Background & Site Analysis

Website Background

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign radically changed the look of the library gateway page at the beginning of the Fall 2012 semester. Before that, the last major update to the site had occurred in 2008. According to library’s announcement, “Since the last major redesign of the Library Home Page in 2008, we’ve paid very close attention to the feedback and comments you’ve given us. Multiple studies undertaken by library faculty and staff revealed that we could do a better job getting you from our Library Home Page to the information you need. Drawing on those studies, as well as data from web logs, dozens of rounds of interviews, and usability tests, we worked through an iterative redesign process that resulted in the new Library Home Page.”

This is what the page looked like before the redesign:

The old library gateway page. (

This is the current page:

For now, users can still access the old library homepage’s interface; however, the site managers note that the old page will be taken down at the end of the Fall 2012 semester.

Viewing the old and new gateways side by side it is apparent that the designers of the new gateway did not go “back to the drawing board” so much as worked with what they had. The naming conventions for the vertical tabs can be found throughout the page. Consolidation has occurred, which is important on a site where real estate is so limited and stakeholders abound, but redundancy and confusion are still an issue.

Website Analysis

Based upon our own use of the site and the four user studies, we outlined the major strengths and weaknesses of the website:


  1. The gateway has to appeal to a wide audience (undergraduates, graduate students, faculty/staff, new students, community members, etc.) and is presenting an array of diverse information in a small space.
  2. The gateway acknowledges employ diverse information discovery strategies (e.g. search vs. browse) and therefore allows users to find the same information in a variety of ways.
  3. Many of the tabs in the vertical, left-hand navigation worked better than expected during user studies, especially “About the Library” and “Resources For…”


  1. The tabs along the top are misleading, especially the “Everything” tab and the “Search Library Page” tab.
  2. Users expect the content on the main part of the page to change when a new tab is clicked.
  3. The gateway assumes the user is already familiar with the libraries (how many there are, their acronyms, etc.).
  4. There needs to be more links to the location and hours pages within the sub-pages.


Suggested Redesign Importance Difficulty of Implementation Total Score
Rearrange and consolidate horizontal tabs 1 5 6
Rearrange and consolidate vertical tabs 2 4 6
Improve link naming 3 1 4
Improve visibility/accessibility of hours and locations 4 3 7
Re-skin library webpage search 5 2 7

Based upon our quick analysis of the importance and difficulty of implementation of the preceding redesign ideas, we arrived at the following priority list:

  1. Improve link naming (4)
  2. Rearrange and consolidate horizontal/vertical tabs (both 6)
  3. Improve visibility accessibility of hours and locations and re-skin library webpage search (7)

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