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New Sites for Baker Library, Working Knowledge

Two Harvard Business School web sites—Baker Library (http://www.library.hbs.edu) and HBS Working Knowledge (http://hbswk.hbs.edu)—have been redesigned by the Baker staff to simplify navigation, to add features, and to incorporate the latest technology to benefit users. The new sites were launched on April 2.

Baker Library
The major goals of the Baker Library redesign were to allow users to find resources and information more quickly and directly; to establish a consistent, site-wide look and feel; and to update and edit the site's many guides, resources, and references. For the redesign, Baker asked the most basic questions:

  • How is the site used?
  • What needs does it meet?
  • What needs should it meet in the future?

First, Baker defined its major user groups: MBA students, faculty assistants, research associates, doctoral students, researchers, faculty, and staff. For each group, Baker developed a "persona" document, listing what a typical member of the group used the Baker site for, how he or she accessed it, what resources were most used, and how he or she felt about using technology-based resources. These personas were vital points of reference throughout the design process.

Based on this research, Baker articulated two main functional areas for the home page: a section for finding materials, and another section for guides to doing research. At the same time, Baker narrowed its database list (which formerly numbered fifty items) to the six most popular, with a link to an annotated, alphabetical list of all databases.

Working with HBS Communications and Marketing, Baker chose a new color palette that more closely matched the evolving HBS color standards, while still emphasizing the strong Baker "brand." Reflecting the library's redesign of print materials (such as library signage and fact sheets), the new blue home-page banner is coordinated with them. The banner incorporates links to frequently referenced areas of the site—including an A-Z index, search, library hours, and general information. This banner carries over to every internal page, so both the brand and the access to these areas of the site remain consistent throughout.

Another major decision was to keep navigation as simple as possible, without losing functionality. Testing showed that most users simply went back to where they started, rather than navigate through any kind of hierarchical path. Testing also showed that the previous site's internal navigation was not intuitive or clear, nor was there any consistency across subsections. The solution was to include simple internal page navigation on longer pages and in-section navigation for major mini-sites, but not to attempt a global navigation. Putting the A-Z index and a "home" button on every page encourages users to go back to the two main functional areas of the home page.

In the future, Baker plans to dig deeper into one of the largest sections of the site: the Industry Guides—the most frequently accessed pages on the site, internally and externally. Baker anticipates that the site will continue to improve over the coming months, and the staff looks forward to receiving and integrating user feedback. With the Baker Library building under renovation for the next two years, a web presence that makes life easier for patrons is crucial.

The year-long redesign project was led by staff from Baker's Business Information Services Center (BISC) and Baker's Information Products group. Manda Mahoney led the project, working closely with Sarah Jane Johnston on content, Sam Hainer on design, Melissa Clarke on production, and many others throughout Baker Library, with input from every functional area, including BISC, Historical Collections, Research Services, and Information Technology.

HBS Working Knowledge
A process that included many segments of the HBS and the greater Harvard University communities drove the HBS Working Knowledge (HBSWK) redesign. The plan was to make the site easier to navigate and:

  • to provide improved tie-in with the work of HBS faculty;
  • to exploit the Working Knowledge archive of more than 2,000 articles; and
  • to leverage the traffic-driving power of the weekly HBS Working Knowledge e-mail newsletter.

Most traffic to the weekly site is driven by the newsletter and its 45,000 subscribers. Users typically read the e-mail and "click through" to the stories that interest them. One effect of this was a 30% drop-off in traffic to the home page—users instead navigate directly to the story.

One design objective was to make every "article page" a mini home page, where patrons could, at a quick glance, see the full contents of that week's issue. The Working Knowledge staff clarified the "related links" area at the bottom of each story, making it much easier for readers to find related material elsewhere on the site. Since the redesign, the number of page views per issue has increased by 30%.

HBS Working Knowledge also has a new color palette, a Harvard-esque red in its home-page banner, and prominent placement of the HBS brand. There is also a specially designed page for each faculty member that includes their previous work in HBSWK, as well as links to biographical and professional info.

The redesign project took more than a year to plan and produce. The team from Baker's Library's Business Information Services Center (BISC) and Baker's Information Products group included lead designer Rebecca Dornin, Sam Hainer, Ravi Mynampaty, Cliff Moreland, and Melissa Clarke.

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Last modified on Wednesday, July 30, 2003.