Our website’s main navigation was decided primarily in a staff meeting. My boss coded it live, dropping into the files to change terms and order on demand. It was quite impressive — and you could see it on the faces of the staff. We then discussed which icons to use. I was late for the meeting since I had a one-on-one pre-scheduled, so I don’t know how the meeting was introduced or set up.
We then spot-checked it with some patrons to see if it made sense what we called things and how items were grouped. The comment I heard repeatedly was, “Oh. If I just look at this and read it, I can see exactly how it is organized.” This isn’t exactly Steve Krug’s Don’t Make Them Think, but patrons were quite excited about seeing the pattern.
The navigation on our new site is entirely different from the old. Our new site is mega menus and added different ways to think of the information. For example, we have under Services, pages designed for specific patron types/needs: business, parents, teachers & schools, students, job seekers, and home-bound. On the old site, the main nav was My Account, Catalog, Events, Services, Kids, Teens, Community. Then you’d find some sidebar menus to go deeper. The new site goes for landing pages. I wrote the content to be brief as possible and then if needed, direct you to a deeper level page.
The FAQs page was born in that big staff meeting. I wasn’t sure about it. If we did our job right, we wouldn’t need to have this filler page. I had even recently read a tweet by someone big name in information architecture proclaiming that stance. But staff insisted it was a wise move. The concession I wrangled out was that we not call it FAQs in the top menu but spell it out. I’ve been on the internet for a long time, but FAQs aren’t as popular of a term as it was in the early 2000s!
I needed information to put together the FAQs page. So I sent an email out to staff asking them to put the questions they hear most often under their department name in a shared Google Doc. I let staff know that they didn’t have to bother reading what other departments wrote, I’d do the weeding of duplicates myself. It took a little prodding, but I got the responses. :-)
If you ever work with me, you’ll see that I live and die by bullet points, so I made nice little bulleted lists and organized the questions a little bit. Then I struck them out as I answered them in the FAQs. If I had a question, I’d write down what confused me and then date it. When I was done with a department’s section, I’d then email them for clarification on what they had meant.
Then began the work of answering the questions and weeding out ones which didn’t apply to the website. I hope I used friendly language to get to the heart of the question while also not being too intimidating. For e.g., for the question of “Why do I have a fine on My Account?” I wrote:
Oh no! We’re sorry to hear that. Fines are caused by three things:
- Item not returned on time
- Item is lost or returned missing a part (like a CD)
- Item is damaged (this is a replacement fee)
The Library attempts to keep you aware of when your items are due by:
- Offering a checkout slip which lists the due date
- Sending you email reminders
- Listing your checked out items on your website account
If you need a receipt of what you checked out, please see the Welcome Desk.
Stats show that the FAQs is one of the most popular pages on the website. This confused me a bit until I realized that it’s the help link on the account login page. So far I’ve only had to go in to add more information to the page once since June 1st. However, just because we had a lovely batch of questions answered doesn’t mean it was easy to figure out how to organize them! In my next post, I’ll write about the card sort process.