Challenges faced when designing for location?

McRick's picture

Over the last year, we've worked with UCLA Library and Indiana University Library to design their Library websites. Had a lot of fun and learned a lot. yeah

One of the more challenging aspects was designing for their multiple locations. I'd love to hear from folks what challenges you've faced in designing for locations and how you solved them. I wrote a (long) blog post about the issues we faced in designing for location ... I'll summarize it all here for you.

Challenge #1: Who is your primary audience and what is their context? As with any project, the clearer you can get on who your audience is, the more successful it will be. For Locations, understanding how and why this primary audience will be searching for the location is also critical to success.

Challenge #2: Are we a Library? Or, Do we have libraries? This speaks to the overarching identity of the library and helps determine just how much leeway and control the different branches should have over their branch site.

Challenge #3: Libraries are not Buildings. Intuitively, we know this. Especially when we think about smaller collections that might be tucked away in the corner of a larger library building, yet are still referred to as a “Library”. This point is not only important for designing the data structure, but also when defining your control vocabulary, and ensuring that students understand the results when they are searching for a location.

Challenge #4: Finding the Right Location. Once you understand your primary audience and their context, you can piece together what students are actually searching for. Is it the building, a library within the building, or something else entirely. It’s especially important to capture the various nicknames of your locations, too.

Challenge #5: When the library doesn’t matter... Finding a location is pretty easy when people are searching for a specific location—whether that be a library or a building. But there are plenty of contexts in which a user needs something that is location-agnostic. Helping them find the closest (or cheapest) will go a long way in creating a great experience.

Challenge #6: Is it open? Hours management can be one of the most difficult things to manage for locations. Not only are you managing hours for locations, but often locations have Destinations that have separate hours entirely.

Challenge #7: Destinations within locations. Libraries often have many departments with their own hours...reference desk, computer lab, help desk, etc. and they all need their own descriptions, hours, and directions.

Challenge #8: What’s going on at the Library. Events management seems simple at first. But you’ve got to manage events across multiple locations. What happens when an event hosted by the Library of Science is presented at the Humanities Library?

Challenge #9: Balancing Autonomy and Control. Do you allow the different libraries to control which events they list and promote? Or is that determined in some other way? How much freedom do the libraries have over the look-and-feel of their site?

Challenge #10: Consistency between the virtual and physical. Libraries within the same system may have developed separate naming conventions -- what’s called a “Computer Lab” at one location may be the “Computer Carrels” at a separate location. This may be fine when the libraries are in separate buildings, but on the web, these discrepancies will make it difficult for students to use the site.

Here's the blog post if you're at all interested in my more (so much more) thoughts on these 10 different challenges:

Anyway ... I'd love to hear your experiences in designing for location and your thoughts on these challenges (are they valid ... how you resolved them ... any other challenges you faced?)


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