Category Archives: Library Site

Meet Kristin Sullivan- the new UX GRA

Hi all! I’m Kristin Sullivan, the new User Experience GRA with TIS. I recently wrapped up my first year in the Information Studies Master’s program at the UT iSchool. Prior to joining TIS, you could find me working as a teaching assistant (or Purple Shirt) in the iSchool’s IT Lab.

A bit about me: I majored in history and environmental sciences at the University of Vermont In Burlington. Following completion of my undergrad degree, I started to gradually move southward. I worked in a bookstore in NJ and then moved on to work with the Free Library of Philadelphia in their digital resources department. With the Free Library, I managed a computer hotspot that provided resource access and digital literacy training to community members. After almost a year of working with the Free Library, I decided to apply for graduate programs in information science and ended up enrolling in the UT iSchool.

I found my way into the world of UX through the iSchool. Initially interested in building upon my knowledge of web development, I enrolled in the more user experience focused courses offered through the program, such as information architecture and usability. I also used my time as a lab teaching assistant to increase my own technical skills in these areas and to teach others how to use design software programs through one-on-one instruction, tutorials and short courses. Currently, I’m trying to soak up all the UX knowledge that I can and apply user-oriented design to the projects that I work on.

I’m excited to join TIS this summer and work on UX for a library site. I am currently helping to wrap up work on the Geology branch site and implement the guidelines that the very talented, previous GRA, Stefanie Roberts established. Through this position, I am excited to get more hands-on design and user-testing experience. I also would like to build upon my previous teaching experience to create UX-oriented tutorials for TIS and contribute to the TISandboxes.

When I’m not around TIS, I will be working 10 hrs in the IT lab (at least for this summer), taking a summer class at the iSchool, and co-directing the student groups UT Association for Information Science & Technology and Advocating for Women in Technology. As for outside of the UT scope, I like to go on social bike rides and try to do the fun things in Austin.

Developing Conditional Fields for Content Creation and Form Management

Greetings – It’s the Holidays at TIS, and that means a room full of decorations, off-tune seasonal music, and website development!

At UT Libraries, we have a robust amount of different content, and deal with a large community of engaged active website users. One thing we actively have to consider all year long is how to make thorough webforms and other data entry.

To make a holiday example: If you are writing the Libraries for research information on decorations, there’s a chance we’d like to set up a form that thoroughly investigates every type of decoration, color, kind of decor, etc, so that your inquiry is best answered. Regrettably, this can lead to a lengthy and intimidating webform that shows each option all at once, filling up a page with text.

To help address this, we’re currently developing new content strategies using conditional fields. In Drupal, we’re using two modules, Conditional Fields and Webform Conditional. (Any Drupal readers here will want to know that we’re on D7, and Webform 3)

Both of these modules add a great amount of flexibility to cleaning up a content form or a webform, so that a user is not bombarded by a huge amount of text showing EVERY detail of information needed to complete an form submission. Instead, they allow for a series of initial questions to be answered, which will then reveal appropriate additional questions.

Step one: Using this with Webforms

To take our hypothetical example of writing for Holiday Decorations advice. (caveat: We do not offer Holiday Decorations advice at UT Libraries!) – But a non conditional webform might display like this:

Type of Decoration: (Red, Blue, Neither)
If you chose Red, is Orange okay? (Yes, No)
Do you Have another Color you would like? (fill in the blank)

This can sprawl out into all sorts of fussy questions. Perhaps there could be a nicer way, where only the first of these three questions appeared, with follow-up questions based on how you answered?

Now, if this form were modified to be conditional, that lighter looking form would be attainable.

So, instead of seeing all three questions below, a user would only be asked “Type of Decoration” first.

If they pick “Red” then the question about “Is Orange okay” would then appear. And if they picked “Neither”, then they would be offered the question “Do You Have another Color you would like?”

Technical Jargon: The way this works is you identify dependancies with fields, so that one field will only display if a value of another field is triggered. For Webforms, this is fairly easy to figure out – a new field setting called “Conditional Rules” is added to the options for each field you create. There, when setting a condition for a hidden entry (Like “Is Orange Okay”) you select a component and a value for this to display if the other Field “Pick a Color” has a chosen value for “Red”, which is likely “1”.

Step Two: Using this with content types

Conditional Fields work instead with internal content type forms, offers even more workflow options – particularly for large organizations that often have sprawling content items addressing any number of fields, decisions, tabs. You can modify your existing forms to instead just reveal the first one or two questions about a piece of content, and then reveal other items, as needed – based on what is answered. Prior to Conditional Fields, the workflow solution would instead be to group items into a series of tabbed off sections and indicate Required Fields that were common to everyone. A great video that explains this, including how to customize these features can be found on Youtube, courtesy the always-useful Daily Dose of Drupal.

Like a holiday tree, we at UT Libraries we’re excited about being able to trim down our content forms (ho-ho-ho! sorry about the tree pun!) And we hope you enjoy idea for managing your own content forms and webforms in Drupal.

Support Your Libraries Redesign Update

We’re iterating!

After spending time researching and documenting project requirements, benchmarking fundraising sites inside and outside of academia, and getting Staff Advisory Committee for Library Advancement (SACLA) suggestions on big impact stories to highlight, we created a set of wireframes.

The first design relied on a crowd sourced funding technology to replace our current Wish List of items ranging from $100 to $80,000. We’ve since learned that approach isn’t tenable at this time and we’re now working on a redesigned information architecture that doesn’t use crowd funding. The benefit is that it’s helped the project team reassess the number of different giving options we provide, and scale back in order to not overwhelm.

Things shifted, as they can, and we’re now working on a redesigned information architecture that doesn’t use ScaleFunder. The benefit is that it’s helped the project team reassess the number of different giving options we provide, and scale back in order to not overwhelm.

After the next version is done and approved, we’ll move into designing the look & feel and then building the site in Drupal 7.

Mining chat reference transcripts for UX issues

Attention Staff who provide reference: We want to know about the questions that highlight users’ difficulties with our site.

Whether it’s an issue with how information is organized, its lack of searchability, or it not being there at all…we want to know the ways our site can be improved to meet user needs.

We’ll plan to work with content owners to make improvements.

Feel free to provide this info whatever way is easiest for you, including simply forwarding chat transcripts.


Meet Stefanie, the new TIS GRA

Salutations! I’m Stefanie Roberts, a first-year UT iSchool master’s student and the new TIS User Experience GRA.

I majored in English at the University of Florida and dabbled in nonprofits, media, education, and healthcare before finding my way to UX. I didn’t even know the field existed until I stumbled upon it while researching library graduate programs. The common threads I found woven through my experiences in other fields—working with people, producing creative deliverables, and designing new systems to improve workflows and outcomes—are also at the heart of UX research and design. I feel fortunate to have wound up here working on UX for a library, the dream combination for many an MSIS student.

This semester, I’ll be collaborating with TIS staff and the Library Web Oversight Group on implementing best practices to redesign and create optimal experiences for UT Libraries website users. Since joining TIS in September, I’ve been generating IA and migrating content for the new Geology branch page. I already can’t remember life before Drupal. I’m especially looking forward to learning more about content strategy, responsive design, and accessibility.

When I’m not at the library, you can find me doing schoolwork, co-directing the Student Association for the School of Information and UT’s student chapter of the Association for Information Science and Technology, biking and running (for fitness and/or to Juiceland), or exploring the cultural goings-on in and around Austin.


Currently, I am the new UX GRA at TIS, and I will be working with the Information Architect, Jade Diaz, on improving the user experience of various interfaces throughout the semester. I will be taking part in:

  • understanding project requirements
  • usability assessments and documentation
  • generating information architecture and prototypes for new designs
  • helping web authors maintain and update content in Drupal

How I got here:

I’ve always been fascinated with understanding how people process information and how this information helps them make decisions in their lives, so I got my Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Texas A&M University. Unfortunately, I came to realize that getting a PhD in psychology was not for me, so I began looking into other areas that incorporated psychology, but did not require clinical training.

I didn’t ever feel a strong pull towards technology, but my dad is obsessed with the history of computing hardware, so there were always weirdly huge and old computers all over the house that I couldn’t be less interested in. However, I was fascinated with how different those old interfaces looked compared to my new iMac G3 (which obviously rocked the ‘Flower Power’ design). I couldn’t even imagine how someone could use a computer without windows or menus or icons.

When I decided to try to bridge these two interests, one of understanding how people learn and process information, and another of understanding how to improve interface designs to increase usability, I came across the field of HCI. I looked at a few different graduate programs, and decided to attend UT’s Master’s program in Information Studies. I am specializing in usability, information architecture, and UX research/design.

Other than school and work, I love spending time with my two wonderful cats, Gus and Sophie. I also got a guitar for Christmas, so I’m trying to teach myself a few things. I sort of like working out, and love spending time with friends and family.

New site for Data Management at UT

Screnshot of Data management at UT site

Steve Williams, the Libraries Webmaster, worked with Amy Rushing and Colleen Lyon to publish a new site for Data Management Planning at UT. The site was built in the Libraries Content Management System and included in the Libraries surrounding theme. The web site highlights a new project that is a new collaboration with Information Technology Services (ITS), Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) and the Office of Sponsored Project. For more information about Data Management at UT visit the site.

UT Libraries Home Page one of the most Popular on Campus

When comparing web page statistics across campus, the Libraries home page consistently scores in the top three. The university home page, registration pages and the College of Liberal Arts home page often land in the top three rankings as well. Snapshots of pages viewed in Spring, Summer, and Fall 2011 are below.

Spring (April) 2011
Summer (June) 2011
Fall (October) 2011

When analyzing the statistics, we see the Libraries home page not only receives a high number of page views, but also has a high count of unique views, which indicates that page views are often not from the same users. The time spent on the home page is two minutes, suggesting that viewers are scanning the page and not just clicking through. Because of the high usage the Libraries LIBsearch receives, it is not surprising that the Libraries home page is so frequently visited.

A sample of  Spring, Summer, and Fall was taken because a complete range of data was not available for the Spring and Fall semesters. In the future, we will compile semester-long snapshots; for now, though, it is clear that judging by partial semesters only, the Libraries home page is among the most visited and most popular on campus!


UT Digital Repository Asset Layout Updated with Icons

Steven Williams and Matthew Villalobos, of Technology Integration Services, collaborated with Amy Rushing and Colleen Lyon to improve the user experience of viewing files in the UT Digital Repository. The default display of a DSpace/Manakin repository is to display files, and their metadata, in a text representation across rows. In order to provide users with a more visual cue, graphic icons for the most frequently used file types were created. In order to associate a file type with its appropriate icon, XSL transformation was performed in the Manakin layer matching the object mime type with its icon.

In addition to using icons to help users quickly scan for file types, the metadata associated with the object has also been moved to a vertical display floating to the right of the icon. The vertical layout not only allows for an improved gaze path, but also provides more space for longer descriptions and spacing for future data like statistics.