Consider the Special Library User Experience: User Interface Design

Lauren Hays

Lauren Hays

November 12, 2019
Whether you work in a museum, special library, or archive, your web presence is important. In my last post I wrote about usability. In this post, I will share information about the second subsection of user experience design: user interface design.

According to the Interaction Design Foundation, “User interface (UI) design is the process of making interfaces in software or computerized devices with a focus on looks or style. Designers aim to create designs users will find easy to use and pleasurable. UI design typically refers to graphical user interfaces but also includes others, such as voice-controlled ones.

Principles of Good User Interface Design

  • Keep your site simple.
  • Do not crowd your site. Instead, each item on the page should serve a function.
  • Form follows function. Make sure everything works as expected. This principle mainly applies to commonly used features of the web including buttons, search boxes, bread crumbs, and icons.
  • Design your site knowing how people read on the web. Most people read in an F pattern or a Z pattern.
  • The Z Pattern — In designs without much text, our eye starts scanning from top left to top right, then diagonally down to bottom left, stopping at the bottom right.
  • The F Pattern — In designs with more text, we scan across the top, from left to right, then down the left, searching for clues to what we want to know. On finding one, we’ll scan across to the right” (Soegaard, 2019, para 26-27).
  • Create sub-headings for effective scanning.
  • Maintain consistency of the look and feel of the site.
  • Additional principles can be found at the Interaction Design Foundation’s site and from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Application of User Interface Design

In your special library, museum, or archive, you will want to think specifically about how to incorporate user interface design principles on your website. Of course, you may not personally be designing the site and therefore you will need to engage in activities that help you know what is important and what should be emphasized—and then convey that information to the website designers. Remembering to keep usability as part of the process, I recommend the following:

  • Bring all internal stakeholders together to discuss the goal of your website.
  • Once the goal is determined, discuss what should be emphasized to meet the goal.
  • Discuss the hierarchy of topics and how to best organize content.
  • Identify headings and sub-headings.
  • Consider what buttons and forms you need on your site. Consider what can be pre-populated.
  • Be aware of color choices and recommend colors for branding, but that also work well on the web.
  • Ask the website designers to maintain a consistent look and feel.


Creating online spaces is necessary to engage with your audience. Often, the first impression a person receives of a special library is through its web presence. Therefore, keeping the user experience at the front of all website decisions can help your audience have positive feelings about your special library, museum, or archive.

Please watch for my next post on user experience design.

Recommended Resources

Interaction Design Foundation. (2019). What is user interface design? Retrieved from

Fadeyev, D. (2019). Using light, color, and contrast effectively in UI design. Usabilitypost. Retrieved from

Pernice, K. (2019). The layer-cake pattern of scanning content on the web. Nielson Norma Group. Retrieved from

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2019). User interface design basics. Retrieved from


Interaction Design Foundation. (2019). What is user interface design? Retrieved from

Soegaaard, M. (2019). Visual hierarchy: Organizing content to follow natural eye movement patterns. Interaction Design Foundation. Retrieved from

<a href="" target="_self">Lauren Hays</a>

Lauren Hays

Lauren Hays, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Instructional Technology at the University of Central Missouri. Previously, she worked as an Instructional and Research Librarian at a private college in the Kansas City metro-area. Prior to working in higher education, she was employed by the National Archives and Records Administration and worked as an intern at the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum. Please read more on Lauren’s skills for special librarians, and you may want to take a look at Lucidea’s powerful ILS, SydneyEnterprise.

Similar Posts

Leave a Comment

Comments are reviewed and must adhere to our comments policy.


Pin It on Pinterest

Share This