The A to Z of the A to Z list

I know things seem quiet on the Leddy Library website front, but trust me, we are working away, getting our backend ready [insert bootylicious joke here], and working out interface ideas.

One bit of advice that floats around those occupied with User Experience is to avoid completely reinventing an interface when your users already use and understand something similar.  Designers of academic library websites should look to current non-academic library websites to borrow what works from elsewhere. So let’s do that.

Here’s a screenshot of our existing A to Z list:

UWIN a to z

So, what popular websites serve up links? How about search engines?

google search results

And here’s Bing : almost the same results but the URL comes after the description:

bing search results

So the elements displayed are: title, url and one or two line description. And I found a library that has seemed to take this design cue to heart. This is from MIT:

What’s interesting about this particular set-up is that it appears that MIT has gotten rid of the “database description” field/page that characterizes almost all other academic library a to z lists of databases.

While “database descriptions pages” are not well-used, I’m still not entirely convinced that we should get rid of them entirely at this point.  In our Drupal set-up we are conceiving that each database will be “a node” containing its URL, descriptions, subjects, and tags that reflect coverage data and subjects and the A to Z list will be a view of these nodes.

I do think we can do better than the ‘i’ icon that we currently use.  I thinkmuch would be improved just by swapping out the icon with the text of ‘info’ like UNC does (although I think in the parlance of the Internet, it should read [more])

I have two other design features that I’m working out in my mind whether they should be pursued or not at this point or not. As mentioned before, I’m curious whether logos distract or enhance the experience of browsing a long list. The University of Rochester does this and I’m still not sure whether it works or not (but I do know I’m not a fan of the “lock” icon).

Notice that they use ‘more’ instead of ‘info’. Maybe we could split the difference and do what the New York Public Library does and use ‘more info’.

The other design element that I would like to explore is the use of tags to describe the databases, not unlike delicious:

I think I’ll put this thought away because we really need to get going on building an A to Z list and introducing tags would essentially create many different lists of content.

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