All posts by Sean Aery

Item Pages – Prototypes


We have learned a lot about how to improve our item pages and we’ve gathered great examples from around the web as inspiration.  We’re now ready to share some wireframe prototypes.

There are four different wireframe prototypes here. Use the ‘Jump To’ section at the top to look at versions A, B, C, and D.  Preferences? Ideas? Concerns? Questions? Let us know what you think!

In addition to incorporating the feedback and ideas we’ve gathered so far, here are a few additional key things these designs attempt to address:
Continue reading Item Pages – Prototypes

Item Pages: Inspiring Sites

"Who knows, perhaps you may inspire poetry." Ad*Access. Item BH1517.

Before designing new item pages for our Digital Collections site redesign, we looked around the web to find exemplary sites to inspire us as we apply what we have learned while assessing our current item pages.

We looked for sites where items are presented with both clarity and context. We also looked for sites that present obvious ways to interact with an item (such as comment on it, bookmark it, or get a closer look) or help people discover related items to keep them engaged with exploring the site.

We love digital collections sites that are comparable to ours and have included some good ones here, but we were sure to look beyond library sites for inspiration as well. Sites like Flickr, YouTube, and Amazon are familiar to far more people than library sites, and their design patterns condition us all with certain expectations when we encounter any new or unfamiliar site. The goal is to find good example solutions to the challenges present in each aspect of the design, and to use the best parts of each for inspiration.
Continue reading Item Pages: Inspiring Sites

Item Pages: What We’ve Learned

We have been assessing our web interface to Digital Collections for some time using a healthy variety of evaluation techniques and soliciting ideas for a new & improved interface. Let’s first take a look at our item pages, with an annotated review of our current site:

<a href=”” mce_href=””>View this feedback (Item Page – Existing Interface) on Notable</a>

Here’s what we have learned about the item pages, broken down by source:

Web Analytics

  1. Our most-accessed items get viewed mostly via external links, especially from social media tools (like StumbleUpon) and Google Images.
  2. More than 3/4 of item page views are for the medium image view as opposed to the details view.

Usability Tests (Spring 2008)

Continue reading Item Pages: What We’ve Learned

Redesigning Duke Digital Collections

This fall, we’re redesigning the web interface to our Digital Collections.  And we want your help.

We unveiled our current interface back in January 2008, starting with a modest six collections, mostly of photographs and other images.  The system/website we built was pretty sufficient for that group of content.  It did some things well that marked significant progress at the time: it let you search across collections, it gave you facets to narrow your search results, and it gave you nicely bookmarkable URLs for items and search results.

Fast forward 18 months to today.  Our Digital Collections Program is firmly established and clicking on all cylinders (see our past blog posts for a recap of the past year & a half).  We’re now hosting almost 30 collections in this system, and we’re introducing new collections all the time.  We have a diverse and growing range of digital formats like videos and books.   We have explored hosting content in places like YouTube, iTunes, Flickr, and Internet Archive.  The Web has been rapidly evolving around us.  And our site has now been around long enough for us–and our users–to have kicked its proverbial tires to get a good sense of what it’s doing well versus where it’s falling short.  It’s getting pretty clear that we have outgrown this site.  It’s time to take it to the next level.

It’s the perfect time for a redesign.  Change is in the air.  Our team has been working hard on building our new repository, metadata editor tool, and index (Codename: Trident), and all that behind-the-scenes wizardry opens up a wealth of opportunities for improving the ways that you, as someone who uses our website, will be able to discover our digital treasures.

We have some ideas of our own for improvements, and we’ll share them here on the blog shortly.  But we really want to hear from you about your ideas.  Join in the conversation here on this blog in the comments section.  Tune into this new category (Website Redesign), where we’ll share information throughout the fall, including updates, mockups, analysis, and more.   You can also give us feedback privately at this page, if you prefer.  Everything’s fair game, from aesthetics to information organization to functionality.

We’re looking forward to hearing from you soon!

Library Digital Collections? There’s an App for That.

Amid the excitement surrounding the new iPhone this month, we’ve got our own exciting announcement: an iPhone app for Duke Digital Collections! A mobile interface to search and browse 20 of our collections (over 32,000 images) is now included in the free DukeMobile app. [press release in ‘Duke Today’]

Here’s a 3-minute demo of the app:


Providing an iPhone interface to the collections helps us to reach an audience–whether at Duke or beyond–that is increasingly mobile. Continue reading Library Digital Collections? There’s an App for That.

Digital Collections… on Paper!

Have you ever tried to print out anything from our Digital Collections site, like a cool historic advertisement, an old documentary photograph, or a list of search results?  If so, you probably got a printout with some less-than-ideal formatting and some extraneous near-blank pages.

Today, we implemented a print-specific stylesheet, so give it another try and let us know what you think!

One of our core aims for our system is to be able to deliver items from our collections in the formats that are most ideal for the various ways people will use them.   Lots of people print web pages, and what works on-screen isn’t always best on paper.

Here were our goals for the print styles:

  • maintain branding for Duke LIbraries, Digital Collections Program, and individual collection
  • remove interface elements like search boxes and facets that do not provide value on paper
  • write out the URL of copyright & reproduction information for items
  • eliminate unnecessary page breaking
  • support landscape & portrait orientation
  • support all major browsers/platforms
  • make table headers repeat on subsequent pages

There’s another feature we’re working on implementing (in the not-too-distant future) that should also make things easier to print:  PDF generation.  It should be especially useful for multi-paged items. We’ll keep you posted on this blog about all coming interface updates…

Happy printing!

Presentation to Duke Libraries (2008 Usage Stats)

I presented this morning (March 4, 2009) at our monthly First Wednesday library IT presentation series about Digital Collections stats from 2008 server logs (slides below):

The slides are very basic. Included are some figures extracted from previous blog posts ( as well as ‘greatest hits’–the most-accessed item from each collection.

Video Discovery Stats for DSVA: A First Look

Our Diamonstein-Spielvogel video archive collection, comprised of about 130 videos, was introduced this past fall and represents our first digital video collection. Our Digital Collections system (Tripod) does not yet support discovery within a video collection, so in the interim, we are using two external video services in tandem to host the collection and are relying on their native interfaces for search and retrieval.

  • videos uploaded to iTunes U the week of September 21, 2008
  • videos uploaded to YouTube the week of December 14, 2008

Each service provides some distinct advantages over the other. A basic matrix of differences can be found here:


To gauge use, we looked at about 8 weeks of data in both systems following the publication of the videos in YouTube. There were 16,412 YouTube views, 993 iTunes downloads, and 392 iTunes previews.

Diamonstein-Spielvogel Video Archive Usage Stats
Dec 14, 2008 – Feb 8, 2009

Continue reading Video Discovery Stats for DSVA: A First Look

Home(page) Economics

As Tom mentioned, we’re in the process of re-examining our homepage (and the layout of individual collection homepages).

What do people actually do when they come to the Duke Digital Collections homepage as it is now?  One way to tell is to review our server logs.

Here’s a look at the year in review.

2008 At a Glance:  68,325 homepage hits

Activity from Homepage Count Pct
Browse directly to a collection homepage 21,342 31.24%
Do a cross-collection search 7,533 11.03%
Go to the homepage or an anchored section of it* 2,549 3.73%
Browse the A-Z List of collections 2,170 3.18%
Check out exhibits 1,478 2.16%
Go to Duke Libraries homepage 922 1.35%

Continue reading Home(page) Economics

Collection Usage Stats for 2008

Looking back at our 2008 web logs, we can learn a lot about how our system and our collections are being used. We hope to combine an analysis of this usage data with usability testing and other modes of evaluation to better inform our continued development of our system & interface in 2009.

Here are two separate charts (below): one for the first half of 2008 (Jan – June) and the other for the second half (July – Dec). The one on the right includes more collections (we introduced several throughout the year) and may be a more representative look at the usage.  Also keep in mind that the collections vary in size (larger collections have more items *to be viewed* and often have more ways to formulate queries).

Click to enlarge:

Jan – June 2008
July – Dec 2008

Interesting findings

Continue reading Collection Usage Stats for 2008