This video of Shigeru Miyamoto talking about designing Super Mario Bros. is all kinds of interesting. But I loved the bit about playtesting the game.
User research, so good!
The web is made of words! Hypertext, right?
We’re totally hooked on effective web writing and clear communication.
Even so, sometimes that ol’ pesky passive voice creeps in. Just caught – and corrected – an instance in a previous post.
This revision isn’t going to save lives or win awards, but every little bit counts.
Two more about writing and UX:
Aside from paying very little attention to visual design and not caring about the impact of horrible typography, the big problem with library catalogs is that they are not designed to help people accomplish library tasks. Instead, they’re designed to expose catalog records.
I’m not even talking about lofty library tasks like learning, creating, and connecting. I’m not referring to semi-interesting library tasks like discovering exciting content. I’m talking about very basic library tasks: finding items in a specific location, reserving items, and renewing items. Of course, people can do these tasks with our catalogs but only because the functionality has been clumsily bolted onto catalog records.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but this is totally backward—prioritizing the collection, not people, results in a user-hostile interaction design and a poor user experience. Imagine the reverse: a tool that prioritizes helping people accomplish their tasks, whereby bibliographic data exists quietly in the background and is exposed only when useful.
Starting from Design
I wondered what this would look like, so I sketched out some examples. I’m certainly not the first to complain about OPAC functionality, but taking this as an explicit design challenge rather than as a software architecture or cataloging challenge led me to emphasize readability and ease of use.
Beyond that, there isn’t too much to explain about these designs. Here’s a very plain bibliographic record and illustrates how simplifying them would make them easier to use.
The following hints at eliminating the need for a dedicated view of a single bibliographic record; in this mock-up, nearly everything a member needs to do with an item is available without it.
The ability to link directly to a single record is missing from this example, but that would be easy enough to sort out. This one is similar but uses a swipe-friendly layout that could be effective on mobile devices.
An effective catalog design would obviate the need for how-to screencasts and handouts. Designs like this would not only make our libraries easier to use, but, by freeing up the time we spend helping people with our catalogs, they would make librarians’ lives easier, too.
While these examples aren’t fully featured, they illustrate how focusing on people and tasks would change our catalog. When bibliographic data plays second fiddle, the page calms down and is easier to understand and use. What’s more, by employing some basic principles of graphic design, these creations instill more confidence in library services than our current catalogs.
Members in Mind
This is just one example of how focusing on our members’ motivations and goals can transform what we do. Members will be better served if all of our services are designed as responses to their motivations and goals. With regard to catalogs, this focal point leads to improvements in usability. For library services, this emphasis makes libraries more worthwhile.
The deeper libraries dive into the lives of their members and explore opportunities for improving their lives, the more impact we can make and the more valuable libraries will become. This sort of listening, not shouting, is the best form of library advocacy.
This first appeared in “The User Experience,” a column I write for LJ.
Solid site with a lot of things going for it. Kelly knows her stuff so I think this site will only get better.
Neither here nor there: note their .com TLD. Don’t see many libraries with those. Maybe it actually is relevant since .com is arguably the most common and usable TLD.
James Cook University Library measured the outcome of removing some library jargon from their website. No surprise, things look positive:
The Catalogue and the more meaningless Tropicat were replaced by Books, DVDs & more.
Hits up 10%
Bounce rate steady
Reserve Online replaced by Readings & Past Exams.
Hits up 100%
Bounce rate down 25%
Databases replaced by Journal Articles
Hits up 90%
Bounce rate down 60% (but meaningless as most links are to external sites in the old target page)
Super happy they shared this.
Read the full post at: Removing Library Jargon from our Home page – what Google Analytics tells us
Keeping libraries free from clutter shouldn’t solely be the purview of the fastidious. It’s something we all can achieve, and should! With less clutter, people will have an easier time of finding what they want, and they’ll have a more peaceful experience. Conversely, clutter in and around the library is a user experience issue we all must address.
Tidy up the following clutter hot spots, and your library will run leaner and cleaner.
This column has often advocated for smaller, more effective library websites, and we’ll start there once again. If you’re not convinced that your website is full of clutter, take a look at the site’s analytics (if you aren’t tracking analytics, start now).
How much of the site’s content is used on a regular basis? My guess? Way less than half. If something isn’t getting used, or is used only by library staff, remove it so you can highlight more prominently content that people are actually using. Also, remove any clip art or stock photographs. The resulting pages will be easier to read.
You can similarly declutter the writing on your site. Be concise. Remember, instead of telling folks that “the library is the cultural hub of the community and aims to provide excellent customer service,” it is far more effective just to demonstrate it.
Our collections are prime candidates for decluttering. Much like looking for unused content on your website, you need to pore over circulation statistics to find items that aren’t working hard enough to justify the shelf space they require. Keeping the classics is one thing, but holding on to Windows 3.1 for Dummies is another. Recycle anything that’s collecting dust.
Taking a wider view of your holdings, you might find that an entire segment is cluttering things up. Your print reference collection is probably already much smaller than it was five years ago. Can the rest of it disappear? Do you ever see all four of the microfilm readers in use at the same time? Here’s a specific suggestion: pay attention to your magazines. They get messy quickly.
The entrances to our buildings are often littered with free newspapers, public transit schedules, community events flyers, and library advertising. Yuck. Make sure you’re making a good first impression by keeping this area neat and focused on materials of value to your members.
Brochures, newsletters, etc
These displays often fall prey to the same mechanism of expansion as the above print materials in entrances: more items get piled on, rendering each one less likely to receive any attention. Be selective in your presentation of these items. Ultimately, aim to be selective in their development, producing fewer, more relevant items in the process.
While superfluous library programs might not be a major problem in your physical space, they can clutter a library’s mental space. Is your library continuing to host long-standing programs owing more to legacy than enthusiastic attendance? Perhaps it’s time for them to be put out to pasture. Freeing up time and financial resources can enable you to try something new.
Hanging a large number of signs can inadvertently create an unrestful environment, especially if the signs are not well designed. Take down every sign that you can. In the future, instead of putting up a sign, try to change the circumstances that are prompting you to do so. Your members will be better served, and your space will look better for the effort.
Your website, again!
Clutter is such an epidemic on library websites that it deserves a second mention. Have you already reduced the amount of stuff on your site? Consider cutting more. While you’re at it, consider setting up a regular schedule of decluttering to ensure that there’s a counterbalance to the regular process of adding new pages and sections.
All together now
Since clutter appears in so many different sectors of the library, it requires a whole-system approach toward great user experience in order to address it. Decluttering demands cross-departmental collaboration and the willingness of all staff to be attentive and open to change.
The final goal of decluttering isn’t to create a stark or even minimalist aesthetic; the goal is to increase simplicity and devote more time and effort to the services that are most important.
This first appeared in “The User Experience,” a column I write for LJ.
The latest Pew Internet report – Mobile Connections to Libraries – gives us some info about the critical tasks for library websites.
82% of them searched the library catalog for books (including audiobooks and e-books), CDs, and DVDs.
72% got basic library information such as the hours of operation, location of branches, or directions.
62% reserved books (including audiobooks and e-books), CDs, and DVDs.
51% renewed a book, DVD, or CD. Those ages 30-49 and parents of minor children are especially likely to have done this.
51% used an online database. Those ages 18-29 are particularly likely to have done this.
48% looked for information about library programs or events. Those ages 50-64 are especially likely to do this.
44% got research or homework help.
30% read book reviews or got book recommendations.
30% checked whether they owed fines or paid the fines online. Those ages 30-49 are particularly likely to have done this.
27% signed up for library programs and events.
22% borrowed or downloaded an e-book.
6% reserved a meeting room.
If your website doesn’t excel at the first four or five items, it isn’t providing a great user experience. We should be designing our sites to do things well. Above all else.