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Welcome to the new Austin Public Library website!

Over the last two years, we’ve been working on a project to improve the Austin Public Library website to better serve our customers. Now, the new and improved website is live.

This update to the design and navigation for APL’s website is intended to improve the overall user experience (UX), make frequently sought content easier to find, and bring the website up to current industry standards for usability, mobile browser optimization, and accessibility.

How we got here
We knew that it wasn’t enough to just change the look and design of the website – it needed to be the website that our users expect and deserve.

Starting in 2021, we began a content and inventory audit (not unlike the process that librarians call “weeding”), looking at all of the content that was on our website, merging redundant pages, and removing out-of-date information.

We then started the process of improving the navigation. Over the years, as APL has added new digital resources and tools, the navigation of the website to find those things had gotten a little crowded, making it harder for people to find what they are looking for.

In partnership with a group of students at ACC working on a UX capstone project, we began user testing, and heuristic evaluation to find out what people were actually using the website for and how they expected to find it. We also conducted user research, journey mapping, and empathy mapping, using “card sorting” to help us discover how others would intuitively expect to find the resources they were looking for. In total, we conducted over 100 card sorts, for statistically accurate findings.

Library staff and other City of Austin employees helped with further testing. We also partnered with Open Austin to provide review and development advice, and had a dedicated team of volunteers who specifically helped with the user experience testing.

Based on the information gathered through this and other user testing, we created a new, user-focused navigation for the website to help you better find what you’re looking for – and discover some resources you maybe didn’t know you had access to!

New look
Besides improving the navigation, we also wanted to ensure that the website met current standards for accessibility and readability.

We based the design on standards set by the U.S. Web Design System (USWDS), a federal set of guidelines to help make sure government website design and user experiences are compliant with standards and best practices around readability and accessibility.

We also used the City of Austin Digital Style Guide, and did market analysis of other large public library systems that have recently launched new website designs, to ensure the new look would be consistent with both other City of Austin websites, as well as with the world-class library experience APL customers expect.

Future plans
Additional changes will be coming to the APL website in the coming weeks, months, and beyond.

A new homepage for the Austin History Center will be coming soon, as well as improvements to our event calendar.

We will continue to do testing and look at web analytics to find out how people are using the website so we can continue to make other changes.

But most importantly, we want to hear from you. If you have any concerns or confusion about finding content on the website, please submit it via our website feedback form.

Thanks for checking out the new APL website: designed to better help you discover, learn, and create!