Design Critique: Amagansett Free Library (Desktop & Mobile)

Figure 1

Figure 1. Amagansett Free Library homepage. Click to expand.  

The desktop site for the Amagansett Free Library, as well at its mobile counterpart, inform users of the services, resources and events available to them as patrons of the library.

Issue 1: Lack of a navigation bar across all pages leads to poor discoverability

As can be seen in Figure 2 (below) the only feature vaguely resembling a navigation bar exists on the homepage and nowhere else, and is comprised of not an actual navigation system but rather what appears to be a list of the library’s digital resources.

Figure 2

Figure 2. Amagansett Free Library homepage with annotations. Click to expand.  

This row of digital resources on the homepage is misleading, giving the initial impression of a navigation system. Furthermore, there is a lack of any other navigation bar on every following page that makes maneuvering through the site especially difficult. See Figures 3 and 4 (below), a screenshot of the Amagansett Library’s Adult services desktop page (3) and mobile page (4), which shows the lack of a navigation bar, mirrored on every page, on desktop and mobile.

Figure 3

Figure 3. Amagansett Free Library adult services page, desktop. Click to expand.  

Figure 4

Figure 4. Amagansett Free Library adult services page, mobile. Click to expand.  

This issue leads to a poor level of discoverability. Navigating the site is difficult because of the lack of any discernable organize, top-level system. When that failing is combined with the fact that nearly every page (both internal and external) opens in a new tab, users will end up with multiple tabs and loose the path their search took.

Suggestion 1: Create a consistent navigation bar for every page

With a consistent, top-level navigation bar across every internal page, users will be better able to locate essential services that are currently appearing below the fold (see Figure 5, below). Pages such as Adults, Teen Resources, and Kids services, as well as the Library Catalog and Digital Library are all prime examples of links that could be worked into a navigation bar. Services such as Homework Help could be folded into a dropdown menu under Teen Resources or Kids services, as appropriate.

Figure 5

Figure 5. Content appearing below the fold on the Amagansett Free Library website. Click to expand.  

In addition, targets for all internal pages should also be set to open in the same window, making it easier for users to keep track of their search path within the library website.

Issue 2: Poorly managed hyperlinks

On the homepage alone, there are several signifiers that are false starts, either by appearing to be hyperlinked text (i.e., the underlined text in the portion of the homepage devoted to events reservations: “Reservations for all programs”), by including content phrased in such a way that it logically indicates a link to new content (i.e., the “Find out people are reading” text), or links to former services that are no longer offered (i.e. the SuffolkWeb Mail service under ‘Favorite email links’). See examples of all three issues in Figure 6 (below).

Figure 6

Figure 6 Amagansett Free Library homepage with linking annotations. Click to expand.  

The perceived affordance here is that one can click through to a new page and find the relevant information they are looking for, but these false signifiers will serve to confuse users and send them down a wrong, often frustrating path.

Suggestion 2: Clean up and regularly maintain hyperlinks and content

Hyperlinks should be updated to reflect current, active services only, which will provide users with a more professional and informative experience. Text that indicates a new page with relevant information should either be rephrased if no such page exists, or the appropriate page should be linked to from the text if it does exist.

Issue 3: Site map is neither intuitive nor obvious

The site’s mapping is not intuitive on the least. This issue ties back into the lack of a top-level navigation bar in that there is no discernible system of navigating from one page to another once off the homepage. Users must continually return to the homepage in order to find what they are looking for if they took a wrong turn the first time or second time or however many times it takes to locate the necessary information.

Whatever the conceptual model designer of the library’s website had in mind, it is doubtless not aligning with the user’s mental model. One approaches a library website not necessarily expecting to find the sleekest, most aesthetically pleasing interface, but certainly to find information that is cleanly and expertly organized. Services are not clearly identified on the pages themselves (see Figures 7a-7c, below), and page titles are often misleading. The Digital Library page, for example, is titled “ebooks_audio_video” (see Figure 8, below).

Figure 7a

Figure 7a. Poorly identified page of the Amagansett Free Library’s website. Click to expand.

Figure 7b

Figure 7b. Poorly identified page of the Amagansett Free Library’s website. Click to expand.

Figure 7c

Figure 7c. Poorly identified page of the Amagansett Free Library’s website. Click to expand.

Figure 8

Figure 8. Page title of Digital Library page. Click to expand.

Suggestion 3: Define a concrete information architecture for the website as a whole

To provide greater clarity and understandability for users of the library’s website, the information architecture of the entire site needs to be mapped out, rearranged (or developed with new content) as appropriate, and deployed on the website. This effort should include the incorporation of a top-level navigation bar present on every page, as this will provide users outside the library team with a better conception of the website’s layout and the best ways to locate the information, service or resource they are looking for.