Johnson County Library’s website is a key portal into the Library system’s vast array of programs, information and services.
The website was last overhauled in 2014 and is due for a refresh. To that end, a Library team of professionals is conducting a usability study this year, reaching out to patrons for their ideas and suggestions on how to make the website as user-friendly as possible.
“We’re taking a look at how patrons use those tools. Often, how we expect they may use them is not how they are actually using them,” explained Jo Field, a web content developer leading a study team of eight Library staffers. “Usability studies are always surprising. You find out what your users are actually doing and how they are navigating your website, how they are finding what they want.”
The team consists of communication and website experts but also clerks, information specialists and information technology staffers. They will survey and interview patrons, watching how they move from website page to page to find what they are looking for. Many interviews are one-on-one, but the study will also include focus groups, phone interviews and visits with people in the branches.
Elissa Andre, the Library’s external communication manager, says creating an entirely new website at this time isn’t feasible. That’s an expensive, complicated and lengthy process. But the usability study, seeking users’ insights and experiences, will be vital to improving the website over time.
“We had received some comments that it was out of date or difficult to navigate,” she said. “So we needed to make some changes now, and this was the way we were able to refresh the look and feel without blowing up the whole thing.”
Andre praises Field and the team for this outreach and exploration.
“I’m just thrilled that we have been able to kick off this project,” Andre said. “I am so impressed by all the work that Jo has done to pull this all together.”
Andre said Field is adept at teaching, leading the charge and getting everyone trained. “It’s become a really exciting opportunity for our staff to get involved in something different and see the back end of the communications and the website process,” Andre said.
The team hopes to reach about 200 patrons through a variety of interactions. The first group of respondents were people who attended last November’s Writers Conference. Patrons are explaining and demonstrating how they navigate the “For Writers” page. Field said the team has already received useful suggestions for information writers really want. If others echo those ideas, the team will see what’s possible.
Field also interviewed a few people in branches last fall and found they were incredibly generous with their time and ideas. More in-branch interviews are planned later this year.
Volunteer Services Coordinator Amber Bourek Slater is helping the team identify a diverse group of usability study respondents, including parents, kids and caregivers.
The team will seek feedback from multiple teens to improve the “Teens” page and will also solicit input to update the “Community Matters” page, as Johnson County ramps up for the 2024 election.
The usability study should take about a year, but Field hopes a portion of it will be continuous, allowing the Library to keep making the website better all the time.
More study respondents are needed, to participate in future interviews and focus groups. Patrons interested in assisting are welcome and encouraged to express interest through this web form. The team will reach out and appreciates willing patrons sharing their insights.