly visible search box on the front page, front-and-center placement of the most requested links, information about libraries and places to study and a calendar of upcoming events.


4. Universidad de Navarra

http://www.unav.edu/web/biblioteca (Spanish)

UNAV library website change to fit the design and style of the University website.


We can see that most of them agree on emphasize elements such as the search engine, customer service, access to resources and news and events.


New websites - Summer'13

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