Lots of stuff to like about the City of Stockholm Libraries’ website.
I’m super excited to announce a new project from Influx:
Prefab: the library website service.
Prefab is a ready to launch website designed for libraries. We’ve designed an amazing library website so you can concentrate on developing awesome content.
Sign up, fill in your content, launch. All in the same day, if you’re motivated!
Prefab is designed for libraries:
What you get with Prefab:
Libraries across the country are all working – with limited resources and skills – to solve the same, basic library website design problems. It makes no sense! So we did the design work and created a template that’s appropriate for many different libraries.
There’s a lot more information at the Prefab page on Influx’s site.
Many thanks to Running in the Halls for their assistance with the theme development.
Need an amazing library website fast? Check out Prefab now.
I’ve long thought that a site like this should exist, so I’m very exited someone built it: Librarian Design Share.
From their About page:
After one too many design-related exchanges on Gmail and Google Chat, we decided that people who work in libraries really need a space to share their design work and gain inspiration from the work of others. In the spirit of Stephen X. Flynn’s awesome Open Cover Letters project, we wanted to create an open online repository of interesting library-related design.
Take a poke around, there’s some solid stuff on the site. Nice work, April Becker and Veronica Douglas!
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
Recently on Radiolab I learned about Charles Bliss’ idea to achieve world peace by eliminating the use of words. He thought that unambiguous symbols did a better job communicating so he invited a writing system. Interesting! Flawed!
Here are the symbols representing library and librarian.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Recently I spent a morning with the web committee at the University of Pittsburgh’s Hillman Library. My thoughtful host told me that the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s main library – the flagship of the whole program – was across the street. Clearly I had to take a peek.
The Hillman Library was a comfortable space and I wondered how the one across the street would compare. It compared favorably! Here’s some stuff I found impressive.
These signs appear over service desks. I noticed them right away though my gut tells their height might reduce their overall visibility. Regardless, “ask a librarian” is a much better solution than “reference” or “information” or even “help.”
Okay, so I think 99.9% of taped up 8.5″ x 11″ paper signs are a bad idea, yes. But this one struck my fancy. It is engagingly humorous and with its plain shapes and bold colors it has an attractive look.
A positively worded regulatory sign. While it would probably be better for library members if the rule didn’t exist, this is about as nice of a way to express the rule as possible.
The extra words on the sign are pretty powerful. They turn a sign that’s fine looking but completely blah into one that engages the reader as a human and makes a connection. Really nice.
Checkout how the marble stairs have worn. That’s a good usage statistic!
It takes practice to get the hang of thinking and talking about user experience. Here are some tools that will help you develop these skills and offer some insights about your library at the same time.
As important as it is to do some deep thinking about your library, an uninterrupted library focus can lead to a kind of myopia. An easy fix: take a step back from the daily library grind and clear out of the space altogether. An excursion can be intellectually refreshing and can amplify some of those other ideas you’ve got percolating for when you get back to the deep thinking.
Here’s a way to get paid for drinking coffee or shopping: the Service Safari. During this field trip, you and your coworkers will turn into customers with an ulterior motive. Visit a café, park, store, museum, or even another library with open eyes and ears. Record your experiences by taking notes, photographs, and even furtive cell phone videos.
Pay attention to all of the steps involved with using the service and how you experience it over time. Keep track of what was good about using the service and what could be improved. If you’re organizing the Service Safari, consider providing first-time participants with a worksheet to fill out. This can help guide their thinking and let them get the hang of it. Possible questions to include:
What was the goal of this service and was it met?
Was this experience overall positive or negative?
What was good about the service?
What detracted from the experience?
With whom did you interact?
Were you confused at any time during the experience?
Describe the physical space.
Describe the customer service.
Clearly, the Safari reports won’t directly tell you how to improve your library, but they’re still worthwhile: they’ll sharpen your powers of observation, which can help your ongoing library self-evaluation. Likewise, the conversations you have with coworkers about your observations can easily lead to a more direct conversation about how your library handles similar situations.
Once you’ve gone on a few Service Safaris, consider mapping out the paths taken by your users. If you’ve developed personas (a kind of library user archetype), here’s a perfect time to bring it into the mix. Map out the typical things they do in a library. If you haven’t yet developed personas, that’s okay. Just detail paths users take to accomplish common tasks. Central to journey mapping are the touch points that make up the path, e.g., for picking up an item reserved online: library website, catalog, email hold notification, telephone hold notification, drive to library, parking lot, library entrance, stairway, holds shelving, self-check machine, and library exit.
Ideally, you’d talk to actual library users about each of these touch points. By listening closely and asking the right questions, you can learn more about how they’re experiencing every aspect of the visit. Once you’ve spoken with a number of users, it might help to write up the story of a journey in addition to producing a flowchart-style diagram of it.
Now you can both analyze the journey as a whole and take a look at individual touch points in order to make better design decisions.
If you’ve identified a problem with a touch point, you can employ a problem-solving tool developed by Sakichi Toyoda and used to great effect in a little business he built called the Toyota Motor Corporation. It’s called “5 Whys.”
The method starts with the statement of a problem and aims to unveil its root causes by asking “why” up to five times. Here’s a simple example:
Event attendance by adults is low.
Why aren’t people coming to our events?
Because they don’t know about our programs.
Why don’t they know about our programs?
Because we don’t advertise them effectively.
Why don’t we advertise them effectively?
Because we don’t know how to advertise.
Why don’t we know how to advertise?
Because we have no expertise.
Why don’t we have any expertise?
Because we didn’t realize we needed any.
Try this with any problem you identify, and you’re likely to arrive at some aspect of your library you haven’t yet considered. Thinking beyond the library—in terms of both routine and service—can open up a world of new ideas. Just make sure you take the time to step outside.
This first appeared “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.