Ever worked on the information architecture of a library site or section?
Labels like “information services”, “electronic resources” and “online databases” will send you mad. They describe their contents adequately to librarians, but to anyone else?
I had the good fortune recently to meet Sarah Houghton-Jan, the Librarian in Black and Assistant Director for the San Rafael Public Library.
In her previous role as Digital Futures Manager of San Jose Public Library, Sarah developed – fought for – the best information architecture I’ve come across on a library website.
Here is a snapshot of the top level sections:
In her blog post on the redeveloped website she says:
We don’t use the words “database” or “OPAC.” We chose words that our users actually told us they wanted us to use.
Yes, they did user testing and Sarah has stats.
I’ve now forgotten the precise numbers she quoted, but from memory “Downloads” tested over 80%, more than double the recognition for “online databases”. The choice of labels may surprise you, but they are based on user vocabularies.
Dig through the site. There is lots to learn, and borrow.