DeKalb Public Library

Looking at the home page for the DeKalb Public Library, there is no single organization scheme. In fact, the home page utilizes all three organization schemes presented in Information Architecture. For instance, in the top-right corner, links are available for “Home”, “Location and Hours”, “Contact Us”, as well as “Director’s Blog”, “Facebook”, “Twitter” and “RSS”. Of those seven links, five could be considered “task-oriented schemes”, meaning that the links present users with “high-priority” (O’Reilly 64) tasks. “Location and Hours”, “Contact Us,” “Facebook”, “Twitter” and “RSS” could all be considered task-oriented because they give the user the option to perform a certain action. To make matters more confusing, the left-hand navigation is organized by audience (“Teens”, “Seniors”, “Children,”) as well as task (“How do I…”, “Donate”) and finally topic (“About Us”, “Outreach”, “Friends of the Library”, etc.) Finally, the right-hand navigation is all task-oriented – “Search Our Catalog”, “Online Databases” and “Virtual Local History”. Thus, the organization is, literally, all over the page, presenting a user with multiple options, but, at the same time, potentially overwhelming them.

Keeping in line with the mixture of several organizational and navigational schemes, the DPL’s site is rife with labels. Several labels act as headings, alerting the user to the content that follows (i.e. with the “Director’s Blog”, a user will know that the DPL director wrote a blog). The DPL also utilizes labels in its navigation system choices – but again, the choices are scattered haphazardly on the home page. For instance, the DPL uses familiar terms like “Home”, “Contact Us”, “FAQ”, “About Us”, “Site Map” (which isn’t found until the bottom of the home page). However, these navigation links are not all in the same area, which could potentially make using the site difficult if the user is unfamiliar with the DPL and/or its web site.

The navigation for the DeKalb Public Library appears to be, for the most part, global, as the links can be found on pages other than the home page. However, they disappear if a user clicks on the “Director’s Blog” and “My Account” links. The “Director’s Blog” has a local navigation system that allows the user to return to the home page, as well as explore the blog more deeply. Additionally, while the main navigation remains the same, the site also has contextual navigation – i.e. there are links embedded in the content on other pages that link to pages either associated with the library or the community. Once again, DPL has an oleo of navigation, and because there are so many links, it is not always clear what is “clickable” and what isn’t.

5 Functions of a Homepage: DeKalb Public Library

Identifying the site, establishing the brand: The DeKalb Public Library makes it’s logo prominent, in the upper left-hand corner, it lacks a clear tagline. The logo is distinct – a large “DeKalb” (with two books forming the “A”), over “Public Library.” Underneath DeKalb Public Library, it says “Est. 1893.” One could argue this is the tagline – though how it “encapsulates [the] company’s…mission” (Reddish 31) is unclear.
Setting the tone and personality of the site: It appears that the DPL’s home page is striving for a relaxed personality. The graphics (books representing links, calendars representing links, etc.) indicate that the designer tried to take typically “stuffy” subject matter and turn it into something more approachable – thus the creative/unique links. The tone this sets, then, is less formal – again striving for approachability. However, while the tone is less formal, it is not informal – the DPL still wants to be seen as an educational institution, so the language and colors used are more subdued than exuberant.
Helping people get a sense of what the site is all about: So far, out of the two previous functions analyzed, the DPL’s home page does the best at alerting users to: whose site this is (the name is clear at the top of the page); who these people are (the DeKalb Publlic Library); and what the site is about (learning about the library, finding books, checking them out, etc.) The site contains several links that lead to pathway pages; however, the links do not provide short descriptions – although I would argue that those descriptions aren’t necessary on this site, as the links are self-evident.
Letting people start key tasks immediately: This is another function that the home page does well. All of the links on the home page are action links – allowing the user to begin performing tasks immediately. The Search is a little difficult to find – it’s camouflaged on the right-hand navigation as an open book. However, it is above the fold, and the text is large enough that users wouldn’t begin searching for it endlessly.
Sending each person the right way, effectively and efficiently: For this function, I would argue that the DPL’s home page sends users where they want/need to go – the links are in plain view, and the text is simple enough that users would most likely be able to navigate to the proper location. I would also argue that that the site uses the visitors’ words – as I said, the language is clear and easy to understand – not high, academic language that average users wouldn’t understand. I also think that the site does a good job of making it obvious which link to click on. Although it mixes its information architecture, using audience, task and topic, that architecture doesn’t impede a user’s ability to pick which link to click one.
All told, I would say the DPL’s home page succeeds in meeting the five functions of a home page.
Eight Functions of a Pathway Page: DeKalb Public Library “Adults”
Most visitors are on a hunt: The pathway page for the “Adult” has several options – all dealing with adult services and book club calendars. However, it is unclear what the “services” offered are – the DPL doesn’t provide a brief description for the user. On the other hand, it provides brief descriptions for all of the book clubs, which is undoubtedly helpful to the user. I would argue though, that this pathway page doesn’t give off a good “scent” as Reddish suggests a pathway page should; thus the user may navigate to the “Adult” page and be unsure where to go from there.
People don’t want to read a lot while hunting: While this pathway page is comprised (mostly) of links to other pages, it does have a lot of text on the page – i.e. a lot of reading for the user to do. Especially at the bottom of the page, where there are four paragraphs that describe some of the services on the Adult page. Thus the DPL fails to keep the reading to a minimum – as well as to efficiently help the user navigate.
A pathway page is like a table of contents: Akin to the issue above, the Adults pathway page is entirely too wordy to be compared to a table of contents. Yes, it provides and overview of what’s offered, and yes, it lets the user pick where to go, but it is a text-heavy page, which is not something found on tables of contents.
Sometimes, short descriptions help: I agree, if a user is unfamiliar with a site, a short description of where the link will take the user is helpful. However, in all instances on this pathway page, the descriptions are not brief (as in a few words or sentences) but oftentimes paragraphs-long. The descriptions provided are helpful, but it is unlikely that a user will actually take the time to read all the information provided in those descriptions.
Marketing is likely to be ignored: A majority of the text on the Adults page describes various book clubs – not just when they meet, but also a description of the types of books read. Although this is not marketing per se, one could argue that the mess is still “friendly [and] welcoming” (Reddish 61), which most users will ignore,
The smoothness of the path is more important that number of clicks: So far, the Adults page really only succeeds in regards to the smoothness of a path – the links are right on the page, and in one click, a user is taken to the calendar of events for that particular book club. They are also provided options for filtering the search by using the calendar, term or category. In this case, the path is smooth, as well as short – both advantages for users.
Many people choose the first option that looks plausible: Reddish argues that users will click the first thing they see that looks like it would be relevant and that designers should put the link they want users to click high on the page. I think that the DPL succeeds here, too. The first link on the Adults page a user can click on is for the adult services event calendar – it’s general (i.e. not simply events for specific book clubs) and gives the reader the option to see all the services provided for adults at the DPL.
Many site visitors are landing inside your site: The DPL does a good job of remaining consistent, so that any user who lands within the site – say on the Adults page – would know instantly where they are (the logo is prominent). The search function, global navigation, links to relevant information and the home page are all obvious on the Adults page, thus making it easy for the user to navigate to a different area of the site or within that specific page.