UW Research Commons


The UW Research Commons (RC) is a library designed to help foster collaboration in an energetic atmosphere, but they thought the site could better reflect their mission. I worked with a team of five to re-work the information architecture and come up with a clean new design to capture the library’s character.

My role

  • UX Designer
  • Information Architect
  • Content Strategist

Key features

  • Easy to locate library events and services
  • Cohesive center for answering common questions
  • Reduced click through for event resources


During usability testing, the Research Commons found that students had a hard time finding the key areas of the site. They also manage a wide range of helpful student activities which were getting lost in the site from research events, to writing tutors, to graduate funding.


  • Reduce clicks to find information to 2-4
  • Students can find most common task in 1-2 clicks
  • Increase how many people look at RC events


  • Fit guidelines for both UW and the UW Library
  • Should be easy for librarians to update and manage content
  • Bring together diverse events and services within the RC


I conducted research and worked with our team to understand how students currently use the site and what they would like to accomplish.

Usability tests revealed that UW students did not know much about the library and struggled to navigate the site. This was summarized by one of the Help Desk attendants: “There are lots of cool events, but people don’t know about them.” Doing well in school & working quickly were most students' end goals of using the library, with around 70% surveyed using the RC for group work.


  • Interviews
  • Usability testing
  • Survey
  • Customer service review
  • Web analytics
  • Card sorts

Key pain points

  • Titles and wording is confusing
  • Click on UW or Library navigation instead of RC’s
  • Content is buried many layers in
  • Lots of duplicated information
  • Lack of awareness about RC services, events, and policies

Workflow & Site Map

We found organizing the IA challenging because of so many great but unrelated services. The site required many clicks, and even experienced users had a difficult time finding things. Based on our findings, we split up research collaboration and personalized help, and gave graduate funding and events a bigger voice.


A clear navigation is important to accomplish the RC’s goals, so we tested 9 prototypes with students to get it just right.

Key benefits

  • Reserve a space is always visible and one click away
  • Nearly all content is 1-2 clicks away as seen in usability testing
  • Navigation items match mental model of students
  • Focus on RC which reduces mistakes clicking on UW or UW library navigations
  • Most used link is green in the navigation


In our research, we found users more likely to scroll than click so moved all the about information to one page instead of across five. I also re-wrote all the copy to be more student friendly.

Key benefits

  • Common questions grouped onto one page that can easily be scrolled through
  • Most frequently needed information at top for quick reference
  • Policies & Mission placed where students are more likely to read


I cleaned up the workflow for the research events and surfaced it in the navigation to increase awareness. I also used photos and small bites of copy to show new students all the good things to expect from these events.

Key benefits

  • More pictures to aid understanding of what events are like
  • Simplified to student-friendly language to aid understanding & reduce reading time
  • Reduced effort to read guides
  • Simple, modular formats make it easy to switch content