Needs analyses for my WordPress themes

The goal at the end of this independent study is to have created two distinct, custom WordPress themes that were developed with libraries in mind.

Theme 1 Analysis

Intended Library: Small and public

For this theme, I want to create something with a small, public library in mind. I am somewhat basing my idea of the expected needs of such an institution on my project from last summer, where I worked on the re-design for a small public library’s website with two other grad students. We conducted a needs and analysis report based off of our interview with the client, and eventually created a mockup of a site for our client. My hope is to create something similar to this, but with the features of a WordPress theme that will make it all the more manageable (and suitable) for a small organization like this library.

Intended Use: Community updates and calendar

One of the things our client from last summer really stressed wanting was an online place to provide community updates, and a calendar of the happenings at the library. Although we did incorporate these pages into our eventual design, I would like to utilize WordPress’s blog features for the community updates aspect, and look into easily integrating a calendar as a plugin.

With this in mind, the design for this theme will need to focus on:

  • a template for blog posts as well as static pages
  • a place for consistently displaying information about the library hours — most likely in a sidebar or footer area
  • easy incorporation of images, and a well-designed template that requires very little in the part of the theme user to make the images look nice on the actual site, once they’ve been uploaded

The Design: Clean and minimal

The two keywords our client gave us for the visual design of the site were “clean and minimal,” and I was never quite pleased with how our eventual product came out. I’d like to create a theme that more closely aligns to this vision, while still remaining focused on usability and accessibility issues.

Theme 2 Analysis

Intended Library: Large and academic

For my second theme, I’m basing my approach off of my recent work doing some redesigning of the website for the Ricker Library of Architecture and Art at the University of Illinois.

For reference, this is a screenshot of the old site:

Screencap of the old version of the Ricker Library homepage

And this following image is a screenshot of what the current Ricker Library site looks like:

Screencap of the new version of the Ricker Library homepage

One of the biggest challenges when it came to working on this site, however, was not the visual design (which I just altered a bit to match other University of Illinois library sites that the new head librarian of Ricker preferred — and that fit in with the current setup of the UIUC library’s CMS), but was instead working with the large amounts of information and content that needed to be re-thought, re-organized, and generally updated on the site.

The users I am gearing this theme towards, therefore, are those who have a vast amount of information on their site. A library like this, such as Ricker, needs to have a clear, easy-to-understand and easy-to-use navigation, as well as a coherent overarching approach to information architecture. My approach to incorporating these characteristics into my design are at least in part inspired by several principles from Steve Krug’s Don’t Make Me Think.

Intended Use: Storing lots of information about a collection, organizing links and guides for patrons interested on a particular subject

Unlike my first theme, which primarily focuses on blog-style community updates, my second theme will focus on organizing and presenting a lot of information. For an academic library that may be info about a large collection (or collections), but I think other information institutions could make use of a theme like this, too. There will also be a focus on generally making it easy to organize links and guides for the eventual users of the website.

For WordPress, this means:

  • a template for single pages, possibly including custom page templates
  • prominent menu for main navigation, most likely with drop-down menus for lower-level pages
  • at least one sidebar that can include information like hours and location
  • prominent links for the library’s social media accounts
  • a place for branding (such as a header image or logo)

The Design: Clean and understandable

I want the design for this theme to be clean, understandable, and usable. I think the old design for Ricker (seen in the first screenshot above) was perhaps trying to do this at one point, but there were some crucial missteps in the location of items (such as the main navigation) that made the site difficult to navigate and understand. The nice thing about a WordPress theme is that it isn’t (or shouldn’t) have that issue; the main navigation should always be in an obvious place, and I will have control over creating a more balanced visual design.

Another goal I have for this theme is providing some level of customization when it comes to colors. Using Ricker at the University of Illinois as a starting point/example, I’m cognizant of the need to incorporate brand- or institution-specific color schemes into a layout for a site. I’d like to provide some color customization options that would allow theme users to easily modify the main color schemes to fit their particular needs.

Conclusion

Thinking about the potential users in this way — in terms of how much info they might have, and how they might want to present it — is useful to me in understanding what a “userbase” truly is. I don’t think it’s necessarily useful enough to say my intended users are “libraries,” as different libraries certainly have different goals, areas of emphasis, and manners of functioning. I hope to be able to focus on those manners of functioning, and create two distinct but useful themes with these target uses and audiences in mind.

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