The graphic design of the site is well done. The color scheme is consistent, everything is easy to read, and the pages are clean and professional looking. There are a couple of slips here and there, for example the poor image quality in the About – Tour page and the use of all-caps on the About – Mission page. The site does not have a particularly visible logo or brand, but that is not nearly as important here as it would be on a commercial site.
The navigation scheme is consistent as well, with the curving navigation bar from the homepage echoed by a slightly-smaller version on all the other pages. The section tier of categories are a little lost, through. Looking at the Programs page, for example, MLIS, SLIS at Columbus, Distance Ed. 12-12-12, and the other choices are in a pretty small font, in dark blue on a blue background. It might help users to emphasize them a little bit more, and perhaps highlight the currently-selected subsection, similar to the way the main links are highlighted. The organization of the site as a whole is fairly logical, although it is more item-centric than user-centric. Programs, Courses, Facilities, and People are logical divisions but do not align to the specific categories of users the site would expect to have, like prospective students, current students and faculty. There is more on this below.
There are a few general problems that need to be cleared up. The IAKM page and SLIS in Columbus page are separate sites, and that’s not clear from navigation. It’s also not clear what connection the programs have, and which information would be available in which site. In the People section, not all faculty have photos and curricula vitae, and many could use more information. Links are also inconsistent, since the name-links on the faculty page link to pages about each faculty member, whereas the name links under staff are mailto links. Another problem is the Links page, which includes SLIS Forms, Campus Links, LIS Resources, and Employment Resources. The forms are unrelated to the other sections, and users looking for any of the sections except Campus Links would probably not think to look under Links first. The General Campus Labs page is broken and the COSO link links to a page that links to a page that links to the actual site. Some of the links on the Archives and Preservation and Search Engines pages need to be updated as well. Some of the Employment resources, like the OLC job list and America’s Job Bank, are broken or should be updated. The site map, although useful, seems to map the file structure of the pages more than the navigation structure, and three copies of Vitae Template Page show up on site map.
A site can be a work of art, but if users can’t perform the tasks they’ve come to the site for, the site has failed. There are probably three main categories of users for this site: prospective students, who want to find out about the program and apply; current students, who want to find information on classes, contact and other information for faculty, and access resources (physical and electronic); and faculty, who want to communicate with and provide resources for students.
Assuming the perspective of a prospective student, the first task is finding out about the program. Is it the right program for the student? What does Library and Information Science cover exactly? The most obvious place to go from the homepage is the About SLIS section. The Virtual Tour looks promising, but is not much more than a gateway page linking to a single page with two photos worth of tour. The news page has some links of interest, though many are only pertinent to current students. The Mission and Tour pages provide information, but students considering several different schools are likely to ignore those pages. In fact, the most useful page, the student FAQ/infosheet, is linked to from the main About SLIS page but does not have a section of its own. The prospective student now must go back through the Programs, Facilities and People sections to get a better idea of what the school is all about.
Next for the prospective is applying, or at least finding out how to apply. The About SLIS section is no help, except for a link to the Forms page buried in the FAQ/infosheet. The Programs section of the site, however, is a bit more useful. If a prospective student looks there and goes to a particular program’s page, there are links to the appropriate information. Although it’s quite likely they will miss the Application Materials section of the Links – SLIS Forms page.
Current students also face some usability roadblocks. For example, it may seem easy to find out about classes at first glance – just go to Courses. Unfortunately, IAKM classes are not listed here, and Library Science students looking to take an IAKM class or two might expect them to be. Also, it’s awkward to have the course descriptions on one page and the schedule on another. So a student must first find a course with a good description, then flip over to see if it’s being offered, then flip back to see if that Friday class they can fit in is interesting, and so on. The Books page is similar. Finally, the Course Web Pages page doesn’t look complete, because only one professor has classes listed. It’s possible only one professor has taken advantage of it, but it will disappoint many students who go to it.
It is a little more difficult to evaluate how well faculty tasks can be accomplished without access to faculty members and whatever back end might be in place for creating course web pages. Judging by the pages in place, the SLIS site merely provides space and some kind of login security mechanism.
Many of the obstacles above could seem trivial, and overall the site is very usable. Most of the tasks could be accomplished without too much user guesswork, and the navigation scheme is done well enough to not require users to back their way out of levels and levels of pages.
Four other School of Library and Information Science websites were chosen to compare to Kent States, including:
University of Washington Information School
SLIS â€“ University of Kentucky
School of Information Science at the University of Pittsburgh http://www.sis.pitt.edu/%7Edlis/
Information Studies at Curtin University of Technology, Australia http://smi.curtin.edu.au/infostudies/index.cfm
While the Kent SLIS site opens with a navigation-heavy home page and a news section two tiers down, the UW site leads with news, with an Important Announcements section dominating the center column and a What’s Happening sidebar to the right. This makes the program seem current, important, and interestingâ€”Kent SLIS could definitely learn from this example. The items in the Important Announcements section hype the school and provide links to related sites, programs, and awards, not just full text press releases. In general this site also makes better use of photos.
On the whole the Kent SLIS site is better, but could take a lesson from UK by better addressing prospective students and again including some news information right n\on the home page.
This site does link to outside sites without giving real notification, much like the way Kent SLIS links to IAKM. For example, the MLIS subsection under Degrees and the Bibliofile link under DLIS. The MLIS link may be just as confusing, because it has separate course listings as well. The course schedule listings in the main site have links not only to course descriptions, but faculty homepages where available.
The Curtin homepage is much more attractive and striking than the Kent SLIS page, and like Kent it concentrates on navigation rather than content. The main sections, About, Course Information, Student Information, Staff and News are pretty clear, and definitely lend themselves well to the tasks of current students. Unfortunately not everything is as it seems; the Courses section is actually a list of programs with links to very plain info sheets that have course information, instead of a quick and easy way to check the schedule or find a class description. Worst of all, the About section, the most logical direction for any prospective student to go, is a big, blank under development page! This is completely useless, and really contrasts with the well-organized Student section.