Websites come, websites go

On Wednesday 14 November, 2012, this website is going to take over as the online home of the National Library of New Zealand. This is an exciting step for us after being a public beta for over a year.

In that time we’ve been trialling and steadily improving the search service and now the site is home to the collections and services you accessed through FIND, Timeframes, Publications New Zealand, and more.

The final step as we transition this site to become the main National Library site has been shifting all the information about the Library and our services from the current www.natlib.govt.nz website. In the process we’ve re-thought how we present that material, and streamlined it to get you to what you need more quickly.

The new site is the biggest change in our online presence since the Library first ventured online in the 1990s, and it’s been fun looking back through time at the different iterations of the Library’s site. Here we critique some of our earlier efforts.

1999 - When MS Paint ruled?

The National Library website as it appeared in the late 1990s This is how we looked in the late 90s.

Running headlong into the World Wide Web, with icons seemingly designed in MS Paint. We were clearly ahead of the trend with a fat footer, which has come back in fashion over the last few years. This snapshot comes from ’99, but the site had already been around for a couple of years by that stage.

Interestingly, the overall look almost echoes elements of the contemporary “New Aesthetic” movement, with its clear-edged non-hinted pixels. So, was the design of this site ahead of its time?

Well…no. Let’s not kid ourselves. However, it did a four-year tour of duty on the front lines of the internet, and that’s not nothing.

2003 - The serious librarian and 21,000 digitised images

The National Library website in the early 2000s Early 2000s - so much white!

Between 2000 and 2005, there were multiple developments of the homepage, and quite a few iterations were produced. In 2003 we had what you see above. We were getting into digitising our collections, and had over 21,000 images viewable online.

We were still rocking a centered template, and the colours were very much in line with the corporate palette of the day, so it had a more restrained, professional feel than its 1996-2000 ancestor. Rigid adherence to the Library’s typographic guidelines also contributed to the less whimsical look.

2005 - A three-column template, and quicklinks

The National Library website in the mid 2000s Mid 2000s - white backgrounds are so 2001

In 2005 our site looked something like the above. We finally felt okay about pushing out to the sides of the screen, and you’ll see amazing innovations like quicklinks and asymmetry.

That’s not avant-garde use of negative space in the middle left section you’re seeing, there were in fact images on our homepage (sometimes actual collection images!), but these are unfortunately not captured by the site archiver in the image above.

2011 - The big blue site

The National Library website - plone edition 2007 to 2012 - Hello, old friend.

This site was built on top of the Plone CMS, and what you see is the last iteration on that platform, which began for us in 2007. We’re back to the standard blue-and-white colour palette, but it’s a little warmer, and consideration was given to acceptable contrast ratios between texts and backgrounds, improving the accessibility of the site.

A breakthrough feature (for us) on this page was the “Search our collections” box. If you were to visit the Natlib homepage, you’d expect to be able to search for collection items, right?

Looking at the shifts in colour and design in our website is very much like looking back at the family photo album. I sure thought that flat-top haircut was cool back then, and I might smile at images of it now, but it felt new at the time and that was what I was after.

Thanks for the good times, old homepage.

By Matt O'Reilly

Matt used to be the National Library's Web Manager.

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Pam November 26th at 2:31PM

I've been exploring but must be doing something wrong, because I'm finding it much more difficult to search for items. Is there still a way to get to the previous catalogue?

Reuben SchraderNational Library November 26th at 2:41PM

Hi Pam, sorry to hear it's not going smoothly. I've found it helpful to play with the filters on the results page - breaking down my results like that lets me get quite specific.

The Researchers section (linked at the top of every page) includes links to TAPUHI and the National Library Catalogue, so you can still use those.

Cheers,
Reuben

Vivienne August 11th at 9:01AM

The first National Library website graphics weren't designed with MSPaint, they were professionally designed to a brief. I think that people often forget, or don't know, how hard it was to get a website created in the early days of the web in New Zealand. Where as 20 or so years later, it is all too easy.