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Using data and research to redesign your Library Website

Welcome to episode 009 of Library Figures, Using Data & Research to Redesign Your Library Website. In each episode, we interview a new guest and hear about one of their favorite marketing strategies. In this episode, Kim Crowder of Indianappolis Public Library will be sharing about her library’s website redesign and how her team made crucial decisions to optimize their new site. She talks about how they chose content, decided on the most important areas of the homepage, and how they collaborated with a third-party consulting firm to gain the expertise they needed to do the job well. If your library is considering a redesign, you don’t want to miss this!

“Just because you launch a site, you’re not done yet.”

-Kimberly Crowder

If you are in the process of preparing for a new library website redesign or even considering one, Kim offers a lot of great information to help guide you. A complete website redesign can be a huge undertaking and there are a lot of components and details that shouldn’t be overlooked. From a comprehensive search function, to a streamlined user experience, Kim covers it all. She delves into her own personal experience with a new library website rollout, explaining that just because it has launched, doesn’t mean it’s done – she is currently in the next phase of their website project sourcing user feedback and planning ways to continue to improve the site.

Key Takeaways:

  • Using a search feature helps patrons navigate efficiently
  • How they streamlined the user experience
  • How they decided on that to keep and what to omit
  • Using a third-party firm to help gain the insight they needed
  • Tuning into trends in the larger market regarding websites, not just the library niche

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Discussing library event promotion with Kimberly Crowder
Library Figures Episode 9 featuring Kimberly Crowder

Read the Episode Below

[00:00:07] Tyler Byrd:

Brought to you by Piola, the very first patron inspired digital library branch. I’m your host, Tyler Byrd. And this is Library Figures. It’s a show about the people, data, and strategies behind some of the top performing marketing campaigns in the library industry and how they’re driving community engagement like we’ve never seen before.

[00:00:32] Tyler Byrd:

Alright, Kim, welcome back to Library Figures. And it’s great to have you. Last time you were here, we talked about event marketing and some public relation stuff that you all are doing. And then we also… You had mentioned that you were in the process of doing a website redesign. And so we wanted to get you back on the show after that was done so that you could fill us in on the process and how it went, and share with our listeners some ideas on how maybe they could go about it and improve their site and things that they could do that are beneficial, and maybe some things that they could avoid. So, with that, why don’t you kind of give us an update on what’s going on and where you’re at.

[00:01:05] Kimberly Crowder:

Sure. Thanks for having me back again. We just actually launched the new site, let’s see, two days ago. So, we are of course in the process of getting feedback from the public. We got some feedback from the staff. And once you launch a website, it’s like the beginning of that next phase. I think people think, “Oh, I launched a website. I’m done.” Absolutely not. So, now, we’re moving in the next phase of as we are getting that feedback and gathering things, looking at what does that mean, are there some functionalities that don’t quite work for our public, or are there some things that we would love to change. So, creating that wish list, and then we’ll move forward from there. But all in all, it has been an extremely smooth transition. We’re so excited. It’s clean. It’s super mobile friendly, super user friendly. And we’re just excited to finally role this baby out.

[00:02:04] Tyler Byrd:

Yeah, it looks good. Looking at the site, there’s definitely some unique factors that pop out to me right away. For instance, one of the things that I noticed right away was the fact that you don’t have a home page slider. The big old hero image sliding through different promotions and events. Instead, what you have essentially a form for searching, and that’s your primary call to action with a nice solid background behind it. Tell us, what was the thought process there?

[00:02:29] Kimberly Crowder:

Sure. And that is above the fold. If you scroll down, you do see events. So, you do see a list of events. And I’ll talk a little bit more about the functionality. So, there are events…there are ways that we can call out special events there. But you’re right, it’s not a slider anymore. And the reason that we put that search functionality right on top is the goal is basically to say, “Here is the easiest way to find what you want right up front.” So that people don’t have to look so much. And then right above that is of course the navigation bar. So, all of that information is right there so that people can see. And then as they scroll below that, they start to get a little bit more information. And I’m happy to continue down the page if you’d like me to.

[00:03:15] Tyler Byrd:

Yeah. Why was it that you decided on the search right there instead? Did that come out of some research that you did that made that decision, or was it just that you felt like this was a better user interface?

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[00:03:25] Kimberly Crowder:

A library website is extremely robust. And so there are tons of reasons why people come to our site. And some of that was found out in research. People could come to the site for everything. For catalog, to events. Or they’re looking for some database resource. And so we wanted to provide that information right up front so that they don’t necessarily have to dig through the rubble to find that. They can immediately get that information right up top. And so yes, some of that came out of research, but some of that is just customer insights.

[00:03:58] Tyler Byrd:

So, what else happened as far as leading up to the site and research that you did for the site? Did you kind of just jump in and know exactly what you felt like needed to be done to redesign the site? Or did you go through a process of talking to patrons and internal staff or stakeholders to figure that out? What did that look like?

[00:04:16] Kimberly Crowder:

Sure. And let me just say up front, we employed a third party consulting firm. And so the great part about that is I have a small team, and I think many people in the library world have a tiny team. And so we could not have done the extensive search that was needed in order to really hone in on the features that the website should have. And also just to be frank and open, that wasn’t necessarily our area of expertise. So, we wanted that support. And one of the reasons we chose this organization was because we really wanted someone who had an eye on the market in general for websites, not just library websites, to offer some feedback. And they had also done a redesign for our foundation.

As we worked with them, one of the first things that they did is that they spoke to our stakeholders. And so those were… We identified some internal stakeholders for them to speak with about the website, about particularly our directors. You know, “What would you like to see? What are some of those things that you really feel like the general public would want to know?” And then they created a very in-depth survey. And we sent that out to over 104,000 patrons who have given us their email addresses, and we got 2,000 back of people saying, “Hey, here’s what I want in a site. Here’s what I really like about what you already have. If I had my wish list…” Just tons and tons of questions. Everything down to how do you look at the site, how do you view it, do you view it from what kind of device. And we were able to take that information then and really get a sense of everything from the…really looking at the wireframe. That was very handy when we started laying out what the wireframe would look like and what exactly would be on the site.

[00:06:04] Tyler Byrd:

Okay. So, you got all the preferences from your staff, and then you took that, and you used that as your baseline to talk to your patrons about what they wanted to see. And then from there, you say you put it in on a wireframe. For those listeners who don’t know what a wireframe is, can you describe kind of what that was for you and what that looked like?

[00:06:22] Kimberly Crowder:

Sure. I considered the wireframe like the skeleton. So, it was pretty much page by page, where those pages would go, under what umbrella topic. So, let’s say we’re looking at books, movies, and music. What all goes underneath that. And then if there is a page underneath books, movies, and music, is there something beneath that page. So, it’s kind of like a diagraming of the site. But we were doing this before we were ever looking at any mockups of the site at all. So, that can be challenging, because you’re creating this image in your mind about what the site looks like. Or you can’t imagine it. And so it really stretches you to trust the agency that you’re working with, which is… If you do decide to go in that direction, it’s really important to make sure you have that open dialogue back and forth and that they’re really willing to speak with you about it. And just get in there and dig in. And really decide what’s right for your organization and for your patrons.

[00:07:26] Tyler Byrd:   

And so once you did that, is that also how you identified the content on the site that you were going to keep, or get rid of, or merge together?

[00:07:36] Kimberly Crowder:

I would say yes. We did… So, let me just say this.  Before on our site before this, we had over 200 pages. And some of those pages included for instance… Let’s say we’re talking about an event that happens year over year. Some of those pages were for instance five, six years ago. So, you think about that, and how many hits maybe that page got from three years ago. And when somebody types in that event, and the SEO, because it has more hits, pulls the older event. Then people are not finding the information that they need. And that’s what we were finding. So, we had a ton of pages like that. We also had some dead links. We had pages that were built basically…or built in a way where when the website had…when the internet had just started. And so the way that those pages were written did not reflect modern day. And so we had to go in and really clean that out. And I will tell you, that’s the not fun part. Because you’re prying away someone’s hard work and saying, “Hey, trust me.” And also trying to navigate those relationships. And that’ll be probably for anybody who’s doing a website redesign, that negotiation process, that’s when you’ll really find that back and forth with your internal staff about what goes and comes. We ended up from 200 to 80 pages. We’ve had no heartburn really about what’s missing. But it was just about creating a vision without people seeing anything. You had to continue to create that vision on a regular basis so that people felt understood and heard.

[00:09:17] Tyler Byrd:

Yeah. And buy into the project at the end of the day. That makes a lot of sense. So, within that… I got to think that you’re going back to the research. You’re looking at those wireframes, and how the content is going to be laid out, and what your functionality is. You’re thinking about what your staff told you patrons want, and what the staff needs. And then you’re thinking about what that feedback was from your stakeholder survey and those 2,000 individuals. What was the big takeaway from that survey as it relates to your design and your content? What were those two or three things that on your side, patrons were saying, “These are the things that are important to us, that we really want to see from you on the new site.”

[00:09:53] Kimberly Crowder:

That’s a really great question. I will tell you immediately it was to have a more…a site that was more decluttered. A site that was much cleaner. That was a big one. Also I would say the next one would have been the mobile side of it. And I will also tell you, we didn’t necessarily hear the mobile side of it, because before we had a website that was… It was like a mobile website. So, when you got on your phone, it was a completely different website than what you saw if you were on a desktop, because it was not mobile responsive. Yeah, it was not responsive. And so I don’t know that people necessarily knew to use those words, but we did know that people were having different experiences from one place to the next. And that’s where we really wanted to clean up that process so that it was streamlined. No matter where they were looking at our website or if they’re sitting at their desktop, and they just make the screen smaller, that it was the exact same experience they would have if they were on their phone or their tablet. So, I would say those were two of the main things. Making it really clean and user friendly, and then also making sure that on a device, whether they were anywhere at any time, the website was really helpful.

[00:11:15] Tyler Byrd:  

Did ADA accessibility come up during that process or in the feedback at all?

[00:11:19] Kimberly Crowder:

Absolutely. We’re at level A to AA. And so that’s everything to colors, to size of font, to the font we used. We did absolutely make sure that we are ADA compliant.

[00:11:34] Tyler Byrd:

Okay. For all of our listeners who aren’t familiar with that, this is anyone regardless of disability really could start using your site, just like they would with your traditional branch if they come in in person. So, it’s a big trend that we’re seeing right now when it comes to design as well. So, then you’re taking all of that information from the patrons, and you’re thinking about mobile. And not mobile as you had it before where it was you had a dedicated desktop website, and then it sounds like you had a dedicated mobile website that were completely separate. But mobile in the context of one site that responds to every device size a little bit differently. Is that right?

[00:12:11] Kimberly Crowder:  

That’s absolutely right.

[00:12:12] Tyler Byrd:

Okay. Perfect. So, then you’re looking at that. How did you decide what content goes where? Going back to the home page and what’s underneath of that primary call to action and that search box, how did you decide what comes next?

[00:12:24] Kimberly Crowder:

Sure. Of course you know this, but the easiest way to find out that information, just that baseline, is using your Google analytics. So, where are people clicking on a regular basis, what are the pages that people immediately go to. You can do that through heat maps as well to take a look at what patron behavior is. And so we looked at that. And also just baseline… Again, that’s customer insights. You know that for the most part, your customers are coming to see the catalogue, right? So, that should be right at the top. Or they want to see their account. We knew the order of some things and what people were looking for. And then also when you look at that secondary navigation bar down at the bottom, again, we knew people are always going to want to know about locations, events, programs. So, there were some things that we used hard data, and we also used some customer insights, whether it be anecdotal or listening to our patrons about what they needed.

[00:13:24] Tyler Byrd:

Hey, everyone. If you’re like most libraries I know, you’re pretty unhappy with your existing website. So, we’ve put together a free webinar on the five things that you can do that are going to have a significant impact on not just your success but on patron engagement. If you’re interested, head on over to meetpiola.com/webinar and RSVP. We look forward to seeing you there.

Did you do any heat mapping or user testing, video recording, anything to that extent?

[00:13:55] Kimberly Crowder:

We did all of those, particularly for the old site. So, we did do video recording, and we had people look…have particular tasks to see if they could find things, we were finding that people couldn’t. And being able to watch that and look at that journey as to where they were clicking, trying to find that information. And we also did heat mapping, particularly for certain pages. And those pages were our pages where we had information about downloading streaming our services. And what people were clicking on, how were they finding that information. Because we were hearing over and over again that people were not able to find what they needed on the site in that area. So, it just depended on where we felt like we want to do heat mapping versus looking at Google analytics. And then also the tasks that we used to watch people use it and video. A lot of different ways to gather information. And then you have your educated guesses as well. Again, that’s that customer insight. At that point, hopefully you know your customers enough where you can make some informed decisions about things like that.

[00:15:04] Tyler Byrd:

Yeah, absolutely. So, then going back and looking over at the site, what are you most proud of when it comes to the new site?

[00:15:12] Kimberly Crowder:

The home page is pretty sweet, especially if you look at screenshots across the board from… And I’ll probably send you some of these, Tyler, so you can see some before and after’s. But the screenshot when you look at this home page versus the other one, how clean it is. Also that search function is really cool. And considering that search function, it’s really interesting. We use a service called Algolia. So, Algolia is the company that pulls the searches forward. But the way that the site works is it is not searching every single one of the areas that you see. So, for instance, Algolia is not searching the catalogue. It is not searching the research databases. It’s not searching digital in the archives. But what you see when you recall those…when you ask for a search, and you recall…get those records recalled back to you is basically it’s searching as BiblioCommons would and just displaying those on the page.

So, you’re able to see what BiblioCommons would show you anyway. So, again, you talk about that customer experience from one place to the next. It would be the same. So, we’re really proud of that. We’re proud of locations in the way that you can now search for closest branch by zip code. That’s really exciting for us, because before, you couldn’t. You kind of had to look at it and then Google it. And so now we make that really simple. Events and programs, we use Communico now. We’re really excited to be able to lay that out in a way where patrons can search just within the events and programs. If you go on that page, you can search specifically events and programs for what you need. And you can also print out a brochure based on those filters that you decide on. And then lastly, I would say our research page.

We were having a really rough time creating a clean way for people to see all the different research databases that we had. And now you can search by subject, which is really great. The same thing, books, movies, and music. There’s kind of a same sort of thing. You can search by format type. And I really love that we have those ways for people to search to get what they want really quickly. Because as we know, this is a social media digital world. People want to be able to see really quickly what they need. And so we’ve provided a lot of options to do that across different topics.

[00:17:46] Tyler Byrd:

Yeah. I like that. So, when you say that they can search for a branch, do they do that by just entering their zip code into that primary search field on the home page?

[00:17:57] Kimberly Crowder:

You know what? I honestly have not tried it that way. But they can go up to locations up at the top. And then you see filter locations as you scroll down. And this is being powered by Google Maps. So, if you’re going to get accurate, that’s about as accurate as you’ll get. [Laughs]

[00:18:16] Tyler Byrd:

Fair enough. It looks like you…or it sounds like you’ve pulled together four or five different services that you’re leveraging essentially to give the best user experience possible at this point. Am I getting that right?

[00:18:27] Kimberly Crowder:

You are absolutely getting that right. We have several vendors behind the scenes. To folks, it just looks like the website. But we have several modules that are plugged into the site in order to make it a much smoother user experience.

[00:18:42] Tyler Byrd:

So, do you mind sharing with the audience, how long did this take you, and what did it cost?

[00:18:47] Kimberly Crowder:

Sure. Yeah, it took us about a year and a half. And we had… I want to say this. We had not had a full website redesign in about 13 years. When we talk about what it costs, the way… There’s several ways that we can look at that. One is are we looking at it in the way of just what we did for consulting, or when you add the vendor…the new vendors involved, if you add that total as well. It did cost us… I’ll just talk about what we paid just the vendor. It was about over 100 grand. I’ll say that. To get in and do all the research behind the scenes, to do all of the integrations, to do some of the writing as well. Also we got trained by that company as well for the CMS. So, for Craft, as well as Algolia. So, they offered us quite a bit. And frankly, I will tell you at the end, they basically did some work for us pro bono because it was such a large project.

[00:19:53] Tyler Byrd:

Nice. So, about 100,000 for the vendor plus the extra software from all of the other service providers that you’re integrating, and then about a year and a half total?

[00:20:03] Kimberly Crowder:

Year and a half total.

[00:20:04] Tyler Byrd:

Okay. So, looking back at that process and thinking it through… Let’s say you’re going to go back in time, and you’re going to do it all over again. What would you tell yourself? What kind of advice would you give yourself and share with our listeners that you think might be helpful?

[00:20:19] Kimberly Crowder:

Sure. The end is coming.

[laugher]

[00:20:25] Tyler Byrd:

That kind of sounds a little doomsday-ish.

[00:20:27] Kimberly Crowder:

You can sleep at night. Because you can’t help it, right? This thing you’ve been living with for a year and a half and really been in the weeds, it sometimes does… I say that to be honest. It sometimes does feel like it’ll never finish. I think once you start seeing pages mocked up, that’s when it becomes real. So, you kind of keep the faith until you start to see those mockups. Then you go, “Oh my gosh, look at that.” So, that is one thing I would say. Also, I would say that I probably would have… How do I say this? Managed a bit as far as being okay with not understanding every single piece and encouraging my team to be okay with that. In the library world… And people probably say, “Yep, I understand that.”

We have an extremely inquisitive staff base. Libraries or people who work for libraries are extremely inquisitive. In some of the marketing world, you kind of go, “Okay, here’s my lane. I need to know just enough to make sure that we’re on the same page, but I don’t have to know everything.” And so figuring out how to meld those worlds together so that the consulting team is not getting off task, and you’re managing their hours but also making sure that your team can continue to stay focused on the big picture items. I would say that those would be two or three areas that I would be able to tell myself. And at the end of the day, to be able to tell myself it’s going to be gorgeous. Just keep working towards knowing that at the end of the day, the product that you end up is going to be so much better than what you had before.

[00:22:15] Tyler Byrd:

Nice. Nice. So, if I was to tell you what…repeat that back to you, I think what I heard…and tell me if I’m right or wrong here…but it kind of comes down to managing expectations so that everyone is on the same page as they go into the process about what will happen, and who has what roles and what responsibilities, and what you should be comfortable with, and maybe give a little bit and be a little uncomfortable with. Would that be accurate?

[00:22:42] Kimberly Crowder:

I would say that’s accurate.

[00:22:43] Tyler Byrd:  

Cool. Any other advice that you would share for any of our listeners? I know that this is a huge topic that we see it all the time. Library websites… A lot of the ones that we come across, they’re not responsive. They’re not ADA compliant. They’re still built in a 1990’s table system with HTML that can’t be updated. So, I know there’s a lot of people out there that are very interested in this kind of thing. So, is there anything else that you would share with them about maybe the RFP process, or choosing a vendor, or the design process, or research and feedback?

[00:23:17] Kimberly Crowder:

I say go with a third party vendor if you can. And we particularly chose a third party vendor who did not handle a lot of library websites. There are some vendors who do great work, and they particularly work with libraries. We decided not to go in that direction, because we wanted to make sure that this site was very much on par with market and with how people interacted with websites period. And so a lot of what I was hearing before was basically we expected people to adapt to us. And now, because you can get information in so many places that cannot…that can no longer be the expectation. And so I would say have someone who you really feel like knows their stuff, make sure you do your research about the company that’s going to work on your site, and then also make sure that you understand things like SEO, and metadata, and SEOMatic, really making sure that it’s not just a pretty site. But you want it to be not only functional but also a site that when patrons are looking for things out in the world of Google or on Yahoo that your site…that one of the answers that they’re going to receive is going to come from your site, particularly of course for your service areas. So, really looking at how that works across the board.

[00:24:50] Tyler Byrd:

One more thing I’m really curious about. What’s next? Are you done with this? You’ve launched it. You get to sleep soundly at night without dreaming about it anymore for the next year. Or is there a next phase for you and the site?

[00:25:03] Kimberly Crowder:

Sure, yeah. Yeah, I will tell you, the day we launched, I slept like a baby. [Laughs] I really did. So, I have to remind people that just because you launch a site, you’re not done yet. And this is kind of the beginning phase of the next phase. So, now, we are still… Also something for people to remember is that you won’t launch a perfect site. So, that means that all the content that you may have wanted or all the functionalities, that may or may not happen in the first phase. Launching a website is indeed like there are phases to that. So, as we’ve launched… For instance, I think about Algolia. We’re still learning about that tool and how that tool functions on our site.

And are we having to change the way that we write for the site in order for things to be searchable. So, knowing that we are still learning how to make our site more customized and optimized for our users. So, that really is for us the next piece of it. We have blog content now for adults before the content was focused on kids and parents. And so working to create relevant content and particularly content that can be shared on social media that will drive people back to our site now that we have a clean enough site for people to see. And then always, always, always looking at the data in Google analytics. So, reviewing that over and over and taking a look at what’s that bounce rate for certain pages, are we getting unique users, are we getting repeat users, are people staying on pages longer than X amount of minutes. So, just deciding how we’re going to grow the site and then how are we going to serve our customers even better with what we have.

[00:26:53] Tyler Byrd:

I love that. I really… It sounds like not just a marketing brochure but really a digital branch… How do you start treating it like that and with that expectation and managing it forward with that thought process.

[00:27:07] Kimberly Crowder:

That is exactly right.

[00:27:10] Tyler Byrd:

Cool. All right. Well, hey, Kim, thank you so much for taking the time to get on the show again today and share with us about the site design. It would be really interesting to see as you continue to make changes and to do work on the site how it turns out over the next year, and what you decide to tweak and keep the same. So, I’ll keep an eye on that because I can’t wait to see that.

[00:27:31] Kimberly Crowder:

Yeah. Thanks. Thanks for having me again. I appreciate it.

[00:27:33] Tyler Byrd:

Yeah, absolutely. Alright. Well, thank you, everyone, for logging in today and listening to another episode of Library Figures. And we’ll catch you all next time.

Alright, before we head out, just a couple more quick things. If you know somebody that you think would be a great guest on this podcast, and you’d like to hear us interview them, I’d love the opportunity. Send me their name and their contact information at hello@meetpiola.com. That’s hello@meetpiola.com. And I’ll do all the hard work of reaching out and getting them scheduled so that all of our listeners will have the opportunity to learn more from them about the great marketing strategies that they might be using. We’re constantly looking for new guests and great guests on the show. And I would really appreciate the opportunity to meet with your connections and get them up here to learn more. Second, if you’re enjoying the podcast episodes, and so far you like what you hear on Library Figures and the content, head over to iTunes. You can subscribe to the podcast to get future episodes. And while you’re there, if you can give us a five star rating, that’d go a long way in letting us know that you like the content, and you like the show, and we should continue doing it. Alright, until next time, all. I look forward to being on the air again and the next great interview we’ll have up. Take care. We’ll see you next time.

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