Library Website Update: Rebuild, Redesign, or Refresh?

Website Update Approaches

A website consists of three aspects: the content, the organization, and the design.  With few exceptions, the content of the website is its most important trait.  It’s the essence of what you want to present, advertise, or sell to the website visitor.  The content might naturally drive the organization of the website if it falls into clear categories—audience, departments, product types, etc.  Otherwise, the website developer creates functional categories.  These categories translate into menu items, subsections, and often subdomains or subfolders.  Likewise, the content and the organization might suggest a certain design.  In addition, the website developer looks to audience, purpose, and branding to create a positive user experience for the website visitor.

While website content is not usually affected by changes in Web and browser technology improvements, website organization—whether static or dynamically created—could be, and design most certainly is.  We have seen websites evolve from simple HTML, to the separation of design from content using CSS, to responsive design, and finally to modern design frameworks.  Website construction went from coding individual pages, to using includes to share components, and then to complete content management systems.  Web technology continues to improve, making design easier and features more robust.  In order to take advantages of new Web technologies, periodic website updates need to be undertaken.

When should website updates be made?  If you have a website that has gone unchanged for two to three years and you want to know whether you should update it, what factors should you consider?  To what extent should you look to make changes?

There are three routes you can take:

  • Rebuild the website.  This means tossing out most of your current site—content, organization, and design—and essentially starting over.
  • Redesign the website.  This means making some changes to the content and organization but changing most of the look and function of the site.
  • Refresh the website.   This means keeping most of the content and organization and making minor—but noticeable—changes to the site design.

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Library Websites Analysis

Drexel University Libraries Website

We analyzed 100 academic library websites.  To select the libraries, we used the U. S. News & World Report‘s Best Colleges National University Rankings.  For those 100 prominent universities, we found the website of the main library and looked at its homepage navigation, organization, terminology, and search tools.

We looked at trends in these areas:

  1. Navigation menu items to understand terminology and site organization.
  2. Discovery and search tool tabs.
  3. Headings for sections of most-used links.
  4. Headings for News carousels and links.

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Library Websites for the Top 100 Universities

Duke University Libraries

Sometimes, when evaluating your library’s website or services, you’d like to see how things are done at other institutions.  Why reinvent the wheel?  Maybe you just need some inspiration; seeing another’s layout or reading alternative wording can spark a brilliant idea.  Or you might just copy something that works.

U. S. News & World Report’s Best CollegesIf you find yourself wanting to browse other academic websites but don’t know where to start or how to choose them, this list of links can help.  This is not a list of the top 100 academic library websites.  Rather, it is a list of the library websites for the top 100 institutions in the U. S. News & World Report’s Best Colleges National University Rankings.  Use it to check a handful of sites or all 100.

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Library Technology at the ALA 2017 Annual Conference

ALA 2017 Annual Conference

The ALA 2017 Annual Conference is just one week away.  The conference covers a myriad of library topics and sorting through the program sessions to find the ones focused on library technology takes effort.  Let us do the work for you.

Here is our list of programs related to library technology.  You’ll find interest groups and sessions on data and metadata, makerspaces, UX, Linked Data, ILS and LMS, websites, mobile apps, emerging technologies, and more.  Committee meetings were not included.

For official descriptions, speakers, and final schedule, please check the conference Full Schedule page.
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ALA 2016 Annual Conference Follow-up

ALA 2016 Annual Conference

The American Library Association has added the audio and presentation files from many of the conference sessions to its ALA 2016 Annual Conference website.  For librarians interested in library technology, there were four must-attend sessions and fortunately ALA has the audio for these four sessions.  You’ll need to log in to the conference website to access them.

Linked Data – Globally Connecting Libraries, Archives, and Museums

Saturday, June 25, 2016 • 8:30 AM – 10:00 AM

Gordon Dunsire – RDA Steering Committee
Reinhold Heuvelmann – German National Library
Richard J. Urban – Florida State University

In the past years, libraries have embraced their role as global participants in the Semantic Web. Developments in library metadata frameworks such as BIBFRAME and RDA built on standard data models and ontologies including RDF, SKOS and OWL highlight the importance of linking data in an increasingly global environment. What is the status of linked data projects in libraries and other memory institutions internationally? Come hear our speakers address current projects, opportunities and challenges. Sponsored by the ALCTS International Relations Committee. Co-Sponsored by ALCTS/LITA Linked Library Data Interest Group.

The implementation of BIBFRAME and Linked Data is poised to revolutionize the access of scholarly articles and research data.  This session covered some projects including an open database of Linked Data from the Deutsche Nationalbibliothek (German National Library), the Open Metadata Registry (OMR), and r-balls which contain “packages of data”—Linked Data and semantic Web representations of cultural heritage resources described using RDA.

Download the audio and presentation.

Executive Perspectives: A Strategic View of the Library Technology Industry

Saturday, June 25, 2016 • 10:30 AM – 11:30 AM

Marshall Breeding – Library Technology Guides
Sam Brooks – EBSCO
Matti Shem-Tov – Ex Libris
Skip Pritchard – OCLC
Jim Tallman – Innovative Interfaces
Sebastian Hammer – Index Data

Marshall Breeding, author of the annual Library Systems Report published in American Libraries, will assemble and moderate a panel of CEO or other senior executives representing organizations that produce software or services for libraries. Breeding will give a brief introduction and will then lead a lively discussion to probe at the technology and business trends currently in play, including industry consolidation, differing approaches to opening software to library programmers, and the shift toward cloud-based technologies. Panelists will be expected to candidly reflect the perspectives of their organizations, but not promote their products. The select panel will include representatives of organizations that produce commercial products, open source software, and will reflect for-profit and non-profit perspectives.

In this session, Marshall Breeding gathered executives from major library vendor companies and questioned them on topics including library vendor consolidation, comparative openness of their platforms, and more.  The three ILS vendors took subtle jabs at each other, while OCLC emphasized their nonprofit model.  Hammer took the opportunity to introduce an open library services platform (LSP) called FOLIO (of which we’ll have more soon).

Download the audio and presentation.

Library I.T.: Information Technologists or Information Thought-leaders?

Sunday, June 26, 2016 • 10:30 AM – 11:30 AM

Craig Boman – University of Dayton Libraries
Whitni Watkins – Analog Devices, Inc.

Library staff employed in information technology (I.T.) departments are often seen as support staff, only providing services when something breaks. But what more can library IT staff do to support the mission of their libraries? In this presentation we will explore why library IT staff should maximize their ability to work across various library departments to collaboratively design new library services rather than being relegated to support staff. We will also explore how library IT staff may challenge traditional bureaucratic organization structures to lead change efforts.

The speakers discussed the relationship of the library with its information technology staff (who may or may not be librarians).  They recommended that library IT staff be should be proactive.  “Don’t just wait around for problems to solve.”  Library IT staff should seek out opportunities to learn what other library staff do and join teams to get more involved.

Download the audio and presentation.

LITA Top Tech Trends

Sunday, June 26, 2016 • 1:00 PM – 2:30 PM

Maurice Coleman – Harford County (MD) Public Library
Blake Carver – LYRASIS
Carolyn K. Coulter – PrairieCat Library Consortium, Reaching Across Illinois Library System (RAILS)
Nick Grove – Meridian Library District – unBound
Laura Costello, MLIS – Stony Brook University
Lauren Comito, MLS – Queens Library

This program features our ongoing roundtable discussion about trends and advances in library technology by a panel of LITA technology experts. The panelists will describe changes and advances in technology that they see having an impact on the library world, and suggest what libraries might do to take advantage of these trends. More information on Top Tech Trends: http://ala.org/lita/ttt

This was a huge session in one of the largest conference rooms.  Panelists were asked to state their top tech trends in a word: concepts, real time, virtual reality, balance (security vs. access), and super-easy application development.  “Library technology staff need to read vendor contracts to ensure privacy and security.”  Tools libraries can use to encourage open everything include promotion, shifting academic attitudes, and institutional repositories.  Panelists were asked about the Internet of Things: Useful or useless technology trend?  “Security is key.”  American Libraries posted a session summary on their blog.

Download the audio and presentation.

For more session audio and presentations, see our Library Technology at the ALA 2016 Annual Conference post and the official conference Full Schedule page.