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A User-Centered Approach to Designing Digital Library Applications

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From the 2014 DLF Forum

Session Leaders:
Gary Geisler, Stanford University
Jennifer Vine, Stanford University

As at other institutions, the range of web applications we develop and support at Stanford University Libraries is growing, as is the audience for those applications. In addition to our library website and online library catalog, in recent years we’ve added applications for multimedia archives, self-deposit for scholarly resources, discovery of complex geographic data, and self-service digital exhibits. Expanding our range of online offerings certainly enables us to better expose and share the rich collections in our digital repository, but it also brings new challenges. How can designers ensure an institution’s growing array of digital library applications provide users of those applications with consistent, enjoyable, and successful experiences?

While best practices from the larger user experience community are an important foundation, we’ve found that digital library content, and the faculty, students, and librarians who are the main audience for that content, have unique characteristics that must be considered in the design process. Using examples from recent development efforts, we’ll illustrate our unique approach to incorporating domain-specific considerations into the user discovery, information architecture, and interaction and visual design phases of our process.

Designers of institutional-based digital library applications have to consider not only the expected end-users of the applications we design, but also a varied set of interested stakeholders. Collection donors, librarians responsible for digital collections, and those concerned with branding and identity at the institution all have an interest in the products we develop. We’ll describe how we consider varied stakeholder needs and share our strategies for seeking stakeholder feedback throughout the design and development process.

Finally, we’ll conclude this session by briefly describing how the design process and the designer are integrated into our agile development process. We’ll also address how Stanford has deployed its user-centered design process to kick-start a variety of community-based open source projects.

Published in: Education
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