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HRAF at Yale University

Interface Storyboarding & Design, 2010-2011

We were contacted by HRAF in 2010 to help the organization rethink the way it's entire digital collection was accessed online. HRAF was facing high rates of membership attrition and had conducted research that indicated the system was overly complex and difficult for most people to use. Librarians were also frustrated. Although many had been trained on the system over years of use, they were spending inordinate amounts of time helping new users with the system.

It was a legacy system — over 15 years old — with search queries that required users to know and understand complex boolean commands. Because today's college students had grown up and learned on much more sophisticated and intuitive systems, they just didn't bother with using it. Libraries were responding by cutting membership to HRAF due to shrinking budgets. They just couldn't justify paying for something that was not being utilized.

HRAF knew that the system needed to change. That's where we came in. Over the course of several months, we collaborated with the HRAF team to produce storyboards and then interface designs to address almost every step of every concievable type of search. Hundreds of page designs were created with the simple goal of simplifying even the most daunting queries.

In addition, a basic search tool was concieved and concepted so that new users would have access to the system without being intimidated by some of the more complex tools necessary to graduate and post-graduate academics. An online learning center was designed to act as a knowledge base that would contain written and video guides in the future. Many new features aimed at new users were also concieved including bookmarks and the ability to save results and search queries in an account section as well as visual click through tools such as the ability to click into cultures through a world map.

NOTE: Becasue the HRAF system is a secure, member-only system, we are unable to provide a link to it. If you are interested in more information, please contact Susan Rubinsky at



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