Accessible, mobile-first SharePoint website delights Auckland Libraries customers

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Auckland Libraries worked with Theta to develop a website that would delight its customers, while being mobile-friendly, accessible and ready for the future.

Auckland Libraries’ previous website was created in 2010, when seven library websites were merged into one as part of the Super City amalgamation.

Built on SharePoint 2007, which would soon be unsupported, the website had reached the end of its useful life. Digital Delivery Lead Joshua Ong outlines the problem:

“Our old site was starting to fail in serving customer needs. It constrained our ability to adapt to the changing expectations of users, and to manage content efficiently.” 

A fresh approach was needed to deliver a website that would be “more usable, useful and delightful” for library customers, and easier for Libraries staff to manage and maintain.

Katrina Baillie, Auckland Libraries’ Digital Experience Lead, explains: 

“We started with a blank slate. This meant beginning with customer research, and from there developing a customer-centric vision and strategy that would guide our design and decision making throughout.”

 Auckland Libraries worked with four partners to deliver the different phases of the website project, with Theta responsible for the build of the new site in SharePoint 2013. This is the same platform used by Auckland Council, enabling the site to be supported by the council’s web and mobile team.

Close collaboration adds value

Katrina Baillie describes the project’s methodology as “water-gile” – incorporating some principles of agile development within the requirements of a bigger programme. A bit like Theta’s pragmatic agile methodology. For this to work well, close collaboration with partners was essential, explains Baillie:

“The budget was fixed but we had some flexibility in scope, and could be agile there. Co-location with the Theta team made this easier – we could discuss different approaches and solutions, make decisions quickly, and view work in progress.”

She adds:

“The line between business requirements and solution can be blurry. It was great to work with developers who really got the vision for the project and we could trust to guide us to the right solution. We really felt that they cared about the outcome as much as we did.”

An engaged team and a focus on the big picture helped to negotiate that “blurry line” and meet the overall objectives of a complex project. The website was delivered within budget, giving us the flexibility to tackle extra tasks and deliver more value than originally anticipated.

An easy and intuitive web experience for Libraries customers

The new Auckland Libraries website, secure and maintainable on SharePoint 2013, is mobile-first and accessible. User feedback has been predominantly positive. The site is easy to use on mobile devices:

“The new page is much more user-friendly on mobile, thanks!”

The project included extensive third party testing, with the Blind Foundation and other agencies, to ensure the site is intuitive and accessible. 

“This new website is awesome!! I'm a year 9 at Avondale College, and have always used the public library services. I love the new website format; it is SO CLEAR and easy-to-use. Thank you so much.”

It also accommodates te reo Māori and other community languages, to better reflect Auckland’s diversity, with more content in Māori and additional content in other languages planned as part of the site’s ongoing development.

“Love the headings in Te reo! Would love to see even more of this.”

Simplified content management

As well as enhanced usability for library customers, the new website streamlines content management for library staff. We developed a system to accommodate the sometimes complex scheduling requirements of hundreds of library events held every week across Auckland (eg first Monday of the month except during school holidays). Previously, the process of uploading events was manual and time consuming.

New titles, Auckland Libraries’ most used content, are now dynamically updated via API.

Targeted serendipity

One of the goals of the website redevelopment was to enhance customer engagement with Auckland Libraries. 

“The website couldn’t be a virtual library. The online experience is very different, and quite transactional. We of course wanted to streamline the transactional side of things – make it easier to find the information you’re looking for, through design, architecture and accessibility. But we also wanted to capture some aspect of the physical library experience too, of discovery and delight.” Katrina Baillie

Other website features beyond the core catalogue – like new titles, book lists and events – provide this element of discovery and enhance opportunities to realise the project’s overarching vision of “targeted serendipity.”

“This is great. I am continually looking for new authors and this is very helpful.” Website feedback

Ready for the future

Personalised recommendations are part of the roadmap for the site, and will further enhance the “targeted” part of “targeted serendipity”. The site has been developed to accommodate account functionality, so that when personalisation and single sign on features are available, it’s just a matter of turning them on. Says Baillie “I’m looking forward to that moment when I can say ‘here’s something we prepared earlier.’”

Mirla Edmundson, General Manager Libraries and Information, says that the new site signals a new milestone in customer service.

“The current website has up to 20,000 views a day, and it was really important for us to deliver an intuitive and accessible experience for our customers.This first stage makes it easy for customers to find the content that matters most to them, and future development will deliver options for more personalised experiences.”

Feedback suggests that the site is already delighting customers:

“This is all very exciting! You have breathed new life into the site and brought it into the 21st century. Information is easy to access-it is all very colourful and looks fun!” Website feedback