Redesign Purdue University Libraries Website

Method: Focus Group, User Interview, Persona Creation, Content Analysis, Wireframing, Usability Testing
Tools: Balsamiq, Morae, Google Analytics


The Purdue University Libraries website is a significant part of the Libraries’ services, as the demand of online journals, books, and databases continues to increase. The design and user experience of the website is critical for the libraries to provide essential services to users. The previous website was implemented on static HTML pages. Content was difficult to update and user experience was not consistent across the website. The new website is built on Drupal content management system, which makes maintaining content and visual apperance much easier.


I first conducted focus groups with undergraduate and graduate students to understand their use of the library website and expectations. I also did one-and-one interviews with graduate students, faculty, and librarians to understand their information seeking behavior, preferences, and requirements. The focus groups and interviews provided valuable information for me to create personas and drive prototype development.

Questions used in focus groups
Questions used in interviews


Jenny: 19, female, second year undergraduate student, English major.

Quote: “I use the library website to find papers and books.”

Library Experience: She visits the library website occasionally for basic information like locations and hours. She knows there is article search, course reserve and catalog on the homepage because it is very noticeable. She is not familiar with other links or contents on the homepage and feels difficult to explore the site because he is used to the simplicity of the websites he goes to like Google or Facebook. She has very limited knowledge of how to use any of the advanced search options or facets to refine search results.

Goals: Find journal articles for a research methods class (English 203); find books on the course reserve for study; find books for leisure reading; need to know information about the libraries such as tutorials, study rooms, equipment, and student job opportunties.

Information or Functions Needed: Information about library facilities beyond just locations and hours; a simple to use article search tool; a simple to use book (catalog) search tool; guidance of using the library website including tutorials, guides, and introduction of databases.

Brian: 26, male, third year PhD student, Chemical Engineering major.

Quote: “Google Scholar is great. But sometimes I have to use the library website to get fulltext papers.”

Library Experience: He mostly uses Google Scholar to search for journal articles. But when there is no full text available on Google Scholar or the link on Google Scholar does not include full text access information, he resorts to the library website. When searching for articles on the library website, he knows several options: (1) using the article search, (2) entering the journal page and locating the article by year, volume and issue number, and (3) entering the database from the library website to gain full text access and searching in the database. He knows how to use interlibrary loan to request articles that Purdue does not have. Occasionally, he uses advanced search options to tweak the results. He knows the best databases for his research area. He uses the library website to enter those databases in order to gain full text access. Occasionally, he uses the catalog to find books for research needs. He uses EndNote to manage his references.

Goals: Find the fulltext of journal articles searched on Google Scholar through the library website or interlibrary loan; enter frequently used databases.

Information or Functions Needed: A powerful but simple to use article search tool with more streamlined workflow similar to Google Scholar; better integration of interlibrary loan and the search tools; quick access to frequently used databases.

Kate: 46, female, associate professor of Pharmacy.

Quote: “I trust the library website more than Google Scholar.”

Library Experience: She has ample experience of using the library website and working with librarians. She helped a librarian develop the library guide in her field. She teaches her students how to search for articles, enter databases and library guides on the library website. Her main concern is that the library website is difficult to navigate and sometimes she cannot remember where to find certain information and the website search does work as she would expect. She knows Google Scholar but does not trust the search results from Google Scholar. She thinks results from the library are more creditable. She uses a couple of ways to get full text articles: (1) using the article search, and (2) entering the database she knows through the library website. She always uses advanced search options so she can have more control of the search. She also uses facets to narrow down the search results. She enters journals to browse articles but this is not frequent. She uses EndNote to manage her references.

Goals: Find fulltext of journal articles; enter frequently used databases; work with librarians to develop subject guides; need to show students how to use the library website.

Information or Functions Needed: Credible and high quality search results; flexible and easy to understand search and results refine options; better navigation of library guides and the library website; better understanding of library service, events, and reserach projects.

Project Presentation

Purdue website redesign from Tao Zhang

Sample Prototypes

Homepage wireframe

Homepage wireframe

Homepage mockup

Homepage mockup

Homepage navigation

Homepage mockup

Engineering Library Page Wireframe

Homepage mockup

Archives and Special Collections Page Wireframe

Homepage mockup

Library Information Page Mockup

Homepage mockup

Updated on September 1, 2013