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There’s No Place Like (a New) Homepage

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Starting Monday, Jan. 10, our homepage at–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.

Here is the nickel tour of specific features, with the numbers corresponding to the thumbnail at right, which itself links to a much larger image:

1 ) The Library’s current “header,” containing the Library’s 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 Library’s 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 Library’s collections and clips from concerts and events.  It uses use the Library’s 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,,, 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?

Comments (13)

  1. It looks like it’s going to be a very nice redesign – can’t wait to see it live!

  2. Looks Good! Access to the Library is improved and that’s a genuine benefit!

  3. I applaud the bigger page concept, and I appreciate knowing that 96% of web users have wide screens, (I can expand my own sites with that data in mind).

    I am not sure why you chose to use older technology for your video presentations, (flash), but I guess a modern video platform, (HTML5 or newer), is one of the improvements you have planned for the future.

    I feel so fortunate to be able to access the Library of Congress from my living room, that I am surprised at myself for being picky about your choice of video player.

    Thank you for this wonderful portal to our nations library. I look forward to the new and improved site.

  4. There’s No Place Like xxxxx old Homepage,….

  5. Very nice portal.

    I suggest that “Services” and “Visit the Library” should be higher, perhaps given similar treatment as “For Researchers.” Also, it would be nice to have thumbnails of more modern collections at the top center.

  6. Hi, Phil. Thanks for the comment.

    We have been moving to Flash mainly because of its wide-spread penetration with computer users (reportedly 99 percent). However, we are looking into additional technologies — and, as part of our new web strategy process, right now it’s fair to say that everything is on the table.

    By the way, we also post videos to YouTube and iTunes U, so we’re trying to give people several ways to view and download our content.


  7. A fresh homepage can be the start of great improvements. It is one way of encouraging people to visit your site.

  8. Now I must select a new default home page because this new home page takes about four times longer to load. Did anyone consider that some folks may still have dialup? Surely there are congressional constituents who do and would have appreciated some testing on your part to maximize access.

  9. Visit the Library should be higher on the page and researchers should be restored to the list of potential users. As an Information Desk volunteer links from these areas are among those I use most with new users of the library.

  10. Congratulations, it is a big step in your information architecture and a nice visual way to show the digital collections to the planet.
    Thanks for been there.

  11. I most certainly like this new page.
    A minor comment:
    Under 6) it says: “It uses use the Library’s new Flash-based video player,…”

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