Web Design Evaluation: Seattle Public Library

Navigation

Visiting this website immediately after Multnomah County Library’s, I was jolted by how colorful it is. Let’s table that for now and concentrate on navigation. The layout of Seattle Public Library’s website is quite consistent. When I clicked through the different titles on the image map successively, I had visual proof that the structure, the “bones” of the pages stay pretty much the same. Good news for a new visitor.

It’s a good thing that the image map is located at the top and not to the side; it would get lost amongst all the color. I understand that the designer(s) wanted to emphasize each of the sections instead of the image map but since it is the main vehicle of navigation, it would help if the font was bigger or if it was more prominent. The baby blue shade makes it blend into the background and appear “shy.” Luckily, the image map titles change color to show the user where he/she is.

In the home page, there are two navigation lists adjacent to each other that confused me at first. Which one was my primary road map? I felt a bit abandoned. On exploring them, I noticed how different they were. The “Quick Links” list offered fast access to popular information while “Audiences” was a list that caters to specific user groups. I wonder why the “Audiences” list is present on the home page when this section has a prominent place on the image map already. I believe that removing the “Audiences” list would be best. It would reduce the confusion and clear up a busy home page.

Visual Design

Learning the visual design of  Seattle Public Library‘s webpage requires patience and persistence. I am worried that some first-time users would be turned away by this aspect. That would be too bad because someone put in much work to color-code the site.  The colors chosen for each page intuitively make sense. “Audiences” (orange) made me think of skin tone, “Using the Library” (lavender) brought to mind the calming effect of this institution, “Library Collection” (hunter green) made me think of old encyclopedias and “Calendar of Events” (grey) is appropriately an executive color. I could go on but now I am thinking that each user brings his/her own background and they may not make the same connections I did.

While the colors are nice on the eyes, they are not always consistent. The yellow of the “Library Locator” box present in almost every page is not always the avocado-green of the “Location” section that it relates to. On most of the pages, this little box is a corn-yellow instead. Compare this to the “Search the Library” catalog box. It is always a teal-shade of green and this shade connects it to the “Library Collection” page. It is possible that I am just being nitpicky about this but it’s the little things that make a difference.

Accessibility

Accessibility is an area where Seattle Public Library’s page could be improved. The website design is consistent but it is not simple. The background is busy with colors, lists, graphics, etc. Granted, this is a big library and they have much information to share. However, some users can only access part of it. I’m thinking of people with low vision primarily. There is so much for them to absorb at once. Luckily, Seattle Public Library’s ADA/Special Services offerings are easily accessible through the “Audiences” list present on their home page.  I changed my mind about it. It can stay.

That same “Audiences” list serves the needs of diverse populations such as Chinese, Vietnamese, Russian, Soomaali and Spanish speakers. Here they can find library programs in their native languages and information pertinent to their community. I can’t speak for the other languages but, as a native Spanish speaker, the Spanish sections are like a mini-website within the greater Seattle Public Library site. They don’t share the same image map titles as the English version but it is accessible and appropriate to Latinos.

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