Nica Lorber Senior UX Strategist
November 21, 2012


We helped Stanford’s Online Experience team create a living, growing online presence to connect people with the full expanse of Stanford University Libraries (SUL) resources. 

Usability and Content Creation

Our primary goal was to make the site more usable for students, faculty and staff. Our secondary goal was to give librarians easier ways to create and surface unique content.


Improving Content Discovery

We built a number of ways to direct users to helpful resources — sometimes even before they know what they’re looking for.

  1. Search
    We combined five search services across separate sites into one centralized search. AJAX-style return populates search results pages, which can be tailored by librarians to display specific, customized content for certain search terms
  2. Guides
    Course and topic guides give faculty and librarians an intuitive, reusable way to curate subject-specific content and related resources. Subject specialists drag-and-drop image galleries, lists of relevant links, catalogue results and more. All the content is centralized, so that guides in multiple subjects aren’t published in duplicate
  3. Microsites
    Librarians can create spaces dedicated to a specific branch, spotlighting preconfigured, custom content such as hours, news, staff profiles and special collections that are still integrated with the larger site and Stanford’s campus-wide systems
  4. Collections
    Collections pages showcase some of the most unique treasures of Stanford Libraries
  5. Chat
    Reference help is more approachable and accessible with chat integrated extensively throughout the site 

Empowering Librarians

We incorporated Workbench, a suite of tools to streamline and manage content workflows, along with automated alerts to notify libraries when parts of the site or content weren’t working. Custom displays created for one purpose are easily reusable for others, allowing librarians to focus on content rather than layout.

The life force of the library, librarians are also the core drivers of the new website. Beyond providing better, more diverse ways for them to connect people to various resources, we made it easier to manage and cultivate the website.

Success in the numbers

  • 2x
    Number of guides has more than doubled
  • 70
    Over 70 course guides have been created in less than 1 year
  • 130
    Over 130 topic guides created in less than 1 year

Making it happen

Despite its sheer complexity, the Stanford Libraries project was a success because of a few critical ingredients:

  1. Collaboration
    Chapter Three and SUL Developers worked together regularly and we developed a unique working relationship: anything to make the project work
  2. Commitment
    The SUL team committed, from the outset, to fully investing its time, thought and resources to the project
  3. Vision
    SUL understood that success lay in the long-term maintenance of its website, and that involvement in the development process would make this possible