This isn’t the first LibUX website, but it’s definitely been the most visible. Our first was a static site made with Jekyll and hosted for free on Github. We needed a landing page for our brand new podcast, which we now call Metric.

I started writing about design and the user experience on the regular, so we hopped ship to WordPress. And while this site has been customized, it’s piggy-backing on a theme that’s not one I developed. It’s always sat wrong with me. As someone who runs a small freelancing operation, too, I’ve never been able — or comfortable — using our own site as part of the portfolio. Time’s short, there’s thankfully never been a lack of work, so the site’s been doing its job.

Growing pains

Throughout 2016 I was feeling around for what LibUX was going to be next. I experimented with link-sharing Daring Fireball style. I started publishing amazing, aaaamazing guest-writers. The slack community‘s been growing, so I tried figuring out ways to make more community-driven content and started posting jobs in the newsletter. I even started a second weekly podcast called W3 Radio, which I think is really fun and really good, but it was using up all the Metric bandwidth we pay for and I wasn’t exactly chomping at the bit to pay for more.

Now, LibUX will be offering its first, free, high-quality webinar, in addition to a brand-spanking new Patreon service that — if we’re projecting a year out — means I will be writing twenty times the number of articles in 2016, in addition to piloting the return of W3 Radio and other projects, as well as doing LibUX’s part to break libraryland’s blog-for-exposure culture and pay all guest writers and speakers.

All that’s to say that this website needs more wiggle room, and I’m not willing to use too many other people’s plugins. So, I am going to build something to purpose – and write about it here. I’m not necessarily committed to WordPress, and as I walk through the small discovery process I will let the needs of the site determine its technical makeup.

These kinds of projects benefit from unbreakable axioms

With clients and in my regular work, we start new projects by agreeing on axioms. These are guiding decisions, parts of the contract, that shape all the choices that follow. They’re useful with multiple stakeholders to prevent eventual scope creep, or to bake-in user-centricity from the beginning if you anticipate the upper ranks to make decisions based off what they like as opposed to what works. In libraries, I often make an axiom that reads something like

Decisions that impact navigation or include animation must cite user research.

This usually gets us away from carousels, mega menus, and the like, but it also sets a useful precedent for making research part of a process that may be unfamiliar to our stakeholders. We may take for granted that design is about efficacy, not look and feel, that it is a strategic part of business or mission success. For people who took other career paths, they’ve only ever been end-users. They look, and feel, but may not put too much thought into the fact that what they feel is at least in part by design (or, maybe, design that failed).

So, for this project, the axioms I choose to set play both to technical aspirations — so I am proud to include LibUX in my portfolio — as well as to set me free from having to make major ground-up redesigns in the future.

Here they are.

LibUX will work offline

I want to be able to save posts and tutorials to my phone. That’s mostly it, but I also think there is a user-minded ethic to offline support that aligns with my beliefs, and it’s important that LibUX — which preaches a lot, we’re not fooling anyone — walks the walk.

Content must COPE

This is technically already true mainly through the WP REST API and RSS, but I want to approach content creation and modeling not as an afterthought but as core to what LibUX does. It’s a content machine, and I reuse content liberally – in newsletters, in podcasts, and in Patreon now, but in the future I want to be able to craft small courses out of content that already exists without having to actually edit.

Speed Index of 1000

This roughly means that I would like readers to be able to interact with the site in one second or less. This sort of axiom puts restraints on page weight, the order in which things load, and even server response times.

Strictly Mobile First

I almost didn’t put mobile first, kind of figuring that it was a given, or that the above axioms strategically lead to a mobile-first process. But I kind of want to hold myself to it almost like a rigid diet. I tend to daydream about what sites will look like on the widescreen – I might even sketch it out first, and figure out what the “mobile first” realization of that looks like. This time, I am going to resist my guilty impulses and I promise to flagellate myself live for every – single – widescreen – thought.

You caught me. I’m lying about that last part.

So, what’s next?

Anyway, stay tuned. Normally, you next start gathering all your user research. I am going to skip that, but I will touch on business goals that will inform what I want landing pages (like the homepage) to do down the road, as well as other information architecture decisions. After that, the real fun will begin with content models.

If you need help keeping posted, consider subscribing to the newsletter , a mostly-weekly that includes anything that appears in this space. Or, if you can, consider supporting LibUX on Patreon. At a dollar per month you’ll get something like twenty or so exclusive articles and early access to Metric. If your organization has an earmark for professional development, there’s even a tier there to get me on retainer. Let me teach your crew how to do something cool.

Michael Schofield is a service and user-experience designer specializing in libraries and the higher-ed web. He is a co-founding partner of the Library User Experience Co., a developer at Springshare, librarian, and part of the leadership team for the Practical Service Design community.