Learning about Our Users: The Website Use Survey

Cynthia Schwarz, project manager for the Libraries’ Web Environment Redesign Project, contributed this post. She reports on the results and next steps of the team’s user survey conducted last month, providing us with a healthy return of 460 user responses.

What did you set out to learn with this survey?

The Website Redesign and Blacklight Project Team wanted to gather feedback early on in the project about what is important to our patrons with regards to the website. The online survey contained these questions:

  • When you last visited the library website, what did you do while you were there?
  • What library resources or collections are valuable to you?
  • Please rate in order of importance: (Library Search, Borrowing from another library, Library Events, Individual and group study space, Printing and Computing, Library Hours, My Library Account, Information, Blogs, News and Social Media, Contacting a Librarian. )
  • What other tasks do you visit the library website to complete?

Can you tell us about your survey results? 

Library search is clearly of primary importance, as indicated with an average ranking of 4.18 on a scale of 1-5.  In the “heat map” below, green indicates high importance to users, while red is lesser importance (Blogs, news, social media averaged 2.10).

The results demonstrate what library staff already suspected, that patrons primarily come to the website to access to books, articles, journals and databases. These are all discovered primarily through the library search interface on the website’s homepage. The results also demonstrate that the computers, printers and study spaces are used and of high value to respondents. While these services are not directly related to the website, the information may useful as we plan the physical space in the new library building. Additionally, we’ll want to make sure that information about our computing, printing and study spaces is highlighted on the new website.

Were there any challenges in terms of interpreting the results of the survey?

Well, it seemed clear that all respondents didn’t read the questions carefully, since many cite printing and computing as very important – although they don’t do that through the website. Since most of our surveys were launched through a “pop-up” on library computers, the majority of our responses (over 55%) were undergraduates. And we don’t know if this response is representative, whether undergraduates are also the primary users of our website. The results show that faculty and graduate students use the website to locate articles first, then books. Undergraduates say that books, research, databases and homework/study are most important.

What Do You Plan To Do Next? 

This survey is one of several methods we’ll use to understand how our website is used – and what resources and services are most important to our community. We may use this information to highlight events and collections in a different way. We may offer different navigation paths to different user types. But as importantly,  it assures us that our work in developing a robust discovery tool is what will be most valued by our users.

Thanks, Cynthia. Great project. Thanks for sharing it with us. 







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