When Anjanette Jones moved to Las Vegas in late 2019 to join the University Libraries as the web content and user experience specialist, she expected to work on the Libraries website redesign project and make the site more accessible to all users. The redesign, which went live in January 2020, was the first major overhaul of the site since 2011.
The project and Jones’ work on accessibility and user experience design took on more importance as the Libraries — and the university — shut down just two months later at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The redesigned website suddenly became the sole access point for library services for many UNLV students and faculty.
Now, with in-person usage of the Libraries nearing pre-pandemic levels, Jones work remains central to the Libraries web development team, working with faculty and staff to ensure users find the information they need and the site remains accessible to everyone.
How do you define your role as web content and user experience specialist in the Libraries?
I see my role as a facilitator and advocate. I am responsible for ensuring the Libraries’ website content is up to date and meets users’ needs, but I often don’t know when content is outdated. It’s important for me to communicate with subject matter experts throughout the Libraries who can inform me of any needed updates.
I then work with them to facilitate adding or updating information on our website. However, it’s more than just adding content. I also advocate for our users by seeking to ensure it meets their needs. I do this by conducting research with library users to better understand their behaviors and needs. I also make sure content follows the Libraries’ web style guide and web writing best practices, which keeps our whole website more consistent and organized.
How did you become inspired to work in web?
As a former librarian, I learned to do a lot of different things, especially when I worked in smaller libraries with limited resources. My first experience working with websites was volunteering to be my department’s representative on the library’s website team. This quickly transitioned into leading the whole team.
What I discovered was that website users don’t always think the same way we do. For example, organizing a website by an internal department structure makes perfect sense to us, but is baffling to our users. Unfortunately, knowing what would make sense to them can be like trying to hit a target with your eyes closed. When I first learned about User Experience (UX) design, that’s when everything clicked. An organization’s website can be one of its most valuable assets, but only if it’s useful to those who use it. I chose to switch roles when I took this job so I could focus more exclusively on improving the Libraries’ website for all users.
You’ve worked a lot to improve the Libraries site, especially in terms of accessibility for users. Why is that so important?
Web accessibility is an important key to creating a more inclusive online experience. After all, our services are not just for a select few. They are for everyone.
The way we create and publish website content is just as important as fixing accessibility issues found in the website code. From an accessibility perspective, writing short, clear, and well-organized information can improve readability and understandability for neurodiverse users, but it will also benefit those who read at a lower reading level or who happen to be busy, distracted, or stressed.
I’ve learned that accessibility is never finished. It’s a continual process.
What role does the Libraries site play in the student experience at UNLV?
That’s actually a trickier question to answer than you might think. I know what role I want the Libraries’ website to play: Ideally, our website is a gateway to nearly everything the Libraries offers to campus and the broader community. It’s the starting point to conducting research, getting help from a librarian, learning about and accessing the Libraries’ many services and resources, and much more. But whether it successfully does that is something we’re working to figure out. We do this by learning more about our users’ needs, listening to them, and observing the way they use the website. Then use the insights we gain to build a better gateway to all the Libraries has to offer.
What makes UNLV special to you?
It’s important to me to work in an environment where I can help people succeed. And what’s more special than helping students build better futures for themselves? When I see all the hard work that goes into helping students at the Libraries and the greater campus community, it makes me happy to know that I am a part of that.
Who has had the greatest impact on you since you started working in the Libraries?
It’s difficult to single out any one person. One of the things I enjoy about my role is getting to work with folks from across the Libraries. My work benefits from seeing new perspectives and gaining new insights from each new project. It’s also energizing to work with so many dedicated library staff who are working hard to help UNLV students, faculty, and staff succeed.
What is the most Vegas thing you’ve done?
Probably the most Vegas thing I’ve done since moving here is go to a Thanksgiving buffet at one of the hotels on the Strip. I moved here the week of Thanksgiving, and my brother and sister-in-law flew in to help me unpack. We thought it would be fun to try but didn’t know there would be almost a 2-hour wait to get in. Once inside and thoroughly starved, we stuffed ourselves with every Thanksgiving fixing and dessert imaginable. Then went back for all the non-Thanksgiving foods that are part of the normal buffet.
What is something that people would be surprised to learn about you?
I am a huge soccer fan. I used to really dislike sports of all kinds. But when my brother bought season tickets to Real Salt Lake when I still lived in Utah, I quickly became hooked. I’m so excited that the Men’s U.S. National Team qualified for the 2022 World Cup after missing 2018. It’s just unfortunate that there is so much alleged corruption and human rights violations around the host country. Some people are even choosing to boycott the World Cup to bring a focus to these issues.
Outside of work, what are you passionate about?
My most recent passion is cooking and baking. During the pandemic when everything was closed, I started learning how to cook more healthily. I enjoy experimenting with healthy versions of some of my favorite restaurant meals. I recently tried to replicate the ranchero sauce I could get on enchiladas when I lived in Texas. It wasn’t a complete success, but I have some ideas on how to tweak the recipe. To balance out all the healthy cooking, I’ve been expanding my baking skills. After multiple failures, I finally made my first successful batch of French macarons.
What are you currently reading?
I just finished reading Mismatch: How Inclusion Shapes Design by Kat Holmes. It’s a short but fantastic read. Holmes explains that core elements of our identities are formed from inclusive and exclusionary experiences throughout our lives. These experiences shape our sense of value and what we believe we can contribute to the world. Whether people know it or not, those who design touchpoints that others interact with – and I would argue all UNLV employees play a part in this – are in effect determining who can participate and who is left out. Holmes explains that design can lead to exclusion, but it also has the power to remedy it if we make it a consistent priority. She then goes on to tell stories of pioneers of inclusive design.