By the time this article is posted, you may have already discovered the radical changes that have been made to our Library’s “Find a Database” page. What I would like for you to know is that there is a story behind these changes. The latest chapter in this story began in the spring of 2012, when Kevin, Lauren Pressley, and I had the opportunity to intensely observe students navigating our Library webpage. The premise of the occasion was usability testing of Summon, but the spillover effect was observing students stumbling through our webpages, most notably our “Find a Database” page. It quickly became evident that students were consistently using the search box on that page for keyword searching on their topics (like a Google box). We all cringed each time a student enthusiastically typed in their search which took them nowhere.

Earlier this summer, with that in mind,Kevin invited Derrik and me to serve on an ad hoc task force to give the ZSR Find A Database web page a long-overdue makeover. The three of us met several times over the summer with the overall goal to de-emphasize the search box. I shopped for various models that I liked, Kevin created a new and improved WFU version of those models, and Derrik changed the background data to complement the new design.

In between meetings we re-designed, revised, and reviewed. Then we met several times, looking at the draft page, and batting around ideas to help settle on more changes. We solicited opinions from other reference librarians to help guide our design, especially for identifying “Best Bets” for each subject area. Derrik entered the Best Bets into the xml file that drives Find A Database, Kevin devised a way to bring those to the top, and I practiced “guerrilla usability testing,” finding users to test the changes without having to schedule specific groups or times. We finally presented the updated page to the RIS team earlier this week and added a few more ideas from that meeting, then I ambushed a couple more students (thank you, generous student supervisors!) to test out the changes. We now feel it is ready to reveal to the public. We are excited for the changes, and hope you will find the new Find A Database to be much more helpful in your research!

Although the “new and improved” Find A Database is ready to go to work, the task force doesn’t consider it complete. We believe it is a step in the right direction – we hope it is a large step in the right direction – but we know it can be improved. Please take a look and let us know what you think!

This post was a collaborative effort between Derrik, Kevin, and Joy.