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Elevate, Streamline, & Redefine what a Library Should Be

Digital Strategy / Design & User Experience / Flexible Content / WordPress

Oomph is very proud to have worked with the Providence Public Library (PPL) on a new interface and platform for their primary digital presence. We have worked with PPL for a number of years, and with this project, we helped them replatform their website from Drupal 6 to WordPress and redesign the entire experience to be inline with their new brand.

The new brand for PPL was bold, colorful, and very modern but with a retro Pop-art sensibility. One can look at it as austere and powerful, while also seeing a playful side. The Library has been challenged to continually reinvent itself while the needs of its community change. The new brand intended to mark the beginning of a new stage that aims to be more open, inclusive, and diverse in the ways in which it can empower their community — through new spaces, new technology, and an updated mission.

Footnotes

  1. Oomph felt that the Pop-art approach to the new brand made sense — the Pop art movement took fine art and made it understandable and embraceable by the masses, largely by taking commercial art (like the labels of Campbell’s soup) and putting it on the walls of museums. The new brand tries to make the Library more approachable — to make this grand building feel like a home to a wider audience by redefining what a library can look like and what it can offer the public.

Rebrand & Rediscover the Mission & Values

Internally, the Library used this rebranding opportunity as a way to reset the website and take a step back to try and answer some basic questions — who is PPL, who does PPL serve, how does PPL communicate its mission, and how can the website function more successfully as the first point of contact? How can it be a concierge that expresses all the services, expertise, and information PPL can offer?

Our Discovery process led to an invaluable set of definitions for the project that helped lay the groundwork for a successful design phase, but also put some stakes in the ground as to what the website should accomplish and what it should not. Early on, we saw that the website needed to serve the community who use the services — unlike some non-profits that need to cater to the donor base. In the end, the people who use it most will also be their most ardent supporters — not everyone needs to support them in a monetary way, but anyone can support them by attending events, and communicating how important a space like this can be for the greater community.

The new brand was a lot of fun to work with. Early on, we took the assets and standards and iterated through them via a series of low fidelity Style Tiles. It was a great exercise that helped explore the application of the brand to the digital space. It was an interesting challenge to see how much of the bold, pop color we could incorporate into the page designs.

Style Tile Explorations

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Redesign & Reorganize the Content

A few things started to happen in parallel as the project moved forward — information architecture (IA), testing, and wireframing. PPL started to restructure the IA of the site, aiming to simplify the number of headings in the navigation from 10 sections to 7. We then took the proposed IA into a testing process with over 100 participants, and the results helped iterate the IA into a state where we all felt it would be successful.

Oomph also started to wireframe important landing pages for the new site, working with two different navigation patterns before settling on one direction. The wireframes explored the hierarchy of information on different types of landing pages and helped the entire team what information was the most important for each section.

Both of these things fed into several rounds of design mockups.

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Replatform the Data with Flexible Designs

Moving from Drupal to WordPress was one of the easier parts of this project, as the opportunity to scrap all of the old content and rewrite it was too good for the PPL team to pass up. The previous Drupal site had quite of bit of cruft that gathered over the years and it was more beneficial to start from zero rather than data dump from the old site into the new, sorting and evaluating content after the fact.

Internal resources at the Library that would maintain the new website took a significant portion of the work of entering new content and building out the pages. After a training session, the staff quickly acclimated themselves to the tools and worked through all of their content to ensure it was current and correct before launch. This process led to a very confident internal team that was ready to continually push new content onto the site.

One of the advantages of WordPress is the availability of many strong layout builders with powerful content editing and designing capabilities. Oomph was able to provide the Library staff with a number of pre-designed components and options to create and maintain visually engaging landing pages. These tools provide solutions that are mobile optimized and help content authors think about breaking long form content into manageable “chunks” for viewers to digest and understand.

Component Guide for Flexible Content

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Reframe the Library and Reinforce Community Support

One of the goals of the project was to underscore PPL’s nonprofit status, independent from City government. PPL wants to remain by the people, for the people — therefore, community support is vital. The site needed to communicate this message and promote an undercurrent of volunteerism, sponsorships, and monetary donations, no matter how large or small.

From as far back as Discovery, the Oomph team was challenged to think about PPL as more than a library — its a cultural institution. The library is a destination for visitors from far and wide, not just from Rhode Island. Many people find a home away from home at the Library, whether they are doing genealogical research, getting the chance to experience a rare book in person, taking a class, attending an exhibition, or exploring a special collection of objects and ephemera.

Early on in the process, our team was impressed with what PPL offers the public, so much so that we held one of our all-hands meeting in one of the Community rooms and stuck around for a behind the scenes tour of the collections and spaces.

"Working with Oomph was a fantastic and fun experience! Ellen and her talented team really understood the direction we were taking with our new brand. They designed an exciting and inviting, external presence for us that totally captures all of the energy and and excitement around the programs and services happening within the walls of the Providence Public Library. The backend of the new platform is easy for staff to use, and the features are extensible, so it can evolve as we do."

Beatrice Pulliam
Director of Technology & Information Services, Providence Public Library

Conclusion

While Oomph loves to work with companies of all shapes and sizes, and from all parts of the country, it is particularly rewarding to execute a fantastic project with an equally fantastic local institution. The leadership and staff at the library clearly love what they do, love giving people amazing resources, and we were honored to work so closely with them. We hope that a visitor to the new website takes the same journey that we did, and discovers the treasures that await them at the Providence Public Library.

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