2013 starts with a bang for the EP Library’s Online Services team. We have just launched a “Library Online 2014 Project” to redesign the Library website for the next Parliament, and provide an improved and simpler online experience, in view to increase the value of our services to Members. As such we want to reach our users inside or outside Parliament and on any type of device – including tablets and smartphones. Therefore, this blog will host a regular column from our team and share with you the progress of the Library Online Project, the directions we are taking, and above all ask for your input.
So, let’s start with the beginning: you!
Users should be at the centre of any design process, and so in January, we held a Focus Group meeting with 9 Members’ Assistants to discuss how they would like to see our website evolve. The conversation was lively and often touched more generally on Library products and services. One participant even said that the Library was one of the best things the EP had to offer! But cheering aside, here I want to focus on the future and have a look at what these clients want for the new Library website.
We should get out more
First, the Library website should be available to the general public. Of course some of our information comes from paid subscriptions, so access is restricted to EP staff and MEP offices. And confidentiality is our utmost concern when replying to information requests (via “Ask the Library” (internal link), also in its mobile version). A great variety of our products is already available on this blog, but so should all our other research guides and more analytical products, and even our answers to your questions, provided they are securely made anonymous (see our Work in progress section for an overview of topics). In short, a full-fledged Internet site should be the ultimate goal of the Library Online Project.
Keep it simple
Our content is of high-quality, but access can be difficult. Yes, there is too much information! Our website is welcoming, but its structure is a bit complex and it is not always easy to find your way, with the risk that some valuable contents remain hidden. Our users do not have the time to learn how to use a website or a specific database, so it should be self-explanatory, and feature a prominent integrated search to access all available information. You can safely bet that a big part of the project will be devoted to organising our information more effectively.
Do take it personally
It comes as no surprise: Assistants work for their MEPs, who work in Parliamentary committees. A thematic approach to Library information, based on Committee structure is therefore relevant and straightforward. What’s more, our clients would like to customise the homepage so that it reflects their interests. The idea of setting up a “profile” can be attractive, as long as it remains simple on the user’s part.
Here, there and everywhere
We asked when and where Assistants used the Library website. The answer was still mostly from the office, or via a device equipped with a token – and at any time of the day or week. However some mentioned that access to EP internal resources from home or an external office is difficult and slow, or even sometimes impossible within the current infrastructure. Most certainly if the technology improved, so usage would follow!
In a very plain nutshell, what our clients want is an easy access to relevant information, and “easy” applies to both where our information is and how it is presented. Dear Project Team, here is a 3f-proposal for our mantra: “Can our users find just what they are looking for, fast?”
Tell us what you think
Here are four of the questions we asked in January 2013 at the Focus Group meeting with Assistants about the Library Intranet Site (internal link). Please share your ideas with us!
- Why or at what stage of your work do you need the Library website?
- What is best about the current Library Intranet Site?
- What is least effective?
- What change would best improve it?