Tisch Library: Site performance, flexibility, and longevity enhancements

Tufts University partnered with Isovera and Selbert Perkins Design to create a flexible, upgradable, and readily-expandable website to serve the Tisch Library now, and well into the future.

Tisch Library, which primarily serves the School of Arts & Sciences and the School of Engineering on the Medford campus of Tufts University, sought a relaunch of the Tisch Library website. This 2014 relaunch would prove to be the largest web-initiative in the library’s history. In addition to wanting a professional and modern look to the site, it was imperative that the new site would also be flexible, upgradable, and readily expandable as changes are needed.

Working with a team of Tufts staff, and members of the Selbert Perkins design team, Isovera devised a set of tasks that would most-efficiently make use of the skills of the involved parties. This allowed the budget to stay on track, as members of the Tufts staff could consult with Isovera staff and perform work internally. During the extensive discovery phase of the project, key demographics were defined, and use cases were envisioned. This ultimately lead to a highly-focused development phase, and minimized changes in project scope. 

Optimizing for a responsive site

While site development and planning progressed, there was a heavy emphasis on attention to detail. This is apparent through seemingly minute details, as having the site auto-focus onto the search menu as soon as the site is loaded. Keeping with this theme, Image Sprites were used in order to reuse HTML code, as well as reduce site load times. Due to the increased number of high-resolution displays entering the market, it was decided that the site would be able to detect the screen resolution and then display either high or low resolution images. The use of web fonts alleviated any resolution issues, as they will render and resize accordingly. The Tisch Library website is also a truly responsive site, and will adapt fluidly to all screen sizes without any preset break points.

Building for accessibility and performance

Throughout the development process, Isovera offered suggestions that not only would increase site performance, but would also follow best practices and accessibility requirements. There was also a heavy emphasis placed on the ability for the site to grow and expand as needed. For this reason, and to ensure easy maintenance, the use of SMACSS was chosen. Isovera’s choice to apply the SMACSS style conventions were also based upon industry-wide best practices. A key example of Isovera’s guidance for site performance enhancements include the writing of a custom web service aggregation block that would cache information for available library technology such as iPads and computers. Prior to Isovera’s suggestion, this block would make calls to this web service every time a page with this block was loaded, hindering site performance.