First and foremost, we need a vision
We suggest clients look five or ten years into the future and ask the question, "What will using our site be like on that date? What experience will the user have?" Team members from the best organizations can answer this question. They have a consistent, clear idea what the user's experience will be like in the future. Having a clear vision lets the team chart a direction for their design, helping identify if any design idea is moving them closer to the vision or farther away... It's critical the vision not focus on future technology but instead on future experience. What are the steps in today's process that makes things cumbersome or frustrating? How could the experience become more delightful? [Thinking in the Right Terms: 7 Components for a Successful Web Site Redesign]
We need to understand our users
"The University of Minnesota Libraries received support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to develop a multi-dimensional model for assessing support for scholarship in the context of a large research campus. The project team explored discipline-specific needs for facilities, information content, services,tools, and expertise in the humanities and social sciences. The goal was to develop a model for bringing greater coherence to these distributed resources through physical and virtual means, and also a research support environment that could be modeled, prototyped, and evaluated." [A Multi-Dimensional Framework for Academic Support: Final Report]
"Our first task was to identify one trenchant research question to guide the project. The question we developed was, What do students really do when they write their research papers? Between the assignment of a research paper and the finished, submitted product was a black box that largely concealed the processes undertaken by the student. We wanted to take a peek into that box to see what we could find." [Studying Students: The Undergraduate Research Project at the University of Rochester (pdf)]
We need to build something better
"The author seeks to answer the following questions: What characterizes the queries that end users submit to online IR systems? What search features do people use? What features would enable them to improve on the retrievals they have in hand? What features are hardly ever used? What do end users do in response to the system's retrievals? Are end users satisfied with their online searches?" [Markey, K. (2007). Twenty-five years of end-user searching, part 1: Research findings. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 58(8), 1071-1081.]
"Reading and synthesizing Marcum, Calhoun, Bates, Mann, Hildreth, Borgman, Anderson, etc., should be mandatory for everyone who cares about the future of the online library catalog. The next steps must be to engage all interested parties in serious dialogue, system prototyping, decision making, and action so the online library catalog of the future hits the ground running just as mass digitization projects end." [The Online Library Catalog: Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained?]
"Richard Wallis of Talis suggested during his Access 2007 presentation that if the catalogue knew a bit about you, it could present better search results to you. Using the example of the keyword lotus, an engineering student would get items about the car of the same name while the botanist would get items about the genus Nelumbo. Mark Leggot, using his metaphor of the search box as Lego brick, suggested in his Access 2007 presentation that it shouldn't be difficult to embed a library search box into a course-specific page that was already constrained to the sources that were relevant to both the subject of the course and the course level." [Access 2007 Wrap Up Part Three - The Importance of Being Relevant]
We need to get into the places where our users are
For me there are five parts of a strategy for maintaining the library as a vibrant enterprise worthy of support from our campuses...
4. Reposition library and information tools, resources, and expertise so that they are embedded into the teaching, learning, and research enterprises. This includes both human and, increasingly, computer-mediated systems. Emphasis should be placed on external, not library-centered, structures and systems.
5. Migrate the focus of collections from purchasing materials to curating content. [A Strategy for Academic Libraries in the First Quarter of the 21st Century]
"We suggest three main areas, with specific recommendations for each, where our institutions can help to alleviate these pressures.
- Enhance and improve the user interface
- Connect the citation network to user workflow
- Embrace standards and technologies that will allow present and future network discovery systems to make use of what we offer" [Scholr 2.0]