Information Architecture – Research
Reading Chapter 10, I am remembering my time when I served on my library’s system web 2.0 committee. I was already familiar with many web 2.0 tools that I suggested for the library’s website. However, when I attended a library conference, a university panel described their process when it came to overhaul their own website. Since they had their own ideas for their website, the first thing they did was to do a survey on the needs of their students. This first approach fits within the process overview.
The research phase begins with a review of existing background materials and meeting with the strategy team, aimed at gaining a high-level understanding of the goals and business context, the existing information architecture, the content, and intended audiences. It then quickly moves into a series of studies, employing a variety of methods to explore the information ecology.
I asked the university panel about how they went about their doing their survey. They conducted both an online and in person survey which they conducted over several months. From that point on they began to develop their strategy for the new website implementations. Since this my library system was also in the process of overhauling their website, I did ask some advice on how to conduct our survey since it was a public library. Unlike the university, the users were easy to locate because of the one campus both physically and online. They had their external users – the student body and their internal users – the professors and other university departments. What I mean by this is, the university had a smaller audience to contend with unlike the public library in Miami.
For the Miami Dade Public Library System (MDPLS), there are over 40+ location serving many different communities. Yet, despite the differences, there is a common type of audience the library serves, children, teens and adults. Each of them has specific needs which opened up the question about how to even begin a survey since there were many obstacles to consider overcoming. For example, the needs of kids in one well to do neighborhood may be different from the needs of those kids in a lower-income neighborhood. Or, some adults are more computer savvy than others, if we do an online survey, how can we attract those with lesser computer skills? Basically, I had no idea or could wrap my head around the concept of where to begin.
After I came across this diagram of a balanced approach to research, it became clear that I had barely scratched the surface to re-designing of library’s website. Just on the Context alone, there were many issues to consider especially with politics. So before we can even begin the process, there were a number of questions that had to answered or vetted through the county since the library was part of the county’s public service. As such, all county websites had to have a certain feel and resemblance to each other which severely reduced our abilities to add web 2.0 tools. There was no way we could radically change the site without running into opposition.
Since this roadblock hampered our progress, the committee evolved into the Facebook committee. This group was able to get through the County even though Facebook can not be made to look like the County’s website. I want to believe there will be hope for web 2.0 tools like blogs and podcasting to one day appear on the library’s website. Looking over the balanced approach to research, I have a better understanding of the direction I need to consider first.