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User Experience Team Proposal

User Experience Team Proposal


UX Investigation Team

Sue Searing

Beth Sandore

David Ward

Jenny Emanuel

Jim Hahn

Kirstin Dougan

Jen-Chien Yu

Robert Slater

Jim Dohle

UX Definition

Background Reading



User studies have a long tradition across the University of Illinois Library.  User Experience is a newer discipline that extends some of the techniques from usability studies, and integrates them into a holistic environment incorporating expertise from the fields of interaction design, information architecture, user research, writing copy, and visual design.  The effect of UX methods is a comprehensive understanding of optimal service design, regardless of touch point, service, or building. One of the pioneers of online usability studies, Jakob Nielsen, describes User Experience (UX) as encompassing “all aspects of the end-user's interaction with the company, its services, and its products.”  Where usability studies examine whether a user can accomplish a specific goal efficiently and clearly, User Experience adds to this knowledge by examining such issues as usefulness, desirability, credibility, and accessibility.


In the library environment, this includes user interactions with our diverse online environment (including mobile, browser-based, and other interactions), as well as the physical environment of our collection, study areas, social spaces, and help desks. Increasingly, forward-looking academic libraries view UX work as critical to the practice of evidence-based librarianship, and are incorporating UX into formal job descriptions and work plans.  This document outlines a possible approach to implementing UX on a more formalized basis in the University of Illinois Library.  As part of preparing this document, UX librarians and departments from the University of Michigan, University of North Carolina, MIT, and Rice were consulted for advice on how they created successful programs at their institutions.

Team Overview and Scope


UX Portfolio


The Investigation Team members noted above propose forming a UX Team with dedicated membership to build core functional specialty in this area, and to help the library address gaps in meeting desired user expectations, as evidenced by studies such as LibQual.  The proposed UX team will have two primary goals – first, to help identify, research, and share best practices for designing high quality, efficient, and pleasant user experiences across the Library.  Second, the group will be available to lead individual UX projects, where interested parties lack either the time, expertise, or resources to conduct them on their own, or desire multiple viewpoints on choosing a UX approach, analyzing data, or implementing findings.  By having an ongoing, consistent group of individuals collaborating on UX, institutional knowledge of best practices can be carried forward in a more consistent and timely manner, and it becomes possible to have strategic discussions about the types of user experiences the library wants to create as new discovery tools and physical spaces are designed.


Many studies are conducted throughout the University Library on user interactions with both physical and virtual services and collections, but we do not systematically share research findings. Nor do we have a baseline library-wide definition or vision of the optimal digital search experience. A corresponding physical vision for the library experience is not consistently nor centrally articulated. This is all to say that knowledge of best practices, when they exist, is frequently siloed within individual faculty and staff, and not shared or carried over from one project to the next.  By creating a central focus on UX within and across the University Library, our broader vision of service can be more easily achieved, and users better connected with information and expertise of the Library. 


The UX Team will serve as a resource group for individual library units and librarians to consult and conduct user experience studies, as well as assist broader committees such as CAPT, RSC, or NSM implementation groups that might have UX needs.  The team will advise its partners on outside research, best practices, and methods to utilize available resources to meet user needs.  The results of the UX Team’s work can then be implemented by individual library units, as well as shared more broadly to inform colleagues who may be facing similar issues and challenges.  As part of this work, the UX team will work with the Library Assessment Coordinator to expand the clearinghouse for all the studies the Library has done, and maintain a “state of the studies” report and web site to help share this knowledge.

Team Activities


The UX Team will solicit project proposals across the library, and then work in conjunction with library administration to select two to three projects per semester to work on.  Projects will be self-contained, focusing on data collection and implementation recommendations. Each project will include relevant internal faculty and staff (including the proposal authors) to assist in guiding the project.  Outputs will vary based on the project, but all will end with a final report to library administration, and include recommendations for implementation, necessary personnel, and other resources required to successfully complete the project.


It should be noted that the UX group makes recommendations to administration, but has no actual authority over individual units, librarians, or others they collaborate with.  Rather, the group serves as a resource to conduct studies and make recommendations based on the evidence received to the appropriate stakeholders – typically, library administration and initial requester(s).


A typical project workflow will include the following steps:


Example projects include:

Organizational Structure

The AUL for User Services and the AUL for Research and Technology share oversight of the team. 



The team’s membership will include 1.4 FTE faculty, some percentage of the Library Assessment Coordinator, and up to 3.0 FTE academic professionals, classified staff, or academic hourlies, many of whom will be shared with Library IT as indicated below.  Initially the UX effort may strain the re-assigned team members’ home units.  In the long run, however, improvements in the user experience should reduce the demand on staff Library-wide to assist with wayfinding, website interpretation, content discovery, and so on.


Full Time Member

Part-Time Members

Members include:




Resource Members

The following individuals will be brought in to consult on areas within their day-to-day responsibilities, and to help ensure consistency across projects.  They are not expected to attend regular meetings, but instead to provide expertise scoping projects and evaluate the impact of research findings on current and future activities in their area once data is collected.


Web Projects:


Physical Space Projects:


Team Assessment

The UX team organization and approach will be evaluated by library administration (EC and the AULs) after 3 years.


Visualizations of some UX workflows and organizational structures