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SpringyNews: FUNctional Design

January 2017

5 Tips & Tricks for Designing LibGuides for Your Users

At the very heart of design lies function, a function that the website, software, tool, book, or even a piece of furniture is expected to perform.

And when designing a website to accomplish a specific function, it is important to consider who will be using it and what they intend to do with it.

This edition of LibGuides Tips & Tricks focuses on the most important aspect of functional design - your audience.

1. Focus On Community Issues

In our September 2015 newsletter, we mentioned the importance of creating targeted, personalized LibGuides.  Creating personalized LibGuides fosters feelings of community and connection between your patrons and the Library. The examples we outlined specifically reference course or assignment-specific guides, author readings, or featuring local artists. 

Several of this year's SpringyCamp conference presentations were focused on social justice, which inspired us to provide this tip: go beyond the examples we initially shared and explore social issues in your community. For example, issues that concern diversity, injustice, inclusion, privilege, and equality.

Client Examples

Libraries and social services—and, I would argue, the pursuit of social justice—are longstanding natural partners.

- Rachel Lockman
​ College & Research Library News
April 2015. Vol. 76, No. 4

Baton Rouge Civil Rights
East Baton Rouge Parish Library
Civil Rights LibGuide
Boston Public Library 4H LibGuide
Boston Public Library
Housing, Health, Hunger & Help
Black Lives Matter LibGuide
LaGuardia Community College
Teaching #BlackLivesMatter

Creating LibGuides addressing social justice issues creates another opportunity for you to connect with your community. As Rachel Lockman states, "Let’s start a social justice revolution through our everyday work as academic librarians. Let’s harness microactivism in a library context—in our reference interactions with patrons, in our selection of materials, in our curricula, in our cataloging practices—in every area of our days on the job." (College & Research Library News, April 2015)

2. Create Strong Visuals with the New Gallery Box Options

A big aspect of functional design focuses on visual elements. Human beings are naturally drawn to thing we find pretty... this is the aesthetic value of design.

Adding impactful visuals captivates users, draws them in, and appeals to their sense of sight. However, visuals shouldn't be used just for the sake of 'adding something pretty.' Successful use of images will not detract from the function of your LibGuide. Instead, it enhances function by engaging users and building interest (and trust!) in your brand.

A great way to add visuals, and promote your library content and resources, is through the new Gallery Box options.

More Than Just Pretty Pictures

With the new Gallery Box options, create visual slideshows showcasing:

  • Books from the Catalog
  • Featured LibGuides (Using Guide Thumbnails)
  • Databases from your A-Z List
  • LibCal Events
  • Images from your Image Manager Library
Gallery Box Options

Make Use of New Gallery Box Options

We've also added a  bunch of new settings to provide a creative way to tailor each Gallery Box to that LibGuides' function and purpose.

  • Auto-Play: Enable/Disable automatic slide advancing
  • Transition Type: Select slide or fade
  • Speed Controls: Adjust the time each image is on the screen and how long each transition takes
    • -Tip: Choose slower transitions for better accessibility
  • Slide Options: Display images in rows and select how many slides per row
  • Caption Position: Choose where (top, bottom, right, left, or none) to display captions
  • Caption Color Customization: Select the background and text colors. For optimal contrast:
    • - For dark images - choose a white background with black copy
    • - For white-toned images - go with a black background and white copy 

Best Practices for Images

Ways To Use the New Gallery Box!

Highlight New Book Purchases

New Books LibGuides Gallery Box

Two Rows / Two Slides Per Row

Resources on a Specific Topic

Earth Day Resources

1 Row / 1 Slide Per Row

Showcase Upcoming LibCal Events

Upcoming Events

1 Row / 2 Slides Per Row


Two-row Grid, Auto-Play ON, No Captions, “Fade” Transition


Horizontal Books Carousel, Auto-play OFF, No Captions, Advance 6 at a Time

3. Properly Formatting Your LibGuides URLs

A fiercely important feature of functional web design is the formatting of your LibGuides URL. A properly-named and structured friendly URL has significant implications on user expectations.

When they see your URL:

  • What do they expect to see when they click the link?
  • What do they expect to happen when they edit your URL?
  • What do they expect to appear on a search engine results page?
  • When they click pages within your LibGuide, what do they expect to happen to the URL structure?

Nielsen Norman Group, URLs are UI

  • Short URLs
  • Easy-to-Type URLs
  • URLs that visualize the Site Structure
  • URLs that are "Hackable" - allowing users to move to higher levels of the information archtecture by hacking off the end of the URL.

4. Speak in their Language...Literally

Your LibGuides systems comes with some default boilerplate language. This makes it much easier, and faster, to use LibGuides as a turnkey software solution because you don't have to customize every single label. 

But, some of our default language might not work for your audience. 

Are librarians referred to as authors? Or as information specialists? 

Are LibGuides actually called LibGuides? Or do you call them InfoGuides? Or perhaps Pathfinders?

You don't have to change the language of your audience to fit LibGuides. Instead, change your LibGuides language to fit your audience's needs.

Where Can I Customize the Language?

System-Wide Language Customizations:

  • Admin-Only Users
  • Head to Admin > Look & Feel > Language Options
  • Select the Language Customization Bar

Group Language Customizations: (LibGuides CMS Only)

  • Admin-Only Users
  • Head to Admin > Groups > Edit Group > Language Options
  • Select the Language Customization Bar
LibGuides Language Customizations

Ways to Have Fun With Language Customizations

Celebrate fun holidays, play an April's Fool Prank, or just have fun with your language customizations. These might be way more fun for you than your users. Remember, all work and no play makes librarians go cray cray. 


In honor of Sir Terry Pratchett, make use of the made-up words and a language full of wizards, witches, tyrants, guides, and of course, the Luggage.

LibGuides Discworld Language Customization

Pig Latin

Eway ewknay ou’dyay ovelay isthay optionway!

LibGuides Pig Latin Language Customization

Princess Bride

We don’t want to live in a world where Princess Bride isn’t a language option. So put down the Iocane Powder, pardon us while we shout this a little louder, and this time we really mean it, any one got a peanut?

LibGuides Princess Bride Language Customization

5. Use Their Search Terms In Your Design (LibGuides CMS Only)

To better inform your language customizations and your guide creation, use your audience's actual LibGuides search terms in your content creation. (Navigate to Statistics > Searches to see what users search for.)

Plus, if you've always wanted to perform usability testing but lacked time, budget, or support - this type of data-mining is informal usability testing. 

This type of low-key, "in the trenches," guerilla testing can provide invaluable and ongoing feedback. A benefit for 'agile' content creation!

Agile Content Creation