Maplewood Public Library:
A Case Study on Enhancing Information Architecture
As part of KSU's User Experience Design program, I created a new information architecture for Maplewood Public Library, a local library in Maplewood, New Jersey. The website's primary goal is to strengthen the community, nurture minds, and foster growth, connecting people to information, ideas, culture, and each other.
Currently, the website has a basic structure, but the stakeholders aim to enhance it to ensure users can access information more efficiently and with advanced technology. However, there is uncertainty about the specific information users seek or require. Therefore, conducting user research, followed by developing a new information architecture and iteratively incorporating the results into the design for Maplewood Public Library, can significantly improve the overall user experience of the site.
Project Goal
The project is divided into three individual phases to answer the following questions:
Phase 1: Performing User Research​​​​​​
• Identifying the users purpose to be part of the library (for books, events, being part of a community, etc).
• What kind of information they are looking for on the website?
• How often do they use services and which ones?
• Why do they prefer to use this library over others?
• What kind of request do they normally ask for?
• How often do they attend library events?
Phase 2: Creating new IA
• How to perform content analysis to describe the content quality as well as what content is needed?
• How to provide a classification scheme and create a site map which reflects on classification scheme and decisions about key tasks?
Phase 3: Design
• How should the new workflows and wire-frames be sketched based on user research, classification and sitemaps?
• How to create the final mock-up of the design?
Research Approach
I prepared a user research protocol to understand and receive feedback on users and information regarding the information architecture for Maplewood Public Library. The information collected through the research helped in learning about how the information architecture should have been structured, to fix user issues and give what they want.
I interviewed two librarians. Linda working at the El Dorado County Library, and Sara at Folsom Public Library. Each interview took 15 to 20 minutes. These interviews helped gain insight into library users and online patrons. It helped create user personas and better understand their needs.
I also performed literature survey to gain further insight into user patterns and preferences.
Research Findings
Based on learnings from interviews and literature survey, I compiled information from each participant. The key findings from interviews and literature survey can be summarized as follows:
• The website needs to be user-friendly which supports quick search and easy navigation for all user personas.
• All users are using the library website to search for books within their area of interest. Information about books needs to properly organized into well-defined categories.
• Most of the users are interested in events at the library. Lack of clarity in information about events is a major reason behind low participation. Improving information architecture for events can boost participation.
• The users would also like to know operating hours of the library.
• And also how to request and procure a book which might not be available at the library.
Based on the information collected personas were created as follows:
Priority Table
Content Inventory and Analysis
After prioritizing the functional requirements, I documented and then analyzed the existing content to determine what is missing in the content. Appendix A shows the content inventory and assessment.
I analyzed the recorded content to identify what was current, relevant and useful based on the personas, the functional requirements and the organizational needs. The analysis informed what I need to add or what I can keep (as is), keep (with modifications), archive, or delete.
Classification Scheme
I propose to organize the content based on topic and task in an hybrid classification scheme. As many pages of the website require different type of organization scheme depending on its content.
Most widely used scheme will be ambiguous classification scheme, as the term “ambiguous” defines that the content is open to more than one interpretations. However, use of alphabetical, topical, chronological, audience-specific, and task-oriented classification scheme will also be applied to structure the information fitly. The site map is organized based on these classification scheme and how easy it will be for our users to search for information and navigate through the site.
Next, I tested the site map draft to see if our proposed navigation, labeling and hierarchy indicated in the site map are clear, relevant and functional. These tests will help us to identify possible oversights and improve the site map simultaneously. See Appendix B for the site map.
Assessing Labeling and Taxonomy
Using the sitemaps I created, I loaded the navigation structure into a Treejack test. Using this tool, I was able to test the new labeling and taxonomy of the structure. I used the tasks listed below and tested 4 individuals.
1. Information to write for research paper is difficult to find; where can you get database to help you for your research?
2. You want to book a meeting room for discussing next book-club meet-up; where can you book it?
3. You have a lot of old books and magazines, instead of throwing it away, you want to donate it to the library; where can you find information to do so?
4. You are about to finish a book, but don’t know what to read next; how can you get a list of recommendations based on your likings and books you have read before?
5. You are new to the library and would like to know about the rules and regulations for reserving and returning books; where will you find it?
Overall, the users completed the tasks with an overall success rate of 85% and a directness rate of 50%. This test shows us that I am on the right track, but need to update a few items. The results of the first task, clearly show us that the users failed to locate ‘database’ label under the ‘research’ category. Hence, we need to rearrange ‘Research’ label and its subcategories which can helps the users to locate it more directly.
It appears that half of the users had to explore every category label to get to the information they were looking for. Whereas, the other half could locate information easily. Perhaps, I should evaluate and adjust the labels for better understanding of the users.
Overall the results of this best shows a positive sign that the site’s information structure is moving in the right direction but requires a better/simplified labeling system to achieve a flawless information architecture.
Based on the data collected, we revised the site map and designed low-fidelity wireframes.
Navigation Testing
Using the wireframes we created, we loaded them into a Chalkmark test. Using this tool, we were able to test and validate new navigation system. We used the tasks listed below to test 6 individuals.
1. Find out, where all, can you checkout library events.
2. You are looking to book a meeting room, where can you find the it?
3. If you had to place a request for a book, where can you do it?
4. If you just wanted to look at Kids events on the calendar, where all you would look at?
5. If you want to read about a particular topic, how can you find it?
The test was followed by 2 post-study questions, where the participants were asked to score on following questions:
• How difficult was it for you to find the information you were asked to look for?
• How was your overall experience with the design layout of the website?
Based on the tasks given to the participants, the results are as follows:
The post-study questions results showed that 75% of the participants could find the information they were looking for easily. And they found overall experience with the website design layout 100% satisfactory and easy to navigate.
Overall, the website’s new IA is easy and smooth for users to navigate and locate information. This helps to connect people to information, ideas, culture and each other, which initially was the objective stated by the director of Maplewood Public Library.
Lessons Learned
This case study underscores the vital lesson that a robust research and iterative approach are instrumental in constructing a robust website. The cornerstone of any successful website lies in its ability to effectively organize content, a feat masterfully accomplished through the strategic implementation of Information Architecture (IA). IA stands as a critical pillar within website design and development, devoted to the meticulous organization, structuring, and presentation of content in a manner that is both lucid and instinctive. This dynamic discipline assumes a pivotal role in enhancing not only the website's usability and user experience, but also its overarching efficacy. Through techniques such as content audits, establishment of logical hierarchies, intuitive navigation systems, and adherence to consistent labeling, the foundation for exceptional information architecture is firmly established.
Back to Top