UX Design Best Practices for Public Library Websites

UX Design Best Practices for Public Library Websites

Harry Bartlett

Great library websites need to do many things well, including: provide a compelling user experience, effectively publish and provide access to content, promote library online and offline services and increase community engagement.

This is the first in a series on the different aspects of an effective library website.

PART ONE: User Experience
Let’s first start with a critique of a Home page and the overall design ‘theme’. Here’s an example of a design we did for the Watertown Free Public Library in Watertown, MA.


Watertown Public Library website redesign by Bartlett Interactive


Much thought was put into this page. Here are some of the ideas behind the the user experience design:

  • An easy to read layout, not too cluttered, with only a few colors and large visuals that invite the visitor to browse and interact with the page.
  • A simple ‘header’ area focused on making it easy for visitors to search both the website and catalog.
  • An area where alerts can be easily added temporarily e.g. “Tonights computer class…”
  • Multiple links where visitors can contact the library, in the header (‘Contact/Help), sidebar (‘Feedback’) and footer (address, phone and ‘Email the Director’).
  • A translate feature so visitors can read the site in their native language. This includes using ‘systems text’ instead of making any text a graphic so the text can easily be translated.
  • A home page ‘billboard’ to promote events and services e.g. Hoopla.
  • Engaging and interactive content e.g. the ‘Libraries: changing lives...’ video.
  • Important information easily accessible such as the hours the library is open that day.
  • A ‘Stay Informed’ block where patrons can sign up to receive emails by type of interest e.g. classes, events etc.
  • Calls to action that engage visitors and increase participation (see the participate block).
  • Timely content, either events occurring soon or new items added to the website e.g. the ‘New in the Adult blog’ section.
  • Social media sharing for the page as well as individual page element sharing

Now let’s take a look at an interior page. 

Interior image taken from Watertown Free Public Library website


Here is the reasoning behind the design of this page:

  • Carousels showing book covers, providing a visual and interactive way to display the content.
  • Extensive content specific to an audience type e.g. teens. Note there are links to a teen tech program, teen blog, teen Facebook page, teen reviews, teen suggestion form etc.
  • Specific Teen events.
  • A call out for Awesome Box.
  • An interactive poll specific to teens.
  • A large visual mega menu drop down displaying secondary navigation.

These are some of the areas that are critical for a successful library website design. Learn more about our library web design services and see the Watertown Free Public Library website

Next up in this series about great library websites: which content management system is better suited for libraries, Drupal or WordPress?

About the author

Harry started Bartlett Interactive in 1998 and focuses on integrating best practices in branding, user experience design, Internet marketing and technology to increase the value of an online presence.
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