Last year was a busy one on the website. I just put together our first website annual report, and I’ll be spending a lot of time digesting the lessons from these numbers over the next year. Despite no major changes to design, content, or information architecture, our visits, unique visitors, and pageviews nearly doubled. Mobile visits nearly quadrupled, and visits to our specialized tools increased on mobile and tablets. So how to account for the dramatic increase in website use? My guess is adding seats in the library. In June we opened a brand new library, with three times as many seats as we had in the old library.
A few lessons I’ve already learned:
- Patrons may use the library website more when they are either in or planning to use the physical space. What is interesting is that visits to our most common search tools, the catalog and our discovery layer (Summon) did not dramatically increase. More people came to the library homepage than ever before. More people used the database A-Z and subject lists than ever before. And more people use the hours page and specialized pages for student research tools than ever before.
- Patrons want to be able to use any device. I’ve heard from a lot of students this past year about how happy they are that they can look up information about the library on the site on their phones while riding the bus from downtown. As the numbers show, not as many are excited about doing academic research on their phones. I still contend that this will change as today’s high school students transition to college and database vendors start making decent responsive or mobile sites.
- Despite differences in relevancy ranking and other fanciness, patrons still prefer the top five results on page one. It doesn’t matter which tool, they really just want the first cluster of results. Our catalog and Summon both have similar numbers for the top five results.1 This is an important lesson for the folks who are building our search tools. Those first five results need to be good.
I’m sure I’ll refer more to this report throughout the year, but have a look. If there are details you want to know more about, let me know. And if you’re from another library, consider doing a similar report. Sharing this kind of data can be very useful for other libraries!