Starting Monday, Jan. 10, our homepage at www.LOC.gov–our virtual “front door,” if you will–is getting a new look.
Periodically, the Library changes its homepage (and other parts of its site, of course) to make it more useful and more responsive to users’ needs. This is one of our most ambitious refreshes yet, and many of us are excited about it and what it portends.
It is a very early step in a much broader process under way at the Library to develop a comprehensive strategic plan for all of our web properties. Aside from heightened coherence and cohesiveness, a major goal is to put in place a new information architecture that will make our information, collections and services much easier to find and, overall, much more useful to you.
First, the most noticeable change is probably the sheer size of the page and quantity of information available. The homepage now extends “below the fold,” in newspaper-speak, to give us much more real estate, to mix a metaphor. The overall style has a fresher and more evolved look. The width of the page extends to 1024 pixels from the previous 800 pixels. (Surveys show that 96 percent of web users have a screen size of 1024 pixels or wider.)
Content is organized more logically into three columns, corresponding loosely with “who we are” (and visitor info), “what we have,” and “what we do.” Links to legislative information and copyright information, which are provided uniquely by the Library of Congress, are given greater prominence than before.
Perhaps most importantly, the page is far more link-rich than before. “Portal” sites (albeit a term that seems to be used less these days), which by necessity give a wide variety of content in divergent topics, have been trending in this direction–for instance, the websites of major daily newspapers. In addition, multiple links ensure that search engines will better index and rank our site.
1 ) The Librarys current “header,” containing the Librarys logo, the Ask a Librarian, Digital Collections, and Library Catalogs buttons, and the main Search field, will be maintained. This might change someday when a revised information architecture is put into place.
2 ) The top of the left column contains a rotating carousel of five graphics for events, information, or other featured content. The carousel changes automatically every five seconds, or users can click on the circular buttons to navigate or pause, and then click links to the specific content.
3 ) Below the rotating carousel is a set of links to content about the Library. These links include: The Librarys Mission, The History of the Library, Awards and Honors, Jobs and Fellowships, FAQs, Support the Library, and More about the Library. In addition, there are sections below that for news and events, visitor information, and information about exhibitions.
4 ) At the top of the middle column, which describes “what we have,” is a set of selected collection highlights. They are arranged by format, topic, or a user’s self-identified audience, such as librarians or teachers.
5 ) A shaded box for researchers highlights links to our catalogs and finding aids.
6 ) This section features videos about items in the Librarys collections and clips from concerts and events. It uses use the Librarys new Flash-based video player, which includes closed captions and full-screen viewing capabilities.
7 ) The Explore and Discover section at the bottom of the middle column allows the Library to feature frequently updated informational and educational content. This section initially includes links for Today in History, Places in the News, the Wise Guide, MyLoc.gov, Read.gov, and the Gateway to Knowledge website.
8 ) In the right column are the aforementioned, more prominent links to legislative information (THOMAS) and the functions of the U.S. Copyright Office, which is part of the Library of Congress.
9) The area below that has links to major Library programs and collaborative initiatives, listed in alphabetical order.
10) Rounding out the right column, the Services area contains a list of services the Library provides to the public or to the nation, also listed in alphabetical order.
Finally, the bottom of the page, spanning all three columns, is the “global footer,” which will begin appearing across all the main web pages. It has links to the Library’s social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.), links to subscribe to RSS or email lists, and other useful information.
So that’s it, in a very big nutshell. What do you think?