Commerce Departmental Library – Usability Case Study

Jan 23, 2013

A website with too much information on the homepage, or any page, will overwhelm users in less than a second. They will be unable to find a starting point to accomplish what they came there to do. If users are not able to locate the information they need and/or are unable to get past the homepage, they will go to another website to look for the information they are seeking.

The DigitalGov User Experience Program helped test the U.S. Department of Commerce Library website in November 2012. The Commerce team made some small changes that had significant impact.

Problem 1: Top Navigation Labels Too Vague

The labels in the top navigation are too vague and didn’t successfully convey to users what information lies beyond the link.

Solution 1: Rename Navigation Labels

Labels in the top navigation were changed to make it clearer about what information it contains. For example, “E-Resources A-Z” was changed to “Databases A-Z,” “Subject Guides” was changed to “Databases by Subject,” and “E-Gov Docs” was changed to “Government Docs.

Problem 2: Left Column Too Long

The left-hand column was really long, had too much information and too many links.

Solution 2: Move Left Column Information

The Quick Links remained in the left-hand column, but the rest of the information was moved elsewhere on the page or moved to another page on the site. The amount of information in the left-hand column was reduced, making the column shorter, which makes the page look less overwhelming.

Problem 3: Right Column Using Too Many Fonts and Important Information Hard to Find

The right-hand column used so many different fonts and styles that it was hard to read. And the most important information—the training schedule—wasn’t at the top of the page.

Solution 3: Move Less Important Information

The Training Schedule remained and the Library Newsletter information from the left-hand column was moved to the right-hand side. The rest of the information was moved to reduce the information overload of that area of the page.

Based on the usability data gathered from their test, the Commerce Department Library made the following changes to enhance the usability of their website.