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Latest Fixes & Improvements

Spring 2016 Website Updates

Wider maximum screen width

Our web content used to max out at 1080 pixels wide, showing “wings” on the edges for any screen larger than this. Our analytics show, however, that must users are using much larger desktop screens than 1080px, resulting in lots of wasted space “above the fold”. In response to this, we increased the maximum content with by 33%, to 1440 pixels.

3rd column

Increasing the screen width gave us room in the templates for a 3rd column of content. This extra column helps keep the main content from going on too long (long lines of text are not very readable), and allows us to provide more actionable and contextual information within the user's initial field of view.

Background image for large screens

In response to user feedback about the site being 'stark', 'unfinished' and 'too much like the mobile verson', we added a background image to the extra “wings” area outside the maximum 1440 pixels. This large, high-resolution image will only be loaded on screens where it will be seen (so not on mobile devices).

The image used is courtesy of graduating senior Abigail Cohn, and licensed Creative Commons 4.0 Attribution-NoDerivatives (used with explicit permission).

Finer tuning for smaller screens

While updating the templates for the increased width, we tuned the media queries and breakpoints to fold the content very smoothly for all possible screen solutions. Boxes and lines shouldn't break, crack, overlap or stretch in ways that break the flow of the content.

The 3rd column on the right will tuck under the left column on medium sized (iPad) screens. All columns will stack on small screens.

Feedback link replaced by Ask Us

Actual website feedback has decreased dramatically over Fall 2015, being replaced instead by a variety of help questions. This indicated that placing Ask Us in the space where Provide Feedback was would be more intuitive for users, and would hopefully get their questions answered more directly.

Website feedback can still be provided from the Site Contact link in the footer.

4 Main Action buttons simplified to “My Account”

User focus groups indicated some confusion about the meanings of the icons on the top bar, as well as a feeling of “garishness” or “childishness” due to the 4 colors. These buttons were also redundant with the 4 buttons on the homepage. Now, we only show My Account, with textual label, as our analytics showed users were not accessing Course Reserves or Research from pages other than the homepage, and Ask Us has been moved to above the top bar (on small screens, Ask Us moves into the top bar, next to My Account, to conserve space). This not only makes the actions available from the top bar clearer, but removes the redundancy on the homepage.

Refworks link on homepage

Focus group results showed a strong, particular desire for Refworks to be on the homepage. This replaces the My Account button which now lives solely in the top bar.

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Revised Ask Us

Chat with a librarian from any page on the site

The UMass Amherst Libraries are pleased to once again offer chat help directly from any page on the library website.  Just click the Ask Us button (green, second in from the left on the navigation bar) to see contact options for various service points on the left, and live chat on the right (stacked on mobile view),

Other changes include

  • Link to tutorial video on how to use the search box on the homepage
  • Google Sitemap added for better Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • UMA Links toggle arrow now actually toggling (was stuck pointed up)
  • 4 digit zipcode extensions added to Contact Info addresses
  • Hours hotline phone number added to Hours pages
  • Minor accessibility improvements
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Fall Semester Speedup

Performance enhancements added to website

The library website has received a major speed increase thanks to an enhanced caching system.  Most pages should return roughly 10x faster now, a wonderful improvement to site performance and stability under load.

Other changes for the Fall semester include:

  • Campus Links in the UMass bar at the top (consistent with campus-wide practices)
  • More intuitive searching and browsing of databases by subject and format
  • Simplified navigation menu; only one layer of dropdown for each main section
  • Search options specific for 5 College Catalog for searching from the homepage; you can now limit your search to specific fields including Title, Author, Subject and Call Number.
  • Better error handling around "open now" labels for library hours
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Library Hours calendar display

Hours for the various library locations and services are now displayed in calendar format, allowing for quick and easy viewing by day, week or month.  Other fixes bundled with this include:

  • Learning Commons, Teaching Commons, Digital Media Lab, and SCUA are now available directly under Locations in the topbar menu, instead of under Du Bois Library.
  • Dropdown menus now display on the right instead of the left, matching the direction of the arrows, and red highlighting is enabled on mouseover.
  • Required form fields are indicated with a *
  • YouTube player icon is used instead of the stacked wordmark icon (per University branding policy)
  • Citation Linker added as the Advanced Search option for E-journals search on the home page
  • RSS feed link on News pages
  • Numerous broken links fixed site-wide
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Databases now sorted by Relevance

Most-used databases now appear

The Databases & Collections list now puts the most commonly used databases at the top, instead of a strictly alphabetical list.  Such databases include Web of Science, Academic Search Premier, PsycInfo, PubMed, CINAHL and JSTOR.  Search by name or subject/format still work as before.

We are currently working on improvements to the Subject and Format browsing to make them more intuitive and user-friendly.

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Fixes for the week of June 21st

including improvements to sidebar menus

Our major improvement this week is to the way sidebar menus behave in the site.  Previously, not all menus had links back to the parent page, leaving users stranded on certain pages deeper in the site.  This fix addresses that issue, as well as many under-the-hood exceptions for a more consistent and usable experience.

Other fixes include:

  • Database links in search results are now permalinked; copy and paste as you wish.
  • Database search results now return 15 at a time (up from 10)
  • Narrower subject terms within Business & Management category
  • Accessibility enhancements to page Alerts
  • New Social Media icons available for sidebar (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube)
  • Add Research Consultation option to Research popup


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Fixes for the week of June 8

A few smaller fixes this week while we work on bigger improvements.

  • Screen 'shake' when mousing over About Us section of the menu bar on short pages fixed
  • W.E.B. Du Bois Center added to top-level Locations menu
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Fixes for the week of May 18

Including Advanced Search of 5C Catalog

A smattering of smaller fixes today while we develop and test some larger ones.

  • Links to the advanced search interfaces for UMA WorldCat and the 5 College Catalog
  • Better refinement of databases by subject
  • Special Collections legacy links (/spcoll/* and imagefinder) repaired
  • eMarketer trial re-added to Databases list
  • Event Request Form linked to Library Event Policy
  • People's phone numbers now callable from mobile devices
  • People results listings and popup people profiles use consistent layout
  • Display complete News entry for Electronic Resources and Fixes/Improvements news
  • Student jobs link fixed
  • Visual cues added to homepage search box to indicate the scope values are not just dead links.
  • Add confirmation message to the feedback form letting users know their submission has indeed be sent.

We also had to deal with some site-wide slowness this week, which is not directly related to the new look and feel of the website. Thank you all for your patience as we work out the kinks with this website migration, and implement improvements based on your feedback.

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Google Scholar search returns to Home Page

Back by Popular Request

google scholar

Proxied, direct Google Scholar search has returned to the library homepage. Just select the 'Google Scholar' scope from underneath the main searchbox on the home page, and get UMass-relevant results from on or off campus.

Other fixes today:

  • Arte Público Hispanic Historical Collection title fixed (bad Unicode encoding)
  • Research Consultation form updated to include preferred times

In the works:

  • Better relevancy ranking and subject navigation of databases
  • Dropdown search options for 5 College Catalog search on homepage
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Fixes for May 15, 2015

Further fixes based on your feedback:

  • The database search box button was not responding when clicked
  • The site search magnifying glass icon in the UMass banner was hiding the UMass Amherst wordmark and the search input briefly before returning results
  • iCal feeds for Locations weren't validating
  • Number of subjects for Web of Science reduced to save conserve space; now only showing the broadest subject areas covered.
  • Broken links to, ILL FAQs and feedback form fixed on ILL login page
  • Streaming videos scripts for reserves migrated
  • Event & Publicity request form URL fixed

There are many additional improvements in the works for next week.  A few of the highlights:

  • Proxied Google Scholar search from the library homepage again
  • Dropdown options for 5 College Catalog search (title, author, etc)
  • Improved relevancy ranking for database search results
Read more »