How a new, user-friendly interface greatly increased mobile adoption for a high-profile public library’s website

For 125 years, the District of Columbia Public Library (DCPL) has been a hub of vibrant community activity. DCPL knew its website was a different story. Low-income areas weren’t using its collection of over 15 million digital resources. 

Capitalizing off of data from our analytics tool, we developed a new user-friendly interface which increased use of DCPL's online services by 20% in just one year.

Here's how we did it.  

More Equitable Access to DCPL’s Digital Collections With a New Interface

When DCPL asked us to help increase consumption of their millions of digital resources, we began by gleaning more data through a variety of research methods. We further customized our proprietary analytics tool, Voice of Patron®, so it asked patrons specifically about their awareness of the digital resources during a site visit. We supplemented Voice of Patron® information with in-branch patron and staff surveys and focus group results to understand the scope of the digital divide. 

Our research showed less than half of the library’s patrons were aware of the digital resources, and lower-income areas accessed digital resources at an even lower rate. In addition, patrons felt the current DCPL site navigation was confusing and time consuming. 

The solution to DCPL’s digital inequity was twofold. 

First, we developed a new user-friendly interface — GoDigital — that functions similarly to popular consumer digital interfaces. GoDigital includes a back-end tagging system that makes it easy for content managers to organize and feature resources. Patrons can explore by title, subject, or medium and filter and display results in a card-style layout. The search interface, “WATCH READ LISTEN LEARN” is now commonly adopted by public library systems across the country. 

Next, we helped DCPL develop a separate, physical public relations campaign designed to drive awareness of GoDigital. Ads on buses, subways, and the radio were a necessary counterpart to our digital efforts. D.C. residents became familiar with GoDigital without having to walk through the DCPL digital front door first. 

20% Increase in Mobile Utilization of DCPL Online Services

Unquestionably, the multi-pronged effort enabled DCPL to make great strides toward its goal of reaching new users who live in the targeted zip codes.

As a result of the creation of GoDigital, DCPL was awarded the 2018 John Cotton Dana Public Relations Award and the 2018 John Iliff Award

GoDigital has become a model program for other public libraries seeking to enhance access to their digital collections and usage of online music, books, classes and more. Our partnership with DCPL was successful due to:

  • Voice of Patron’s research and analytics. Voice of Patron® gave DCPL a truer picture of patron awareness of their resources.
  • GoDigital’s content and UX strategy. GoDigital produced an intuitive portal to the library’s millions of digital assets.

Your library website may only be serving some of the many. Let’s talk about how to practice real digital inclusivity .