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Fondren redesigns site

By Ruby Gee     5/17/11 7:00pm

Looking to improve user experience, Fondren recently redesigned its main website and updated its catalog interface in hopes of facilitating usage of their online services.

A survey asking for feedback was sent out Tuesday, April 19 by email to students, faculty and staff members. Approximately 100 users responded, with nearly 40 percent of the respondents being undergraduate students.

Assistant University Librarian for IT Diane Butler said that they're trying to go with a more streamlined website that facilitated the process of finding information quickly.



"We were actually just really tired of the old one and wanted something that we thought would be a better user experience for our users," Butler said. "We were getting to the point where … there was just too much on the front page."

Butler is the chair of a six person web team that is a standing committee at Rice. According to Butler, they anticipate collecting feedback through the end of May, updating the website continuously. Prior to the website redesign, the web team carried out a year-long study of other library websites to get an idea of what functions were useful, etc.

"We've done some user studies, usability testing with different people on campus and will take all of the feedback we can get," Butler said. "In the month of June, we'll go through all of the feedback and see what it is people are having issues with."

They have been looking for feedback on the website's terminology, whether or not users can find features with the new layout and design, she said.

Eighty-six percent of respondents said that the links in the Services bar seem logically organized, while 91 percent said that the terminology of the new website is understandable. In regards to favored aspects of the new website, the tabbed search box and layout were the most commonly chosen options while the notices function of the website was the least commonly chosen.

According to Butler, Rice University as a whole is trying to move toward a more consistent look for all of their webpages. She said that some of the comments they received revolved around style, which unfortunately they cannot do much about.

According to Butler, they are trying to go live with the new website by the middle of July at the latest. She said they got a lot of the feedback they were looking for.

"Some of the questions we had as a web team, we're now getting feedback on [which] is what we wanted to happen," she said. "People took some time to really assess the website and give us some honest feedback and I was really pleased with that."

Butler said the last time the Fondren website changed its look was approximately four years ago, though the web team has made minor tweaks to the site since then. Student opinions on the latest website redesign have varied.

"I prefer the new version of the website because the navigation is improved," Jones College freshman Brittney Xu said. "For instance, the side and top tool bars categorize the content and it's easy to find what you're looking for."

McMurtry College junior Richard Latimer gave a more mixed review of the website redesign.

"At the moment, I've found it difficult to find where some of my frequent links have disappeared to," Latimer said. "However, I believe once I get used to the new layout, the new design will help me navigate the site faster."

The web team's next project, which is estimated to take place next fall, is a redesign of the Fondren mobile site.



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