Thursday, March 11, 2010

Ball State University’s Digital Media Repository Gets a New Look

by Carolyn F. Runyon, Archivist for Digital Development and University Records, and Amanda A. Hurford, Digital Initiatives Multimedia Developer
Last September 2009, the University Libraries began to revise the public interface and feature set for the Digital Media Repository (DMR), an electronic resource that provides digital content to a global audience.

System administrators, public service librarians, metadata librarians, and archivists worked cooperatively to develop a new user experience by updating the overall look of the interface, improving navigation, incorporating interactive Web 2.0 technologies, and adding new search options. The DMR Public Interface Working Group utilized data collected using Google Analytics to inform decisions regarding the site’s width and interactive features.
For example, during the 2008-2009 academic year, 95.4% of DMR researchers accessed the site using monitors capable of viewing 1040px or wider resolutions. Based on this finding, the group decided to widen the 700px width to 940px.

Furthermore, the working group determined DMR visitors’ browsers capabilities to interact with Java applets and embedded flash objects. Last year, 95.5% of DMR researchers used browsers that supported Java, and all site visitors had some version of flash installed. To offer more interactive elements to the DMR Web site, the group included the Flash-based media viewer, Cooliris, on the home page and a new collections spotlight Java applet to interface pages.

Another interesting statistic gathered was that 85% of DMR researchers preferred to browse collections using an alphabetically arranged list of collection titles. This finding indicated that users were relying on the A-to-Z list of titles because it was the default browsing option. In order to make browsing choices clearer and to improve overall site navigation, the DMR Public Interface Working Group decided to implement a left hand navigation bar. The new navigation encourages users to browse collections by subject, location, format, and contributor by making direct links to browsing options available on all public interface pages.

A social bookmarking tool, AddThis, was also included as part of the interface. This tool allows users to share DMR content on social networking sites such as Digg, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, and Delicious. In the 2008-2009 academic year, Facebook was the seventh most popular referral site, sending a total of 224 visitors to the DMR. By encouraging users to bookmark DMR resources on social media sites, the working group hopes to promote visits from referral sites.

Other enhancements to the updated interface include additional ways to search content by subject, location, format, contributor, and individual collections directly from the browse pages. For example, DMR visitors may search all collections related to the study of architecture simultaneously, without using the Advanced Search features. By pre-selecting titles related to the subject of architecture, researchers do not need to know specific collection titles to search all architecture-related collections. A search box has also been added to the individual collection pages, making the research process even more intuitive to users.

Another way the DMR’s updated interface helps students, faculty, and staff make choices about a collection’s applicability to their research needs is the addition of a brief description on A-to-Z, subject, location, format, and contributor browse pages. Based on anecdotal evidence from DMR researchers, the working group found that titles and images alone were not sufficient to provide site visitors with enough information to make decisions about collections they might find useful. The new interface includes brief descriptions of collections to help users quickly and easily find relevant information.

Members of the DMR Public Interface Working Group are Eric B. Fisher, Information Services Librarian; Amanda A. Hurford (co-chair), Digital Initiatives Multimedia Developer; Carolyn F. Runyon (co-chair), Archivist for Digital Development and University Records; Amy E. Trendler, Architecture Librarian; and Budi Wibowo, Head of Digital Libraries and Web Services. We welcome comments about the new interface. To learn more or make suggestions, contact Amanda A. Hurford at AAHurford@bsu.edu or Carolyn F. Runyon at CFRunyon@bsu.edu.

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