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SWON News: The Low Down

Website Redesign Worries

Friday, August 15, 2014  
Posted by: Nathan Swartzendruber
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Our website needs a redesign. That’s a scary thought. You start to imagine countless hours and dollars disappearing as you build a new website from scratch. So you think, A fresh coat of paint, a new look, is all we can handle right now.

Any change takes hours and dollars

If you’re going to put any time into changing your website, make it worthwhile. Ask again what patrons want to do at your website–ask yourselves and ask your patrons. And look for ways to help them do things–find books, download music, register for programs–as well as showing them what the library has.

Be honest about your competition

You may be very aware of what other libraries are doing, but I bet your patrons are more aware of Target and Amazon and iTunes. Go to their websites and get ideas from what works and doesn’t work there. You’re making progress when you say, I want people to be able to do this, not I want the website to look like this.

You aren’t starting from scratch

Don’t throw out your old site. You need it. Do an inventory and find out what’s on your current website. You see sections for children and teens. Should there be an adults section? Talk about it. Physical items and download items are in different places, and maybe the tech won’t let them be listed in one place. Could you talk about music–CDs, MP3s, streaming–in one place? Discuss it. That’s putting pages in a new order, editing and revising, not writing a whole new book.

Designing a website isn’t interior decorating

A website is an instruction book. Follow these few steps and you’ll be able to do this, and this, and this. You can read this, learn that, take all these things home with you. Good instructions, whether in a bad photocopy or glossy print, help people work. Focus on what people want to accomplish, and you’re on the right track.

Ready to learn more about website usability design and testing? The Nielsen Norman Group’s website has lots of research-backed articles to help you dive in.

Website usability design and testing

At Tuesday’s Website Usability Testing Level-Up Lab, we discussed some website usability and testing basics. One-on-one testing with a patron, for example, can be easily done with an hour and a $25 gift card. What you gain is documented evidence that can greatly inform your intuitive “This is what I do, and I bet others do too” anecdotals.

Want help with usability testing, or want to learn more? Nathan’s happy to field questions and he’s available to consult on your projects. Call him at (513) 751–4422 or email him at

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