An Untangled Web
Web Services Librarian
Grand Valley State University Libraries, Allendale, MI
MLIS, University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, 2010
Check out his online cartoon strip, High Maintenance Machine
As a library website designer and librarian, Matthew Reidsma wants people to locate information; he doesn’t want to overwhelm them with complexity. By the time a person goes to a library website, he says, they already have admitted to themselves they need help. “Because our websites are incredibly complicated, they make people fail when they feel vulnerable,” he says.
Reidsma doesn’t want that to happen. To help online users of Grand Valley State University’s five libraries, he tests the website’s usability monthly, inviting everyone from the library dean to part-time worker to observe and give feedback. To help other designers, he shares online and at conferences the code that he and his students write and the tips to test usability and navigate website redesign politics. “It’s about working with people and having a dialog,” Reidsma says.
Reidsma was one of the first librarians to advocate for responsive web design, websites that work on all devices regardless of screen size, says Amanda Etches, head of discovery and access at University of Guelph Library, Ont., and a 2007 Mover & Shaker. She uses Reidsma’s work at Grand Valley as a “best-of-breed” example of responsive design. “He’s got a practical, human-centered approach to web development, and he readily shares his expertise regularly,” Etches says.
Consistent usability testing of his library’s website has led Reidsma to streamline the homepage gradually to its bare essentials and add an all-in-one search box. By focusing on the main services and finding tools users wanted, he removed almost 30 links and the term catalog from the homepage. Use rose and page views in 2012 increased 30 percent over 2011, he says. “It’s always about meeting the specific needs of your audience and thinking about whom you are targeting,” he says.
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