An elegant yet flexible new digital home for the National Library of Ireland
Annertech partnered with bigO to build a new website for the National Library of Ireland, replacing their outmoded existing site with a sleekly designed Drupal-based website.
Libraries, by their nature, are complex organisations that fulfil multiple purposes to a wide user base; the National Library of Ireland (NLI), given its size and status, even more so. As such, the central principles of the website design were accessibility and flexibility.
The NLI is expanding the uses of their buildings on Dublin’s Kildare Street to include many more events, exhibitions and learning opportunities for the general public, and they needed a website to provide the infrastructure for this greatly expanded element of their day-to-day function.
Our new site gives us an improved platform for launching further online services. We are grateful to both Annertech and bigO for their work on transforming the NLI’s online presence and for shining a light on all we have to offer.
– Liz Coffey, NLI’s Head of Communications and Development
The NLI had worked with their existing website for quite a few years before making the leap towards a new solution. Aside from no longer reflecting NLI’s brand and presence, the website offered limited opportunities for creative flexibility.
Working with a legacy design was proving difficult. As the public face of the library, the design was simply not representative of the creativity, innovation and vibrant nature of the activities surrounding the library.
2. Disconnected search experience
The NLI's vast collection forms a large part of NLI's offering to the public, caring for more than 12 million items including books, manuscripts, drawings and many other items. NLI makes this collection available to the public online via their catalogue interface, and the previous experience in connecting the website to this catalogue felt disconnected.
As is common with legacy websites, the opportunity to create dynamic, visually appealing content often doesn't exist. For the existing NLI website, this meant an over-abundance of text-heavy pages to try to capture what should be quite visual content.
4. Events and exhibitions
Providing (mostly) free events and exhibitions forms a large part of the magnificent offering that the National Library of Ireland provides. The Library moved to Eventbrite as an event management system and needed a way to seamlessly allow users to both find and book events from the website.
A new website was needed, one that would feature more ways of inspiring people and revealing all the National Library has to offer. Annertech and bigO partnered to build the new website, replacing the outmoded existing site with a sleekly designed Drupal-based platform. Annertech led the project, with bigO focused on the design of the new website, while Annertech handled the development.
The design utilises key elements of the the existing National Library of Ireland branding — such as their bespoke font, their brand colours derived from the iconic domed ceiling of their Reading Room, and the nod to the radius windows found in both the NLI’s buildings and logotype — to create a website as elegant as the beautiful Victorian buildings that house the National Library of Ireland on Kildare Street.
Heavy emphasis was placed on strong visuals and clear delivery of information for the library's broad online audience.
The new website complies with the Website Content Accessibility guidelines (WCAG) 2.1, which are mandatory for the public sector. In order to better cater to the needs and wishes of its visitors, the website is fully tailored to browsing on desktop and mobile devices.
2. Disconnected search experience
The experience of searching for content has been reimagined in the new solution to tackle the disconnect in three ways:
- By educating users of the website of the external resources provided by the library. This is achieved by a richer set of content around what, how and why the Library collects and makes materials available.
- By incorporating results from the Catalogue into the search experience on the website.
- By making the website a one-stop-shop for resources already provided by the Library, such as events, exhibitions;and learning materials.
Coming from a legacy CMS, the team at the library were restricted in the type of content that could be added to pages on the website. This lack of flexibility didn't allow for the creation of content that reflected the Libraries ambitious online/offline marketing and printed materials.
By creating page templates and flexible components based on the specific content needs of the Library, the updated website provides both an adaptable and consistent approach to content.
4. Events and Exhibitions
The experience around events and exhibitions provided by the Library has been exponentially improved through the creation of a rich search interface displaying events the Library offer. By allowing users to drill down using the filters that are most important to their own search, such as the type of event or events with specific accessibility requirements, users can find events quickly and easily (see “integration“ for more information).
Integration with other channels
The NLI website needed to be integrated with other channels and platforms for its various new functions to work efficiently.
NLI’s Collections are integral to the value that they provide to the public. While acting as an educational tool outlining how and why the Collections are maintained, it was important to create a connection between the website and the Collections portal to allow it to work together as a unified experience.
The search function on the Collections page.
To facilitate this, the search tool on the NLI website retrieves results from both the NLI website and the Collections website. This is achieved by querying the Collections website and returning the top 3 results - these results are rendered alongside the website’s results to achieve a unified search experience, and help to familiarise users with the Collections.
The management of events and exhibitions is aided by direct integration with NLI's event management system Eventbrite, to ensure both consistency across platforms and significantly reduce duplication of effort by NLI's events team.
With the website’s increased content needs, it was important to ensure duplication of effort was minimised, particularly around content for events where there would be ongoing effort.
The NLI’s profile on Eventbrite
To make this possible, a direct integration was created between the website and Eventbrite. The integration allows for all event content to be created and updated on the website only.
This information is automatically mirrored to NLI’s Eventbrite account every time a change occurs.
The new website is fully bilingual, in line with the Irish Official Languages Act 2003. To allow for the ambitious target of translating all content on the website, an automated translation process was implemented.
The content is time-sensitive, so this process allows the team to focus on creating content and saves duplication of effort on an ongoing basis.
The Irish version of the NLI’s website mirrors the English version
Among other options, the automation allows NLI to export new or changed content on the website in a format commonly used by translation agencies, and import the translated content directly back into the website without need for manual content entry.
A donation system was introduced to allow NLI to take single or recurring payments from visitors to support the work done at the library.
The NLI’s website is integrated with Stripe to accept donations.
This piece of functionality works via a Stripe integration utilising both the Checkout and Billing products from Stripe.
The payment flow is branded to provide a seamless experience for users, and passes the user back to the website once the payment is complete.
The National Library of Ireland plays a vital role in the literary landscape of Ireland. It was a privilege to work with the team at the National Library to modernise and future proof their online presence, and we're excited to continue this relationship to build on the solid foundation which now exists.
Annertech worked with us throughout this major project. Their knowledge and commitment to delivering an AA rated website enabled us to deliver an accessible and bilingual, redesigned website that will better serve our online users.
– Caoimhe Fox - Communications and development officer at NLI