The Problem

Help a large research library encourage patrons to use its resources more deeply.

Reframing the Problem

Our task as-given was to evaluate the library's news website to be sure that users could find the types of stories they wanted to read. However, we knew that many people only use a small amount of the library resources that are available to them, so we began by reframing the problem to investigate user behavior more broadly. We wanted to better understand why people ended up reading news posts in the first place in order to help the library use these posts more effectively.

Research Process

Web analytics let us compare how different stories performed. Some did exceptionally well in organic search, and we saw how effective email was as a way to nudge people to new content. One-on-one interviews with eight library news readers gave us context around the web statistics. We talked about how people ended up reading different news stories and also their feelings about the library in general. Affinity mapping with Post-It notes helped us think through the results of our interviews as we looked for ways to summarize what we found.

Key Takeaway

One of the most important things was learned is a lesson in user behavior. Library users come to library websites with specific information needs in mind. They often "know where they need to go" and try to get to known services as quickly as possible. However, when they first arrive on a website they will often take a short break on that site, to read something like a news post. These "micro-breaks" are a great chance to introduce people to things they didn't know about in advance.