Mini-library Web Design Project (Capping Exercise)
By: Caroline Forst

Description of the organization

The mission of the Point East Public Library (a fictional town created for the purpose of this assignment) is: to provide recreational, informational and leisure reading materials to the community and residents of the Town of Point East.

The physical resources of the library are somewhat limited as the book budget is not as large as the staff and board would like, but they make due with what they have. As the library belongs to the Avonmore Library System, there are some advantages, one being the access to the province wide interlibrary loans, as well as an automated consortium with two other regional library systems via a Epixtech (formerly Dynix) program.

The Point East Public Library is situated in the Town of Point East, Alberta which is a small farming community, approximately 230 km northeast of Edmonton. The population within town is approximately 5300. Not only does the library serve the town, but it also serves patrons from surrounding communities in the County of Avonmore, including Prilton, Chandlen, Alcanson, and Kliffon. When these areas are included the population served increases to 12,550.

In the county, Avonmore is the main town that people go to do their shopping. If Avonmore does not have what the residents want, a trip to Edmonton is required, which is more than two hours drive away. For many people going to Edmonton is a two day trip. One day to travel and shop, sleep over and then start the trip back next day. However, the town is now seeing an influx of development as more stores are moving in, which is having a positive effect on all businesses in town and the surrounding area.

Because Edmonton is so far away, many people turn to the library for all their reading materials. Books, magazines, videos, books on tape, and CD’s are used extensively. There is no bookstore in town and only a few places to buy magazines, so the library if very well used. Looking at last years’ statistics there were over 29,000 items circulated at the Library, so what the library does have is very well used. In all respects the library becomes a meeting place for all types of people, young and old.

At present the only program that runs year round is Story Time, which is geared towards the preschool aged children. There is a small children’s area with built in risers where Story Time is held every Friday from 2:30-3:00 p.m., which is a huge success with the stay-at-home parents. Not only is it a great opportunity for the children to learn what the library has to offer, but also provides an opportunity for the moms and dads to meet and find their own books. Often the mothers comment that they love coming to the library, as it many be the only “quiet” time that they have that week. The computer that is restricted to children under the age of 5 is also a huge success, as it had Winnie-the-Pooh games that teach children the alphabet, numbers, and a few short words. If the library had more funding they would definitely get another computer as it is in very high demand. Everything that the library has or offers is in high demand.

Because the library is in such a high demand, this is the reason that a webpage is being designed. If there are services that can be offered or at least highlighted, the staff will become more productive. At the present time, the Library is staffed with 3 people all of whom work less than 32 hours a week. The Library is open to the public for 42 hours a week, and is usually very busy for these 42 hours. Interlibrary loans have been a huge attracting feature to the library as over 5000 items were circulated last year alone and the number is expected to increase this year. One of the reasons why this is so high is that Epixtech (formerly Dynix) allows patrons to place holds and checkout their records from home. The library expects that this number will increase if patrons to the Point East Public Library have a homepage. With the introduction of the webpage, it is hoped that more patrons will be able to see what new programs are being introduced, what new books are in, or even any special programs, such as author talks or community events are being held at the library. The webpage is also done is a more simplistic manner so that it is easy for staff to update any the pages.

User assessment

The primary users of the Point East Public Library site will be patrons of the town of Point East, which is the primary clientele at present, but will also be patrons living within the County and surrounding areas. The secondary users of the site will be anyone that happens to find the site, via internet search engines. Even though we are trying to attract the local community, we welcome any other visitors, regardless of their locations.

Secondly, it is hoped the page will attract non-users to the Library who will then be able to see what the library has to offer to everyone. This will be accomplished by an advertising campaign that the Library is going to conduct once the page is up and running. It is hoped that the site will be used by children, youth, adults, and seniors to increase the awareness of the library in the community as a one-stop feast for the literary, educational and recreational needs of the patrons.

At present the primary users are located in the Point East area, but as with any webpage the area covered can be provincial, national, and even worldwide. Right now, the goal is to get the people in Point East and surrounding areas interested in the library, and using a webpage is the means that we hope this goal is achieved by.

In the town of Point East there are 5 schools, with grades from kindergarten to grade 12. After the school libraries close, it is the public library that helps the students with their research and information needs. With this in mind, in the future, the webpage may also list and have “in library” accessible databases that can be used by these students, or be accessible to everyone with a valid library card; but this is one aspect that still needs to be researched. Even though students account for a large portion of users, many of the other users are adults that come to look for their own books. If there is a place that lists or highlights new books, the homepage is one area that will be used, with the possibility of adding a separate link to an internal page of new releases. Having new books listed on the website would be nice as it will save on paper since the paper copies that the library currently prints off are only looked at periodically.

As outlined on the homepage hierarchy (see attached) “Library Information” will include a place for patrons to check out the hours, services the library provides, fees and loan periods and lots of other information. “Magazines” and “Newspapers” will be a good place to highlight many of the patrons’ favorite serials, just in an easier to access than paper format. The main page will be used as a feature area for highlighting things that would be going on in the Library whether it is a new art display, science exhibition, or when children can sign up for the Summer Reading Program.

Overall, this website should be a fun and informative experience for all people. Having all the services and links as outlined in the following hierarchy will hopefully be a good addition to the library and the many services that that are already offered. Depending on the feedback the Library receives of the site, future pages and added information will be included. At this point in time the site is being welcomed by patrons who are looking forward to having a site of their own to access for all their library needs.

To see what the Point East Public Library website looks like, check out: Point East Public Library Website.

Reflections on the creation of the Point East Public Library Website

I did it! The web site for the Point East Public Library is done and uploaded and it looks good. I did my best work, gave it all my effort, and I feel exhilarated. I feel that what I have learned doing this page is immeasurable; the experience and knowledge that I obtained from this experience is mine, and mine alone. I feel that this project allowed me to be creative as well as being a great learning experience. I created a website that was only a vision in my head. I now know how to do a basic page, a more detailed page, how to use images, change font face, size, color, as well as a many other features.

Before I started this page, I needed some inspiration, so I ventured out into the internet. After looking at too many sites to list here, I found one site that I liked the best: Swift Current Branch Library (see attached list of websites accessed). The homepage was well laid out and overall well planned. I liked the idea of the table that this site was created with, but once I was coding I found it easier to make my homepage look as it does now.

As I reflect on the whole process of designing and uploading a website to the internet, I realize that web usability is a never-ending process. No sooner do you finish the site that there needs to be some changes made, and then you notice something else that could be better. This was the feeling on my page. In comparison to the URL for my homepage that I submitted for part one of this assignment, the end result is nothing alike. The final site is clean, crisp and informative. I have placed all the headings in an easy to read and pleasing manner. When I asked a few people to look over the site, that have no web design experience, they said that they liked the layout and that they were able to find what they needed quite easily. The fact that others see my page as informative and well designed, I think and feel that I have constructed a good usable website.

Even though my page turned out well at the end, I needed some guidance in the web design process. The best book that I found, besides the Nielsen text that we have for class, was Designing Web Interfaces to Library Services and Resources, by Kristen L. Garlock and Sherry Piontek. Thanks to serendipity, I just happened to find this book on the shelf when I was looking for another book. This book has been a very beneficial source to me in the web design process, and is an excellent book that I would buy if my job required me to design library websites.

To create a good site I needed to create a good user interface. Following the eight steps that Garlock talks about in her book, I feel my site became was it is. These steps that she talks about are easy to follow, as she conveys her points to the readers in a simplistic fashion. I feel that these points summarize very well what was talked about in other books, I just think that Garlock summarized it best. The eight steps, taken from pages 4-8 are outlined as follows:

Plan your structure carefully. By looking at part one of this project, you can see that I put a great deal of effort into the physical layout of the site. As we discussed in class, and as Nielsen says in his text, planning is essential. This point was also noted on the Vincent Flanders site, Web Pages That Suck. Good words of wisdom: “you want the bad ideas to come out on sketch paper or in prototypes, not in the product” (Berkun).

Let content inform design. Instead of making the pages condensed with information, I tried to create headings that are user friendly and right-to-the-point. I achieved this by thinking like a regular library user, one without any training or formal instruction. I tried to think like I used before I started doing my masters degree, but using the usability principles that I have learnt. By making a page per link, I feel that I have encouraged and promoted easier browsing of the site, well as quicker download time. The headings are short and succinct and tell the viewers exactly what is there. And, if there are any questions, the title tag that pops up over these links provides more clarification. Garlock is right in saying “let the content of a page inform the formatting of the page, rather than trying to fit the content into a flashy design” (4).

Be consistent. All sub-pages are consistent in layout, color, background, text, banner placement, and general feel. All pages are appealing without distracting from the content. It was and still is my hope that all the pages are welcoming and viewers will want to return to the site. The one feature on the sub-pages that I think makes the whole site consistent is the header at the top of each page. The font that was used in the homepage banner is the same font that I used in the header for each page. I hope that this subtle feature will be noticed by website users of this site. When I was constructing the site, the header is the one thing that I feel ties sub-pages to the homepage.

Create an intuitive web site. I tried to make the site usable and informative without distracting from the main purpose of the site: to help visitors find the information that they are seeking. The consistency of the site means that users do not have to learn any new skills to be able to use the site. As long as people can click a mouse and read, they should be able to navigate through this site quite easily.

Interface is compatible and accessible. As far as I can tell, the site is both compatible and accessible. When I was testing the site I did not have access to a computer with Netscape, but as I was using the Castro text, I noted where she included comments of what was and what was supported in Netscape. The site was tested on many different sizes of screens, but all used Internet Explorer. Even with the smaller screen sizes, the pages look good, as I coded using percentages, not pixel size, the layout was maintained accordingly.

Good navigational base. All links are well outlined on the homepage and there is a “home” button on each page, providing easy navigation to and from all sub-pages. If by some reason someone was ever to come across the Online Resources page, the banner tell the user that he or she is looking at a page from the St. Municipal Library.

Interface for the audience. I did not “patronize” (Garlock 7) the users in assuming that they would not get some of the more complex features. Even though I tried to make the site appealing and usable, I also assumed that the users would be able to follow the layout and be able to understand the headings/links.

Put user input into perspective. As previously mentioned, the people that I asked to view my page were able to navigate through the site without any difficulty. I asked each user to advise me to anything that they found to be confusing or misleading. The only real problem that users found was the labeling of “New Books.” I meant this heading to be the books that were coming, but users seen this as being the books that had come in. To fix this little problem I changed “New Books” to “Upcoming Titles” and added a separate page, “New Arrivals” to highlight the books that come in on a weekly basis. The New Arrivals page is one that will be updated regularly.

Be aware of the dynamic nature of the web. I am aware that the web changes very fast, and that a website is never really finished. A good web page needs to change with the times and be updated as information changes. This is one aspect of a library that is always changing. New books are bought regularly, just as new online resources are being created.

After looking at the website the one thing that I would possibly change is the addition of separate links for new books, one for fiction and one for non-fiction. This would then allow the library staff to update individual pages based on the new arrivals of books. For example I would title this section "Upcoming Titles" would be the size of some of pages. Even though doing this would be extra work, it might be worth it. The whole objective of the website is to attract users, and if this is achieved, additions like this would be worth it; staff would just have to realize that not every book could be included and that the size of each subpage would have to be restricted to a maximum size.

Nielsen says on the useit.com site “web pages can be no more than 3 KB if they are to download in one second.” This may be good advice, but for a library site it might be hard to keep each of the sites down to 3 KB or less. For example, the Interesting Websites page is 8 KB and the Search Engines page is 3 KB. I found this to be an interesting comparison. The only way that I can see this page being less than 3 KB is to not use the border on the left. This may be a good idea, but after looking at other sites I feel that the pages have to interest the users for them to want to come back. Personally, I like a bit of color. Reading textbooks and articles that are just white paper with black ink gets boring after awhile; that’s why people highlight, to make it more interesting. Nielsen says that “users do not keep their attention on the page if downloading exceeds 10 seconds,” (useit.com) but even though a few of my pages exceed 3 KB, all pages loaded in less then 10 seconds. With more people having high speed internet connections the time for downloading pages takes less time, so some website developers and gurus such as Jacob Nielsen may have some new and different viewpoints that this rule now. Another feature that increases usability is the fact that all pages can be accessed within three clicks, the recommended by DiNucci (58).

Web pages are by no means static. A website cannot be put up and forgot about, and expected to maintain itself. A good site is updated regularly and changes often. No matter what changes and how often these changes are made, one thing remains: usability is the most important feature of a website.

If you are interested in reading about my comments on the process of creating the Point East Public Library Website as well as the relevance to my career goals, and the significance of this type of work to the MLIS program, check out my reflections.

Works Cited

Berkun, Scott. “Issue #8: Why Good Design Comes from Bad Design.” Uiweb.com: Essays on web design interaction usability experience architecture etc. March/April 2000. (http://www.uiweb.com/issues/issue08.htm)

Castro, Elizabeth. HTML4 for the World Wide Web. 4th ed. Berkeley, Peachpit Press, 2000.

DiNucci, Darcy, Maria Giudice and Lynne Stiles. Elements of Web Design. 2nd ed. Berkeley, CA: Peachpit Press, 1998.

Garlock, Kristen L. and Sherry Piontek. Designing Web Interfaces to Library Services and Resources. Chicago: American Library Association, 1999.

Nielsen, Jakob. Designing Web Usability: The Practice of Simplicity. Indianapolis, New Riders Publishing, 2000.

The Top Ten New Mistakes of Web Design. Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox, May 30, 1999. (http://www.useit.com/alertbox/990530.html)

“Top Ten Mistakes” Revisited Three Years Later. Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox, May 2, 1999. (http://www.useit.com/alertbox/990502.html)

Websites Accessed

Complete Listing of Public Libraries and Library Boards in Alberta
http://www.cd.gov.ab.ca/building_communities/public_library/map_directory/listings/complete/index.asp

How to make an annoying page (this is a high school student’s page)
http://users.nac.net/falken/annoying/main.html

Fort Saskatchewan Public Library
http://www.fspl.ca/

Swift Current Branch Library
http://www.city.swift-current.sk.ca/city/library/library.htm

Useit.com: Jakob Nielsen’s Website
http://www.useit.com/

Vincent Flanders’ Web Pages That Suck
http://www.webpagesthatsuck.com/

WebReview.com: Cross-Training for Web Teams
http://www.webreview.com/


This paper and website were created for LIS 534/598: Information Architecture: Web Design for Usability, as fulfillment for LIS 600 (Capping Exercise) at the School of Library and Information Studies, University of Alberta, Edmonton. The town of Point East is completely fictional, any similarities to real towns are completely coincidental. This page was created March 15, 2003.