UX Audit

Dr. Julia Hypothetical
Director, Sunnydale Public Library
13 Aspen Drive
Sunnydale, CA

Molly McKinney
Mollificent User Experience Consulting (MUSEC)
45 Usability Way, Suite A
Castro Valley, CA

 Dear Dr. Hypothetical,

 Thank you for your interest in Mollificent User Experience Consulting. I am happy to provide you with more information about what our firm can do for your library! Here is a brief overview of the UX audit process.

Why UX?

Libraries work hard to maintain relevance in today’s digital world. Library members turn to libraries for a positive experience, but it is possible for us to lose focus on our mission and fail to provide that delightful experience. Libraries need to give back value to the larger host systems of which they are a part (Rodger, 2007). In Subject to Change: Creating Great Products and Services for an Uncertain World, the authors write about creating the “long Wow!”–creating an experience that “delights, anticipates the needs of, or pleasantly surprises the customer” (Merholz, Verba and Wilkens, 2008, p. 131). We anticipate the needs of library members when we make necessary tasks, such as paying fines or placing holds, easy and convenient. We also can surprise and delight members with services that add value to their lives. Additionally, since the mission of the public library is to provide access for all, a focus on user experience improves the equity of information and is a social justice issue (Harihareswara, 2015).


To assess the library, we follow a three phase process of getting staff involved, doing research to get to know your users, and assessing the library to get to know your own library with fresh eyes.

Get Staff Involved

Everyone in the library should be involved with a user experience audit. If this is not feasible, a representative UX team should be selected, allowing all stakeholding groups meaningful participation in the process. Knowledgeable input from staff helps set the right goals for the audit and staff buy-in will make the UX audit a beneficial and successful project for your library. We will meet with staff members and set the goals for this project.

Service Safaris

To get staff into the UX mindset, we encourage them to participate in service safaris to other libraries or other types of service providers, doing a task as simple as ordering a cup of coffee or picking up drycleaning, while taking notes about the experience and how it goes well or falls short. This simple and fun activity helps open your eyes to user experience, an awareness that staff can then apply to their own library. (Schmidt, March 5, 2012).

Get to Know Your Users

User research to understand what your library members need and want from your library is the next important step in the UX audit. To get a general picture, we use traditional methods of information gathering, such as community surveys and collecting demographic information, but we also encourage more qualitative information-gathering to get some depth of information.

Surveys and Demographic Information

These traditional methods of information gathering help provide a big picture of library members, after which we can investigate in more detail with some in-depth user research methods.

User Interviews

Even a few interviews with library members can provide a wealth of information that surveys and demographics miss. In user interviews we seek to drill down to get rich insight into members’ goals (Schmidt, January 18, 2012).

Persona Development

After surveys and interviews, we develop fictional representative personas of library members that will help guide our planning for user experience (Schmidt (2012, October 3).

Contextual Inquiry

Members of the UX will spend time in the library observing how patrons accomplish common tasks, and note any pitfalls. After observing and taking notes, we brainstorm potential solutions for any obstacles (Schmidt, 2011, June 1).

Get to Know Your Library

Once the UX team has developed a sense of your library members’ goals, we turn our attention to assessing the library and how well it meets them. We assess both the library’s web presence and the physical library and how it facilitates library member tasks.

Content Audit

Reviewing the pages of your library website provides a big picture assessment of the usability of the site. A content audit also helps in the later process of prioritizing changes, since a content audit spreadsheet can be manipulated to see patterns (Detzi, 2012).

Journey Maps

Journey maps are flow charts that outline how members accomplish principal tasks at your library. By noting every step in a given task (such as reserving a meeting room), we can uncover obstacles that get in the way of a superior user experience (Churruca, 2013, March 17).

Signage Audit

Libraries need to convey a great deal of information about programs, services and policies. Sometimes in the rush to get as much useful information out there as we can, our signage becomes overwhelming, or fails to convey the tone we wish it would. By examining the library signage we regain control of the message we convey and improve the comprehensibility of signage (Schmidt, 2011, February 1). 

Post Assessment

After we have gone through these steps and made a thorough assessment of your members and your library, our team will work with your staff to prioritize issues and propose solutions within the framework of your available resources. We are experienced at helping libraries get the biggest return on change efforts and can help you chart a long term plan for being responsive to user experience as well.

 Please let me know if you have any further questions and I will be happy to answer them. We look forward to working with your library.

Molly McKinney 


 Churruca, S. (2013, March 17). Experience maps, user journeys and more. [Web log]. UX Lady. Retrieved from http://www.ux-lady.com/experience-maps-user-journey-and-more-exp-map-layout/

 Detzi, C. (2012, March 20). From content Audit to design insight:  How a content audit facilitates decision-making and influences design strategy [Web log]. UX Magazine. Retrieved from http://uxmag.com/articles/from-content-audit-to-design-insight

 Harihareswara, S. (2015). User experience is a social justice issue. code4lib (28). Retrieved from http://journal.code4lib.org/articles/10482

 Merholz, P., Schauer, B., Verba, D. & Wilkens, T. (2008). Subject to Change: Creating Great Products and Services for an Uncertain World. Sebastopol, CA: O’Reilly.

 Rodger, E.J. (2007). What’s a library worth? American Libraries: September 2007, 59-60.

 Schmidt, A. (2011, February 1). Signs of good design | The user experience [Web log]. Library Journal. Retrieved from http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2011/02/opinion/aaron-schmidt/signs-of-good-design-the-user-experience/

 Schmidt, A. (2011, June 1). Getting to know your patrons | The user experience [Web log]. Library Journal. Retrieved from http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2011/06/opinion/aaron-schmidt/getting-to-know-your-patrons-the-user-experience

 Schmidt, A. (2012, January 8). The user interview challenge | The user experience [Web log]. Library Journal. Retrieved from http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2012/01/opinion/aaron-schmidt/the-user-interview-challenge-the-user-experience/

 Schmidt, A. (2012, March 5). Stepping out of the library | The user experience [Web log]. Library Journal. Retrieved from http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2012/03/opinion/aaron-schmidt/stepping-out-of-the-library-the-user-experience/

 Schmidt, A. (2012, October 3). Persona guidance | The user experience [Web log]. Library Journal. Retrieved from http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2012/10/opinion/aaron-schmidt/persona-guidance-the-user-experience/


About mollificence

library student, writer, mom, Kindle addict View all posts by mollificence

8 responses to “UX Audit

  • angela

    This looks like a very well put together proposal and I like that you kept the language simple and not too cumbersome. Excellent ‘writing for the web’ techniques!

    • mollificence

      Thanks! Also “writing for business”–decisionmakers want the executive summary, not the whole kit and caboodle (although I couldn’t help myself throwing in links to more detailed information in case someone *wanted* more…)

  • jennk

    Really well organized – a great introduction to UX for the just-beginning-beginning-to-think-about-it library.

  • libtechgeek

    Great overview! I especially like the reference list and in-text citations. I know when the eport comes I’m going to freak out because I didn’t do this…you’ll be well prepared!

    • mollificence

      Ha—I have to do eport in the fall so it is on my mind. Sometimes I look back at the discussion posts I saved from early in the program and kick myself for not citing everything. 😀

  • chris

    This is very well thought out. I like your up front emphasis on staff involvement and “buy in”.

    • mollificence

      Thanks! Making executive decisions without buy-in will get you nowhere fast. (My children have taught me this, ha ha.) In all seriousness, though, it’s one of the most important parts of any major project.

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