Matthew Reidsma

Work Notes

Updates from the GVSU Libraries’ Web Team.
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June Web Redesign Updates

All summer long I’ve been working on redesigning all of our library web systems (except for Summon and ScholarWorks) in order to match the University’s new branding campaign and improve the overall accessibility of our sites. In late April, four of our GVSU-hosted websites switched over to the new design. (The fifth—Services for Faculty and Staff—was absorbed into the main library website.) In May, I redesigned the Library Catalog, EZ Proxy’s error pages, and upgraded our link resolver to 360 Link 2.0. In addition, I built a tool that allows us to put our library hours into all of our other systems! You may remember that I’ve done a lot of user research on how users get to our hours, and it’s one task that has evolved continuously since I started here. Earlier in June, I redesigned the Journal Finder. And since then I’ve been hard at work on other systems!

Tomorrow morning I’ll begin switching over our Help site (run by LibAnswers). Because of the way LibAnswers is structured, it will be a fairly manual process. I’ve been running the new design on a test section of the site (with different questions) so I could test it out in different browsers and devices, and to let others have a look! (Thanks to Kristin, in particular, for great feedback on an earlier iteration of the Help homepage.)

On Thursday I’ll begin the manual process of moving LibGuides over to the new template. I’m also running the Web Content group in that new template so you can test it out. A lot of the customizations I’ve been working on have been on the editing side of things, so LibGuides creators and editors should enjoy the new template in particular.

Springshare products in particular were challenging because they use the same design framework as the campus CMS - Bootstrap. The problem is that GVSU’s Web Team’s version of Bootstrap has some customizations to it that conflict with the customizations of the LibGuides’ Bootstrap. And because of the way LibGuides and LibAnswers have structured their template engine, I can’t turn off their version of Bootstrap for the test part of the site - I have to turn it off globally or leave it on everywhere. So, there will be a little style sheet tweaking when these systems go live to make sure that the two different production versions of Bootstrap play nicely with each other. (Yet another reason I don’t recommend folks use other people’s design frameworks, especially if you plan to sell your product as “customizable”!)

Next week I’ll begin working on Omeka, our Digital Collections platform. Kyle and I did a lot of work to customize that template when Omeka was first launched, and we learned a lot about this system. I feel pretty confident that it will be easier than some of the previous systems because we have complete control not only over the design but also most of the system’s code, too! I also have a wish list of interface tweaks for specific digital collections I’ll be incorporating into the redesign, and Kyle will be launching a new search plugin he’s been plugging away at for the past few months.

After that, I’ll spend the rest of July tackling Document Delivery and Course Reserves. The frameworks for these two systems are very similar (both were developed by Atlas Systems) so I wanted to do them together. I’ll also be releasing some more improvements to the faculty workflow in Course Reserves based on the faculty usability tests I ran in December in January on the previous round of improvements. Finally, Kyle will be updating the Library Status Page with the new template to get familiar with the new design patterns since he’ll be tinkering with anything that needs tweaking while I’m on sabbatical in the Fall!

At the end of July and the first half of August, I’ll be running more tests on these systems and making some performance improvements. For instance, right now each system is loading 5 or 6 style sheets—some from GVSU’s Web Team, some from the software provider (like Springshare or III), and some from us. This means that each site has to request 5 or 6 pages from different servers every time a page loads. We can speed that up by combining all the styles in a single style sheet, and setting it to cache on the user’s computer. (I wrote a special tool that does just almost automagically.) But it takes a bit more effort to make changes in that setup. So, until I’m comfortable that the sites are working as expected, I’ve left the separate style sheets. But I’ll be working back through each system and updating them before I wrap things up in August. I’ll also be updating all the customization files on the Libraries’ Github (those that haven’t already been updated) for anyone interested in how these changes were made.

That’s it! Please drop me a line if you have questions or concerns!