Redesigning the search experience of Victoria University library website

The Background

The first time I used the Victoria University library website for requesting a book, I was disappointed by the overall experience. It was complicated and confusing. The library home page looked busy and cluttered with every element shouting for attention. The search field was hidden among all these. It took me some time to make sense of it. But, deep inside, it is a very powerful repository of physical books and eBooks, journals, research articles, databases, thesis, audio and video materials and much more.

As one of its users, I felt compelled to redesign the library home page, especially the search experience and accepted it as my academic project.

So, here it goes!!

Disclaimer: This project was an individual academic project and not sponsored by the Victoria University. Since the time I worked on this project, Victoria University has redesigned the library website homepage with a much improvised version.

Victoria University library website

What Users Were Saying: Then

What users were saying

Project Goal

Based on the feedback from users, I came up with the following goals:

  1. Re-engineer the overall experience of using the library portal by redesigning the home page by re-organising and prioritising the contents with a better focus on search
  2. Simplify book request
  3. Inform users of updates with a new notification feature

Problem Statement

“How might we re-imagine the search experience of Victoria University library website so that students and staff can perform search, browse and request with ease thereby increasing the adoption rate among users”


Client: Academic project
Role: Research, UX/UI Design, Interaction design, User testing
Tools: Photoshop, Axure
Skills: User research, competitive analysis, affinity maps, journey maps, wireframes, interactive prototypes
3 weeks

The Redesign Resolutions

Based on the issues and challenges gathered from user research, my final design solution addressed it with the following resolutions:

Focused search with auto-complete

Focused search with auto-complete

The search is redefined as the primary component in the first-fold of the home page. Auto-complete feature is proposed for increasing search accuracy.

Introduced notification feature

Users can be kept informed and act upon any latest updates with the new notifications feature.

Book study room

Booking study room made simple

The new interface makes it quite easy and intuitive to book a study room for all the 4 campuses from a single window.

Easy book request

Users can now request resources from the search list page itself in just two clicks. To make the process simpler and faster, location, date, and duration is pre-populated.

Request a book
Search result categories

Categorised search results

Users get an categorised view of search results to help them narrow down resources

Chat-bot for help

Introduced a chat bot to help users with their queries, find resources and guide them to advanced features

Chat bot for help

What Users Are Saying: Now

What users are saying: now

The Solution Journey

Let’s examine the course of action I have taken to find a solution. 

I started my UX journey by first defining the scope of work. I decided to focus on the user’s journey from searching for a resource from the home page till it is requested.

Scope of work

Understanding the Current State

To understand the user pain points and challenges faced by users in the current state, I conducted heuristics analysis and user interviews with 3 users.

Current State Analysis

Heuristics analysis

Competitive Inspirations

Other University library portals revealed how search carried more focus than other elements.

User Research

There were 3 main user groups identified: undergraduates, postgraduates and staff/faculty. I defined my personas based on them. I looked for users who use the website on a regular basis and have been using it for at least 6 months.

User Insights

Here are the insights generated from the affinity mapping exercise:


  1. Search field is hidden: The primary usage of all users’ is to perform a search. However, the search field is hidden among other elements

  2. The home page looks messy: With too much information, the home page looks busy and cluttered. A regular user would not want to see so much information on a daily basis

Existing Features

    1. Awareness of library features: There are lots of basic to advanced search features which most users are not aware of. They are looking for better onboarding and awareness.

    2. Inconsistent behaviour: During contextual enquiry, we experienced common features behaving inconsistently resulting in losing users’ trust

Improve UI

    1. Inconsistent UI: The search result UI is inconsistent with the home page, having a different logo and colour theme

    2. Hierarchical information: Search results are random and unorganized

Popular Features

    1. Helpful resources: Victoria library hosts plenty of diverse resources for different user needs. Users’ preferred the peer-reviewed meaningful results that are not mixed and cluttered like in Google

    2. Book Inter-loan: One of the highlights of Victoria Univ library is the interloan feature where any student or staff can borrow a book or journal from outside University or even outside New Zealand for free

Feature Recommendations

    1. Better onboarding: Users’ are looking for a better onboarding experience to know how to use the library better

    2. Better interactions: Thematic categorisation of search results would help

To further align these insights with the users’ needs and generate opportunities, I built personas, created empathy map and plotted the journey map.

(Persona, empathy map and user journey map)

Let's Sketch

Equipped with the user insights, I came up with a few sketches and tested with peers.


Design Solution

I developed wireframes based on the sketches and then interactive prototypes in Axure. I tested the design with 3 users and updated it with feedback received.

Design Proposals

User Challenges Design Proposal
The home page looks messy
Redesigned the home page with primary focus on the search field in the first fold of the page Dedicated space for BrowZine feature in the second fold Access to library information and popular links via list menus to make it compact and minimalist
Wish there was quick access to book study rooms
Access to book study rooms in the home page first fold
I wish there was a better onboarding
Introducted an AI based chatbot named "Vic Bot" to answer user queries on real-time
I do not get any intimation from library if my book request gets cancelled
Introduced notification feature to address such user concerns
I just hate requesting for the book. It's so confusing
Proposed an alternative easier way to request for book from search listing and resource detail page
The sub-pages look different with inconsistent logo and colours
Designed pages with consistent look & feel
The search results are random and unorganised

Categorised search results as books, articles, journals etc with numbers of results in each for better insight

Search field is categorised and users can perform selective search

The filter section takes too much space
Designed a filter section to expand and collapse to be interactive and occupy less space
The page looks so text heavy and boring
Added icons and colours to make the pages look visually appealing

Interactive Prototype

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