ALA 2010: Designing Digital Experiences for Library Websites

Ran late!!! Darned

10:37 – David Lee King, of Topeka & Shawnee Co PL

True Story: His wife helped her friend figure out where to sign up for summer reading on their website.  A big summer reading banner was right there on the page, but didn’t say “click here to register from summer reading program”  Oopse! or as David says: FAIL.

Some libraries have good examples of User Experience sites.  DC’s PL is one of them.

5 ways to jumpstart experience design makeover

  1. writing an expereince brief. – 1 pg story about experience you want users to have on your site
    1. They’ve recently done a GIS study…biggest grp of non users 25k middle to upper class ppl don’t want to drive 20-30 min to visit branch.  That’s their biggest growth potential.  How to reach them digitally.  They wrote a story from patron’s point of view of a lady wanting to find a book on deck plans.  She had easy time poking around websites – all needed was easy to find & could sign up for programs online.  EASE of USE for website was paramount
  2. take a Touch Point journey – a mktg thing. Each part of your journey of buying shoes is a touch point. – for websites, they’re things like typing in url, clicking something to go on, etc.  EX: on their website, they call sign up for a card “get an account”.  He’s thinking meh on that….it’s a card, not an account.  The result page is meh, a plain ugly form.  Better: big fat button: “Get a Library Card,” then a “check my account button”. “Account help” is probably not good to put it right next to the sign up…is sign up that bad?  If so–fix it! 🙂
  3. Conversation is an experience – make the website a conversation [put your blogs on your website – *ahem*].  They have posts & comments on their actual website aka the digital branch .  Had a great post on FB: “What brings you to the library?”  This simple question had a lot of responses.
  4. Answer the why questions – why are we doing this?  why should I care?  why are we putting this here?  “Databases A-Z”  Users don’t know what this means.   Better: Ask A Librarian pages.  Those are usually well implemented.
  5. Focus on the customer – always!!  Do NOT write your website from the point of view of the staff.  Again, “special collections” is meaningless to non librarians. “Local history” isn’t.  Make site as easy as a lightswitch to use.

John Blyberg, Darien County PL
  • UX – Stop thinking about digital strategy as librarians, but think of it as a business development tool.  We are a business that’s a library!  [Yes!! I have learned that as the business librarian. – A]
  • Understand what the primary intent of your website – not a total catch all for everything.  It’s to serve purpose of digital strategy: grow relationships over time
  • (We want to put library in parameters of the network effect.  We need to grow our service to the point where using the library is a benefit to the users.  Chicken & egg: how to you grow it until it’s useful?)  
  • We’re trying to get the people the info & resources & services they want.
  • Need to make sure the UX doesn’t stop at the website, or the phone.  It’s everything you do in the library: how you interact at the front desk.  How you deal with exceptions…angry patrons…pr….programs, etc.  All needs to be informed by UX.  
  • Look at all these interactions & set an uncompromising standard.  
  • Don’t just compromise to make stuff easier on yourself.  Over time, we chip away at our UX until we’re an unhappy, unwelcoming, unpleasant place to be.
  • His library: they have a monthly communications meeting to look at all the ways they are trying to reach out to people: programs, new services, what are other orgs in town doing, etc.  Goal: to incorporate what they’re doing into their digital strategy.
  • What’s the edge of the library?  Website?  The door?  Does it extend beyond into Twitter, FB, etc.  It’s becoming hard to tell where the library stops & life starts.  That’s kind of what we’re trying to do: become an integrated part of life.
  • Brand Management – we need to control our brand.  It’s how we ID self to users.  Have a brand advocate who cares about service levels & be an ombudsman for all our failures.  They track stats of fail so they can see where we let ppl down & can focus attention to fix it.
  • Define brand goals: each lib is different & it feeds into brand.  What are our brand goals?  Plan to communicate that to users & make service level that reflects those sensibilities
  • Staff buy-in is critical.  Can’t do it if you’re just a subcommittee.  EVERYONE needs to be on board.  Everyone needs to understand service level expectations.  They do it by having formal way to communitcate what’s going on digitally.  Can’t be 2 – 3 ppl writing web content; everyone needs to have SOME kind of input.  They have a social catalog & all staff can login & tag items as faves, write a review, give items stars, etc.  [Wow.  Duh.  Should have thought of that! – A].
  • Provide incentives & training for staff.  Users he IDs as interest, they reward those: How about I get you an iPod touch so you can play with it & learn?  [Wow! – A]
  • Integrating physical & virtual lib: they have some flat panel displays on lower floor.  Want to put dynamic content up on there: “Just returned”  “Top Checkouts” They use RFID…what if you could hold a book up to the screen & say “Hey, if you liked this, you’ll like…”
  • Mobile & smart phones, surface computing, etc. are coming trends.  Expose them to new things
  • Libraries shouldn’t have IT depts.  They should incorporate IT into user services depts.  IT gets seen as a resource to go to, aren’t brought in as creative thinkers, etc.  They should be part of the whole system of user experience & not be forced into a myopic “must-keep-server-up” box where they don’t get to think of anything else.
  • YOU NEED A rock solid infrastructure…can’t get anywhere if you have crashes, printer issues, etc. You need to have talented people running the IT infrastructure.  [Attention, LIS students! – A] 
  • Website needs to be on a CMS.  [May I add: modern?] It opens up web to everyone else in the system. [In theory, anyway. – A]
  • We need to learn how to conduct biz with vendors – better than we do now.  We can have mutual benefit.  They’re there to make $ & grow biz.  If you go to them with your idea & you can show them how it can help them make $, they should listen.  Not all vendors take that approach, sadly.  Do biz with vendors who give you open & free access to your data & fire those who don’t.
  • Adjust your expectations.  Set long term goals & work toward it.
Toby Greenwalt, Skokie Public Library
  • @theanalogdivide
  • no staff
  • no budget
  • mission: make online space more like physical space
  • nothing all that new, but they’re going where patrons are
  • go where the tech is that’s socially interesting; that’s the tech that’s become normal [it’s old quote & I butchered it – A]
  • building online community bit by bit
  • Starts in the physical space: ex: a line of ppl with a lone little self checkout machine with one older fellow looking at the long line like he’s walking to it.  
  • “ambient intimacy” – we do this at the desk
  • Another site circ desk: nothing by self checkout. 35% of all circ.  1 person is behind desk to help people & have that ambient intimacy with less staff & no lines.
  • This tool, and all, need to blend human & computer
  • provide service at pinch points:
    • ex: catalog: it’s got the ask a librarian meebo box IN THE CATALOG on every page, full results list or on the item page. 
    • Before they had IM on website…a few IMs.  Since they’ve done this, though…they’ve got several hundred IMs a month.  Library Help is the system they use to route the questions to several desks
  • Ears to the ground.  He has a bunch of netvibes-managed rss feeds to keep an ear to the ground that mention the library on craigslist, yelp, etc. where they mention the library.  Can help you figure out where to ID it.  you can set up search terms.  Or use Google Alerts or Twitter search rss feeds, etc.  “recommend book” within 5km of their library is one he uses
  • Making contact! Must go out & talk to people.  [He has buttons to give out @ ALA – Score! I got them.]  Some people online won’t respond well:

“Is it bizarre that my local library is following me on twitter?  I guess I need to pay that $.90 late fee” – a tweet about Skokie’s Twitter account

  • but the idea is that we can help people where they are.
  • Twitter & FB aren’t sign posts, but service desks
  • The more you answer q’s online, you’ll get questions via Twitter & FB
  • If you are candid, honest & honestly accept criticism, you can continue to have good relations with online critics. 
  • Be excellent in public: [FB post: games!  Fri = book sharing.  Wed = Stump the Librarian,where we challenge people to stump us.  One gave us 7 comments.  The no response “hey, we’re doing this thing” posts fall away quickly
  • Build a repository of content.
    • Flickr page: 1000’s after a few years.  They get spikes in traffic on old stuff whenever they post new things
    • Focus on small steps: some of these sets are just 3 or 4 photos.  Be consice.  Short = manageable & perhaps even likeable
    • Chase the long tail.  Wider variety of services.
  • Let’s push things forward
    • Now working on mobile services.  Mobile catalog & website.  Most activity happens via text messaging.  
    • they’re using QR codes to bridge gap between physical object & webspace. QR codes at photo contest pic display links to a video interview of the teen photographer.  Ah!  Great!!  Helps get people ready for this tech in the future
  • On his way to ALA on Friday, he literally saw a question from a patron that another patron answered & cc’ed them on it so Lib would see the answer.  [sounds like Twitter?]  Holy moly.  This is the goal for building a community.
  • We must commit fully to Twitter & FB as a service desk, not a signpost. Signposts are not good enough anymore.
Bobbi Newman, Chattahoochie Valley
  • Stop talking, start doing
  • We need to so something, & today, when you leave this room
  • The 21st century is no place for timid librarians
  • momentum & enthusiasm
  • go back & pick one or two things & do them really well
  • stop being intimidated by what you don’t know.  Move forward
  • We need to be serving our patrons.  The focus needs to be on what patrons need.
  • 1st: goal.  Then choose correct tool.  If you have a goal & chose right tool.
  • Great website & online stuff meets another level of our patrons.  It has to design well & work well because good UX actually makes new/less experienced uses be able to comfortably use your site.
  • Stop underestimating patrons & get out there & help them.
  • She doesn’t call it blogging.  “Can you fill out this form, & give it a title & jot down a keyword?  Thanks!” Well, that’s a book recommendation blog post.
  • She hands out monkeys to reward people for doing something new & cool.  Instead of a iPod
  • They have a gadget garage where patrons can check out some new tech, take them home & play with them.  They let people use it for personal reasons to get people comfortable with it & then they can talk about how to use it at work.
  • [All of this hinges on people trusting the staff.  If the staff isn’t trusted, how can staff feel free to engage patrons & excel? -A]
Take away: stop talking, start doing, have to be where your patrons need you…and they need you.
  • Topeka’s annual report – no not a print one.  Parts can be printed (the budget part)  They made it with Flash, 3D CAD cam type tool, etc. “one of our digital branch designers made it”
  • Did you have virus issues with Flash? – Nope
  • What about support for mobile – Well, it was an experiment.  “Anybody here want to read an annual report on your phone?”  (Flash is still where it’s at.  HTML 5 is not there yet & Silverlight isn’t widely used yet)
  • Questioner is a trainee who works with Web Apps division in her system.  They’re still asking “How long is Twitter going to ask?” How to respond: “How long is print ref collections going to last?”  [ooohhh!]  It’s just the place where your patrons are now.  So use it for now.  David’s response: “They’ve been around 5-7 years now.  Why weren’t we there 2 years ago?”
  • What about Twitter privacy?  Well, if the patron’s Twitter feed is public, they’re treating it as a public transaction, so why are we worrying about it.
  • Social media campaign that was particularly good?  After a storm, there was a 90% power outage.  People still had phones, so they used their Twitter account as a clearinghouse of info for their town.  They stayed open till 11 to stay warm before bed [they’re an emergency shelter].  They still have people thanking them.  It was improvised & filled a need.  Now people are seeing them as a resource for er response
  • Questioner from a small liberal arts instutition: it took their committee a year to go ahead with Twitter.  Bobbi: “Get rid of your committee” Toby: that old adage, “it’s better to beg forgiveness than ask permission”
Really enjoyed this presentation.  I have a short list of truly great library websites, and all of the libraries represented on this panel have been on it for a while now.  Good job, you guys!  It’s great to see libraries excel.  More of us need to go in that direction.

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