Blog Roll

If you have been paying attention you will have noticed that the link in the right hand column called the “Current College Libraries website” has been updated. As discussed in the previous post this is because a redirect has been created to point a person to the college libraries new website.

The official URL for the new website is:

However the following URL’s have been created to take a person to the one listed above:


When having a conversation with someone about the College Libraries website it is easier for me to say “lib dot potsdam dot edu” than “libraries dot potsdam dot edu”. For me it is always been more difficult to pronounce words that end in “ies” or “ly”. Just don’t forget to include the www in front of the name. Maybe I should add that to my language when talking about the URL. Maybe saying “www dot lib dot potsdam dot edu”.

What do you thing? Would this be easier to understand when stating the www or is it assumed?

Past Few Weeks

It has been a while since a post has been made to the blog. There have been several hours of work and late nights that have gone into the new website. The last post discussed that the permission issues of the web server had been resolved. Things have been stable and there has not been any more issues since the very begging of January.

The past few weeks has been dedicated to the following things

  • All content has been added to the website
  • The scripts that process the forms have been created
  • Editing the content has been taking place
  • Website went live on Thursday, January 17, 2012 at 1:32 p.m.

It is more difficult to write about the past few weeks because several things have taken place and they are more of the basic components that make a website come to life. In order for the new website to go live a redirect was created on the web server. The redirect points a person from the URL that is no longer in use to the new one. For the libraries website if a person goes to the old URL they will be taken directly to the new one, which is

Adding the rest of the content to the new website was the easiest thing to do during the past few weeks. As discussed in earlier posts Basecamp a project management tool was used for people to write the content for the new website. This made it easy to copy the content that was in Basecamp and put it directly into the new website. With Basecamp being a web based product all of the content that was written was plain text. The only thing that you had to do after copying the content into the website was to create headings, ordered lists, and/or numbered lists. HTML is simply plain text wrapped in what is called a tag to display content through a web browser. Basecamp + plain text = a hapy web person.

From the list of things listed above the most exciting and challenging thing that took place was that the new SUNY Potsdam College Libraries website went live two weeks ago. The transformation was almost as simple as turning on a light switch. All of a sudden there was a new website. This is only just the beginning in ongoing updates and enhancements to the website. As a reader you will have to stay tuned to find out how things move forward. The work has only just begun!


Web Server Issues

As mentioned in the previous post there were some server issues as it relates to permissions that users (myself included) had. The permission issue has been resolved. When software and hardware gets updated there always tend to be issues that need to be resolved. When things arise it is always a learning experience that helps you move forward. Sometimes these issues start to appear at the worst time; However, all we can do is take each issue one at a time.

The other component that made things difficult as it pertains to deleting and overwriting files is the way it was being accomplished. In hind sight the solution was very simple; However, it did not cross my mind until someone asked me how I was accessing the web server. As soon as the question was asked I realized why I was having problems. When connecting to the server (regardless of its type) I usually connect to the server on a Macintosh computer by going to Go –> Connect to server. The default service that I always use is smb; However. when I was trying to connect it got switched over to asp. To circumvent all issues, I went back to using an FTP client.

Most of the time I usually use SFTP to connect to a web server. The way in which things have been configured at this institution allows you to connect to the web server just like any other server on the network and that is why I was just connecting directly to the server without using an FTP or SFTP client. Sometimes trying to do things a different way causes issues. With moving forward there may be other things that happen along the way. Stay tuned to find out what happens next…

More Appearance Updates

The past week has been very busy doing a variety of things and most of them did not pertain to the website. Even though it was a busy week updates have been made to the website. As in an earlier post a brief explanation will be provided instead of talking through all of the technical details.

Left Hand Column

  • Twitter Feed was removed because people did not know what it was and second it does not get updated on a regular basis (there was five weeks between the current and last tweet).
  • Navigation Order was changed to put most important items first. This will need to be tested with people to find out if the order helps them become more efficient in finding information.
  • Padding was added to the left hand column, so it matches the height of th right hand column.
  • Color Yellow was removed when you hover over the social media links.

Right Hand Column

  • Color Yellow was removed when you hover of the ‘Crumb Hours by Month’ and ‘Crane Hours by Month’ link.

Home Page After Updates


About Us Section

  • Bread Crumb Navigation was missing ‘About Us’, so it was added to the page. For example, the ‘Crumb Library’ web page bread crumb navigation was changed from Home > Crumb Library to become Home > About Us > Crumb Library.

About Us Page After Updates


More Prototype Testing Results

Here are some more results to testing the prototypes. This post is a continuation of an earlier post called Testing the Prototypes Part I.

How would you search for a book about turtles?


Person 1 – This person entered the term turtles into the search box and selected the search button.

Person 2 – This person entered the term turtles into the search box and selected the search button.


Person 5 – This person selected the link called ‘SUNY Catalog”. After going to this website they entered the term turtles.

What are the hours for the Crane Library for today?

***Please note that the hours will be different depending on the day that the prototypes were tested.


Person 1 – Selected the back arrow of the browser from the library catalog. After arriving back at the home page the pointed to the hours on the computer and said that they were right there. Next they clicked on the link called ‘Fall Semester Hours’ and stated the library was open from 7:45 am until 10 pm.

Person 2 – Selected the back arrow of the browser from the library catalog. After arriving back at the home page the pointed to the hours on the computer and said that they were right there. Next they clicked on the link called ‘Fall Semester Hours’ and stated the library was open from 7:45 am until 6 pm.


Person 5 – They clicked on the back button in the web browser and than after arriving back at the home page the clicked on the link called ‘Crane Fall Semester Hours’ and stated that the hours for the library for today are 7:45am to 10:00pm.

What is the phone number for the College Archives?


Person 1 – Selected the ‘Contact Us’ link and than stated the phone number.

Person 2 – At first this person selected the link called ‘Resources by Subject’. After arriving at this web page they quickly selected the link called ‘Contact Us’ and stated the phone number for the College Archives.


Person 5 – They selected the back button on the web browser and than they selected the ‘Contact Us link’. After arriving on the Contact Us web page they stated the phone number for the College Archives

Lets say you are taking a history class and you are writing a research paper on womens suffrage. The professor has stated that you must use peer reviewed articles as references. Where would you to to find an article that you could use for your paper?


Person 1 – This person selected the link called ‘Resources by Subject’ from the left hand navigation. After arriving to the web page they would select Women’s & Gender studies first. If the Women’s & Gender Studies web page did not contain the information they needed they would go back and select ‘History’.

Person 2 – The first thing that this person did was selected the back arrow on the browser until they returned to the home page. After going to the home page they selected the ‘Articles’ tab at the top of the page and than selected the link called ‘Periodicals at SUNY Potsdam’. After arriving on the Periodicals at SUNY Potsdam website they went back to the home page by selecting the back arrow of the web browser. Next they selected ‘Online Resources’ than ‘Articles’ and than selected the link called ‘JSTOR’.


Person 5 – They selected the link called ‘Resources by Subject’ and than stated that they would select History for this web page.

Are there currently any job openings available with the libraries?


Person 1 – Stayed on the Contact Us web page for a moment and realized the hours did not appear on this web page, so the selected the link called ‘Site Map’. After arriving on the Site Map web page they selected the link called ‘Employment’.

Person 2 – Went back to the home page by selecting the back arrow of the web browser. After arriving at the home page they selected the link ‘About Us’. After arriving on the ‘About Us’ web page they selected the link called ‘Employment’.


Person 5 – At first this person selected the ‘Contact Us’ link and after not finding the answer to the question they selected ‘FAQs’. After arriving to the FAQs web page they tried to click on the Ask us graphic that appeared on the web page. After a few tries of trying to click on the graphic they realized that there was nobody around to answer a question. Next this person selected the link called ‘Site Map’ and after arriving on this web page they selected the link called ‘Employment’


Other Comments

  • The most important stuff is up front
  • Hours are great
  • Try and show both the opening and closing times in the same window.

Calendar Update

It has been a few weeks since anyone has made a post on the blog. We are still working on developing a new website; However, things have come up that have pushed back the card sort and development of the information architecture for the new website. The card sort has been rescheduled during the month of April because of my illness last week.

The card sort will take place at the following dates and times:

Date: Tuesday, April 5, 2011
Time: 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Location: Crumb Library Room 215

Date: Wednesday, April 6, 2011
Time: 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Location: Crumb Library Room 215

Date: Thursday, April 7, 2011
Time: 10 a.m. to 11 a.m.
Location: Crumb Library Room 215

With rescheduling the card sort the creation of the information architecture and sketching are going to start later during the semester. After conducting the card sort during the first week of April we will take what we have learned from talking to people to help develop the information architecture. The goal is to have finished testing the organization of the content that will appear in the new website by the last week of April.

In Jenica’s previous post we are still soliciting volunteers that would be interested in participating in a card sort. If you are interested in participating please contact me or someone else in the library. As a participant you will receive a gift certificate for a free drink at Minerva’s Cafe.

For more information regarding the updates to when items will be taking place please visit the Calendar web page.

Brainstorming Part II

Tuesday we had the opportunity to continue our discussion about the scenarios that we came up with last week. Before getting together I grouped the scenarios together by common tasks that people do at the SUNY Potsdam College libraries. After putting them into groups a list of ‘Common Trends’ was created based upon what people do on a regular basis. It is a listing of the items that people do here in the libraries along with the items that they need access to accomplish the given task. The additional information has been added to the Brainstorming working document.

Common Trends from Scenarios

  • Find Books – Access to Library Catalog
  • Put something on reserve – Information on how to put something on reserve
  • Find Articles – Access to Library Databases, Access to Serial Solutions
  • Locate Journals – Access to Library Databases and Library Catalog, Access to Serial Solutions
  • How to cite things – Information about APA, MLA, Chicago, etc.
  • Find Images – Access to Library Databases
  • Print Poster – Information about Process
  • AP2 Call Numbers – Information/Access to Map

As we move forward in the redesign process these items will be very important because they will help guide the information that will part of the new website. Regardless if a person is physically in the building or some place else in the world they still will be looking for books, putting items on reserve, searching for an article etc.

Organization of Common Tasks

Once we briefly talked about how the scenarios were grouped together we added one more to the list that was about a person looking for scholarly books. This was a very important addition because it will help remind us that people are still looking for books for a variety of different reasons. Next we began to talk about the common questions that get asked in the library. On one hand this is really a crap shoot because the questions that get asked are not recorded anywhere and we are doing them from memory; However, they are very useful and will serve as a guide.

Recording Questions

One thing that the College Libraries is not currently doing is recording the actually questions that get asked at the reference or circulation desks. We are keeping reference statistics in the form of how was a question asked, length of transaction, and if the question was a reference, directional, or technology question. We are not recording the actual question itself, so the common questions that we came up with may not be as common as we might think they are.

A question that was asked to me at the reference desk earlier today was “Can you help me find a review of a dance performance created by Alvin Ailey during 1970 in the New York times?”. If we start to record these questions we will have a better understanding of what people are actually asking and do not have to rely on remembering the questions that were asked at either the reference desk or circulation desk. This is very valuable information that can help everyone in a variety of different ways. In conclusion we should be recording the questions that get asked because it will help us better serve the people who use the libraries.


Earlier this morning we got together to do some brainstorming to gain a common understanding of the people who use the college libraries website. We began by talking some more about the target audience and secondary audience for the website. This information mostly comes out of the interviews that INFLUX did for the libraries. They created several persona’s that helped guide the brainstorming process.


After talking briefly about the libraries audience we started a discussion about the environments in which both faculty and students would be using the libraries website. This was a very good discussion allowing us to thing about how, when, and why a person would be using the college libraries website. We determined that faculty mostly use a computer in their offices or at home and that each person may have a proffered location to work and some do not have a preference at all. Other places that faculty may use a computer include anyplace on campus that has wifi access or off campus locations. These locations are the minority, but they do have similar traits amongst the other ones that where mentioned earlier.

Students tend to use the college website in a much broader range of locations such as where they live, at the libraries, in classrooms, in the Levett Computer Center etc. It is interesting that we came up with a much broader range of locations where students use a computer verses where a faculty member may use a computer. Regardless of the location there are a few common traits that both these groups of people encounter. By far probably the largest similarity between these two groups is that they are doing several things at one time and move back and forth between a variety of different tasks.

Common Questions/Tasks

Next we moved on to talk briefly about the common questions and tasks that people are trying to accomplish. This was a chance to introduce some of the things that would be determined by the scenarios that we would be created lager on in the discussion. The common questions are based upon talking to the staff who work at the circulation desk at both the Crane and Crumb libraries. Some of the questions overlap between both libraries; However, the Crumb Library tends to get more questions of a greater variety. This is reflective of the Crumb Library being the main library on campus which is much busier than the Crane Library.

The majority of the questions that get asked occur at both the circulation and reference desks. For people who visit the libraries they do not have a distinction between either location and view each one as a place to ask a question. The tasks that people do come directly from the interviews that INFLUX conducted and the scenarios that have been created.


A good portion of our time was spent talking about the scenarios that people had written based upon the persona’s that INFLUX created for us. This was a really good discussion that allowed us to write down a variety of things that people do on a daily basis as it relates to library resources. Each person had at least one scenario to add to the list that we where creating. Out if each scenario that was written we pulled out the specific task or tasks that a person was trying to accomplish.

Here is one example:

Scenario – Sylvia Page: Poster for a class, needs images and the poster teacher guy said something about some “commons”

Task – Needs images to create a poster, needs to locate information given in workshop.

As you read through the scenarios that we have created you will notice some common themes amongst them. Regardless if a person is a faculty member or a student at the college they still need to be able to access and find similar pieces of information.

Some examples include

  • locate an article
  • find a book
  • use course reserves in some manner

By keeping in mind the tasks that people need to complete will help us to narrow in on the low hanging fruit (the things that can impact people the greatest).

To read about the items that came out of this session please take a look at the Brainstorming Phase I working document that is located in Google docs.

Next Brainstorming Session

Time: 10a.m. to 10:45a.m.
Date: Tuesday, February 15th, 2011
Location: Crumb Library Room 205

At the next brainstorming session we will continue talking some more about the scenarios that we created and determine five or six of them that are the most important based upon the people who use the college libraries. We than take these scenarios in flush them out in more detail to determine the actual tasks that must be completed. After we have created a long list of tasks we will than select the most common ones that people to on a daily basis.

By having a good understanding of the tasks and questions that get asked will determine the items that need to be included within the new college libraries website.

Brainstorming Overview

On Friday we will be getting together to do some brainstorming to help us better understand the people that use the libraries services and the tasks that do on a regular basis. This will be the time to develop a shared context about the people who use our services that will help us throughout the process of designing and building a new website.


  • Create a healthy environment that allows us to look towards the future
  • Expose the talents of various individuals
  • Develop a universal understanding of people who use the library

When it comes to understanding people we will to look at how and where they will be using the libraries website and the type of tasks that they do. If we do not have a shared understanding of the people who use the library we may not realize or understand the problems that occur into years in the future, which we cannot afford to do. One thing that needs to happen is to develop a new simplified way at looking at the world. Instead of looking at the world from an inside perspective of a librarian providing every resource imaginable, we need to look at things from the outside in. If we continue to cling to old beliefs it will prevent the libraries from moving forward.

A new project along with new ideas will help to establish a new healthy environment allowing us to move in a direction that better serves the college community. Today is the time to start looking at things in a new a way as we began the brainstorming process. As we work through the first phase we will want to start with a broad range of ideas and than began to narrow them down into specific tasks that people do on a regular basis.

As we work through the process we will be drawing and writing out various things on paper, a white board, and on a computer to record our thoughts. This will help us to think out loud and share our ideas with everyone.We we start the process by revisiting the persona’s of our users and defining the college libraries target audience. This will be a great time for us to talk about how we have helped a person accomplish something that they where trying to do, but could not do on their own.

During this brainstorming session we will be talking about the following items: people that use the libraries website, the environment they work in, and the tasks that they do on a regular basis. Throughout this session we will not be allowed to disagree or state that something does not happen.

What we will be doing

  1. Creating a list of
    1. people who use the libraries
    2. environments people work in
    3. tasks that need to be completed
  2. 10 to 12 Scenarios
  3. flush out 5 to 6 scenarios in depth

The start of the outcome

  • Users
    • Faculty
    • Undergraduate Students
    • Graduate Students – Music and Eduction
  • Environment – how and where people use the libraries website
    • Faculty Students – Office/Home etc.
    • Students – Dorm Room/Library etc.
  • Common Questions
    • Can you help my find a book?
  • Tasks
    • Tasks that came from INFLUX Interviews
      • Search Library Databases
      • Use Inter Library Loan
      • Search Library Catalog
      • Ask Librarians
      • Use Chat Reference
    • Other
      • Pay Fines
  • Scenarios

Part III Kick Off Meeting

Next we began talking about the things people do not do while they are using the internet. When we were talking about why we use the internet nobody mentioned that they used it to read, look images or the design of a website. After making this statement a few people started challenging this statement by saying that they do read. At this point in time Jenica stated that reading was not a persons first instinct and that nobody actually mentioned that they read when using the internet. The discussion got very lively again and there were still a few skeptics still in the room. I then asked everyone to take a look at the list of reasons we came up with about how we use the internet. Once everyone had a chance to look at the list again, I pointed out that reading or looking at images was not on the list.

Another common theme was that nobody mentioned that they looked at the design or images that appear on a website. When we take a moment to thing about the reasons why this occurs we can come up with many different reasons. It goes back to the simple principle that we are trying to get something accomplished or find a piece of information and therefore we ignore everything else that is not important to us at that particular moment in time. Everything else that exists on a web page just gets in our way and we ignore it unless we cannot find what we are looking for. One way to think about this process is that we are information foragers trying to get to what we need as quickly as possible. There is so much stuff that exists on the web do not have time read everything or look at each individual image. We just want to accomplish a particular task that we have as fast as possible and move on to the next item without looking backwards.

Next we moved on to briefly talking about three books that have influenced me in one way or another and how they are useful to the process of redesigning a new website. A few months ago, I had the chance to read Letting Go of the Words: Writing Web Content that Works by Janice (Ginny) Redish. The focus of the book is about writing for the web; However, Ms. Redish does a good job of discussing design principles and how its relationship to writing content that helps people in completing a task.

Picture of a grid with on horizontal column and three vertical columns

Simple Grid

We then began talking about the importance of keeping things simple because it helps support a persons goal in trying to complete a task or find the information they are looking for. This segment consistent of drawing two diagrams to represent this point. The first one was very complicated having several lines and images that had no consistency what so ever. The next diagram consisted of one horizontal box and three vertical boxes to represent simplicity. Simplicity works to your advantage when it comes to the web. The easier it is for people to do something that happier they are.

We than talked about the process of design itself and all of the different components. The outline web page lists all of these different elements. For the most part the items are pretty self explanatory; However, some explanation is warranted. The fist important step is to gather the requirements of the project and to understand your target audience. As stated in the first Kick Off Meeting post INFLUX is helping the college libraries with this process. The next step is the first brainstorming phase where we we list out the tasks that people need to complete along with several different scenarios. After coming up with several different items we will than take these items and narrow them down to three or four sceneries that represent the college community.

Based upon the information that we gather during the first brainstorming phase will help in creating a list of words that will be used for a card sort. A card sort is where you come up with a list of words that represent different possible elements on a web site. After coming up with a list of words you give it to a group of three to five people and ask them to put them into different categories. Once you have done this with two or three groups of people you can begin to create the organization of your website together that will aid people in the search for information that they need.

The last part of the kickoff meeting consisted of talking about designing and prototyping. This is probably one of the most easiest parts of the process to explain because you can use visual aids. Essentially this consisted of passing out sketches and wire frame models that, I have created for other projects. This also made it easy to talk about the iterative cycle of design where you can show someone a sketch and ask them a question to find something within a website. After showing people a variety of sketches and wire-frame models we briefly talked about what Information Architecture is all about and how it is related to the design process.