Document Type


Publication Date

January 2011


The transition to a new architecture and design for an academic library Web site does not always proceed smoothly. This case study describes the experiences of a library at a large research university that hired an outside Web development contractor to create a new architecture and design for the university’s Web site using dotCMS, an open source content management system. The library participated in the design and development process along with other campus units. Because the university-wide process focused on marketing the university to prospective students, parents, and donors, the fact-finding process that the contractor used for the library’s site design focused on how the design could incorporate Web 2.0 technologies. The outcome was a library Web site that showcased Web 2.0 technology more than it provided users with access to library resources. The library’s users quickly communicated their dissatisfaction and confusion, which led to some immediate changes and a commitment to redesign the site based on expressed and demonstrated user needs. Therefore, the library hired another contractor to conduct iterative usability testing on both the new site and prototypes for a redesigned version. The testing outcome showed that Web 2.0 technology that does not meet existing user needs creates obstacles for both novice and experienced users. In collaboration with the university’s information technology unit, the library developed and launched a revised Web site that helped users connect to the resources they need. This upgrade included the deployment of the Google Search Appliance to replace the native dotCMS search functionality. This case study demonstrates that libraries may need to advocate for different Web design priorities than those in practice at the university-wide level, and that working with outside contractors presents different challenges and opportunities depending on the contractor’s hiring unit. These experiences also demonstrate that libraries can do a better job learning about their users when they lead the fact-finding process. Following these experiences, the library has made a commitment to conducting iterative usability testing on a regular basis.


This is an Author's Accepted Manuscript of an Article published in Journal of Web Librarianship 05 Dec 2011, available online at: