Within the next few weeks my 3rd semester of library school will be over. One of my last assignments due is a comparison of two digital library collections, using 6 different variables. One variable that I will be exploring is the GUI and user-friendliness of the site, considering clarity, ease of use, etc. I have to admit that library websites often frustrate me for different reasons. When I use a library site and explore a collection online, I attempt to look at it from a patron perspective. Library sites are often cluttered, compiling links and images all over the place. One complaint I often hear is that a user cannot locate an appropriate finding aid, link, or resource. Library websites are organized in a way such that librarians are able to navigate and search them effectively. Whereas patrons are often confused and annoyed, leading them to leave and never return.
Library sites need to focus on simplicity. There is a reason why Google is made the default home-page for many (gmail is mine), Google provides a singular box that will find all your information needs with a few keywords. We all know this isn’t true and that advanced searching leads to better quality and more reliable resources. However- Google is simple, free, and fast. Currently, library sites aren’t simple or fast, but they are free. I’m not saying that libraries should copy Google, far from it. What libraries can do though is provide a basic homepage with minimal links and a search engine. I find that a home-page that requires a user to scroll to find their initial want isn’t beneficial. Rather, give them a few links that lead to specific areas, effectively guiding their search. If they want news, give them a link to it, do not riddle the page with 5-6 headings of news. If they want to know what exhibits and events are planned, give them a link, not the entire list of 20 some-odd things that are approaching. Patrons will return if they are comfortable in navigation, can find what they want, and receive help when needed. The current landscape of library websites is cluttered and tangled. A viewer’s eyes are pulled up, down, left, and right, hunting frantically and in vain for the right path.