By GUY LAMOLINARA
An already popular site on the Internet, one that has been cited by Point Communications and others as being one of the best, is likely to be getting a lot more traffic as a result of a redesigned homepage.
Under the ultimate direction of Dr. Billington and Associate Librarian Suzanne Thorin (who has since left the Library), a new homepage for the Library's World Wide Web site (http://www.loc.gov/) debuts July 6. It features more graphics and direct links to sites such as the American Memory historical collections, the THOMAS congressional database, the online catalog, copyright information and publications (such as the Information Bulletin and Civilization magazine).
The redesign was a collaborative effort overseen by this writer and the National Digital Library (NDL) Program's Virginia Sorkin, co-chairs of the Library's Internet Operations Team. While the Operations Team leaders oversaw the work, it was a group of designers who actually brought ideas to fruition. Robert Kinneary, Dominique Pickett, Glenn Ricci and David Yang, under the guidance of Jeff Bridgers, worked closely together, with advice from Elizabeth Miller of Library Services, Jill Brett, Public Affairs officer, and Beth Davis Brown of the NDL Program. Ben Shneiderman, head of the Human-Computer Interaction Laboratory at the University of Maryland at College Park, served as a consultant.
"The project was truly collaborative, with all concerned providing input into the final design," said Ms. Sorkin. "We were also able to accomplish our goal of an early July debut in a very short time."
The redesign of the homepage began with a March 22 meeting of the Library's Executive Committee, which decided to expand current policy-making and operations for the Library's Internet site. The committee came to the conclusion that "the Library's Internet presence is now the major publication of the Library of Congress" and that new Operations and Policy teams would be formed to direct Internet activities.
Four days later, the Policy Team met with Dr. Billington and the Executive Committee. Dr. Shneiderman began by presenting samplings of Web site designs, offering a critique of each. Dr. Billington stressed that the new homepage must have "maximum appeal to the American people," be informative and eliminate all lingo in its verbiage. The "flagship" programs presented on the page were to be the American Memory historical collections, the online catalog, THOMAS and the electronic copyright deposit system (CORDS), now being tested.
The designers worked to develop three graphic designs. On June 6 these prototypes were made available on a Web test site so that all staff working on the project could comment on the merits of each. Dr. Shneiderman made a presentation to Dr. Billington, who preferred the design with the boldest graphics. Again, the home-wpage was mounted on the test site for comments, and the Policy Team met on June 21 for a final critique. By June 27 all comments had been taken into consideration and a new prototype was developed.
Then a test phase began in which teachers, students and members of the general public were invited to use the site. Their comments were recorded and taken under advisement. As of press time, the final touches were being made.
What's next? The teams will begin work on redesigning the "subpages," to provide a common look to the Library's Web presence that still allows for variations.
Now that the new homepage is in the "public domain," the Library is interested in what the broader public thinks. After using the page, feel free to click on the comment area and tell us.