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Cooper Union Library
User Research


Copper Union Library


Vonetta | Peter | Me



User Research



UX Researcher



7 Weeks

Cooper Union Library is a collaboration between Cooper Union, New York University, and the New School. The Cooper Union Library’s specialized collections provide support for the academic programs at the institution’s three degree-granting schools of Art, Architecture, and Engineering, as well as courses in the Humanities and Social Sciences. Cooper Union Library also provides access to collections at numerous academic libraries in New York City for students, faculty, administrators, and alumni.


This report details the results from a series of user tests performed on the Cooper Union Library website ( by our participants and several key recommendations we propose to improve its usability based on these findings. 


Evaluate students’ ability to access the website and determine whether or not they would be able to accomplish common tasks and easily navigate through the site. 

Evaluate current Copper Union Library website

Interview our client

Evaluate the website 

Group meetings

Set up most popular library tasks for students(target users)

Interview & observe participants

Re-group and brainstorm

Evaluate our findings

Provide recommendations


Present findings

Discuss recommendation

Receive feedbacks


Background and Client Goals

Cooper Union Library (Lisa & Julie) hopes:

  • Make the website as user-friendly as possible

  • Put forward content users need the most

  • Able to get the target page efficiently & more integrated

  • Provide redesign recommendations to help them figure out what can do right with the next iteration.

  • Provide helpful usability ideas & what is working or not

Target User

Students/faculty at Cooper Union |  The primary focus​


Remote moderated user testing, and its counterpart, in-person moderated user testing, are methods that allow a conversational depth to emerge from the basic format of realistic tasks issued to a user and tried out on a website. The tasks ideally involve subject matter already familiar and of interest to the user.


Recruit Participants

6 user testing using Zoom

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Pre-test section

Learn more about them and their habits and create a more relaxed environment.



Our user test consisted of four tasks and several post-task questions

Findings & Recommendations

Finding 1

Cooper Union Visual Design and Search functionality

"Oh my gosh, I didn’t even know where to start to look for the renaissance unless I am familiar with it, there is no search bar at all. Collection guide, historical doc not sure if it’s for certain subjects or for cooper union."

"It does seem very academic in that it’s just a bunch of resources."

"Easy to guide somebody around, however it not extremely intuitive."

"All the resources are here, they just need to be display a little easier"

"Library site does not look like a CU website at all, I cannot connect and I like CU site much better"

"Did not highlight a series of links that are important for the school & student such as architecture and art. it's essential for CU"

"Don’t look familiar to me, feel a little bit intimidated, a ton of resources but don’t know what they are, prob will skip over them"


Oh no! our users experienced, 

Poor visual appeal

Branding ≠ UC main website

Lack of search function

Lack of design hierarchy

Confusing links 

Our Recommendation

1 Rebranding of library homepage to create more synergy with main Cooper Union homepage 

2 Enhancement of Search function and filters to create better user experience when searching for materials and resources


Add a large search bar

+ Ease navigation 

+ Addresses overall visual appearance

+ Match Cooper Union's branding

+ Adding elements and a subdued photo of the library interior  (client really liked)

Create an easy way to find resources all in one place 

+ Create filters by subject or time period and return all relevant resources instead of the user clicking each link

Finding 2

Usability issues of the library homepage

“Bobcat page looks familiar, it looks more like the library site I am used to.”

“I feel like they could make it better in terms of whether someone is looking for images or books or video and make it more clear so the person knows where to click specifically.”

"Confusing, a lot of try and error."

“Too simple, and very little detail. Might be overwhelming from looking at it the first time.”

"I had to click on it to fully grasp what’s actually in it, mostly assumption."

"Not extremely easy"

"Definitely ask someone to tutor first."

Our Recommendation

1 Clarify homepage to be more user friendly and fulfill users’ conceptual model of a library website 

2 Create multiple sections for each resource.


Create multiple sections for each resource

+ Add B&W icons and descriptions to each section to clarify and add visual interest

+ Separate the Library information from all the academic resources

+ Highlight “Ask Us,” and other important resources such as Books, Databases, Images, and other academic-related areas

Finding 3

Cooper Archives & Visual Resources, and Databases and Resources

“I’ve never done a task like this, maybe the Cooper Archives would have that, I’m not sure.”

"I have a hard time with Image Collections; maybe include a search with a filter."

“I’m going to click on that and see what it brings me to,” and after clicking, “I’m reading this and I’m thinking that the Cooper Archives is directly related to the school and the development of the school.”

"I would just use Google to search for images, much easier that way."


More usability issues, 

✖ Idea that these resources could be more clearly described, and built out organizationally.

Often end up leaving the site

Need the training to understand the overall flow of the website

 Not familiar with the nature of the Cooper Archives and Visual Resources sections

Our Recommendation

Survey teachers to break “Resources by Subject” out more

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+ Redesigned page showing databases populating by granulated subjects within art -- or all at once.

+ Highlight Resources by Subject. This could narrow down the search by the field of studies

+ Discoverability of CU’s key academic areas.

The same databases could display under more than one subject, with the idea to bring attention to specific interests represented in each database.

Client Meeting

Client feedbacks  They agreed that highlighting the different academic areas was smart. They are such a specialized college and initially thought sorting by subject would be sufficient but confirmed through our testing that it isn’t enough. The client was concerned that the Search bar would create an assumption that students would be able to find whatever they wanted, or that if they couldn't find something, it meant the library didn’t have it, so that would be a major consideration for them in how their sitemap is set up and how the underlying search functionality would work. And having their resources sorted under various time periods would be quite the undertaking and not something they seemed keen on.


We are grateful firstly to our clients at the Cooper Union Library, in particular for a thorough first meeting which gave us a sense of their thoughts on particular items on the page, insight into the hand-coded nature and history of the site, future resource goals for it, and the exciting sense that its redesign was an active project. 


As is the nature of remote moderated user testing, we hope at the very least to have provided capsules of fresh (and some familiar) user experiences on the site that can be a meaningful resource folding into all the other redesign considerations. We understand there is no one right direction for the future of the site, but after a range of tangible impressions, are curious to see how it develops. And wish that it is a fulfilling project.

Update 12/20/2020

Cooper Union Library updated its website! check out here:



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