Building a Single User Experience: IL 2011 Session Summary

Next up is a panel talk by Jason Battles (University of Alabama), Rachel Vacek (University of Houston), and Nina McHale (University of Colorado Denver) on “Building a Single User Experience.”

Nina: Challenges to Creating Library Websites
We need to think about our goals and intentions when developing our web presence.

Challenges to Library Web Shops: multiple tools, multiple access points, branding, organizational politics, programming resources, assessment tools and methods sometimes don’t work for library websites. Talking about each in turn.

  • Multiple tools: lots of disparate sources of content and have content and/or function silos (examples: main library websites, catalog, databases, EZ Proxy pages, etc.) Discovery layer tool takes care of content silos, but you still have function silos
  • Multiple access points for tools: URLs can get crazy and for staff there are a lot of different login pages for different tools. Bottomline, it can get confusing.
  • Branding: Hard to have uniform branding across lots of different tools, especially with proprietary products.
  • Organizational Politics: Applications administratered by different departments can make communication difficult and politics unavoidable.
  • Programming Resources: Some libraries will never have the budget for a programmer. Lack of in-house knowledge and skills can make it difficult to create a seamless website.
  • Commercial Website Assessment Tools and Methods: Sometimes they don’t work for libraries. Can be difficult to reconcile the numbers. Exit pages are not necessarily fails for libraries because they might be going to other content like ILL.

Rachel: Ultimate Goal: Seamless User Experience
If users are seeing many different pages with different design and layout, they will get confused (or at least have a jarring visual experience).

“You need to give it [your website] some love” to create a seamless experience.

Make the interface and branding familiar across the different tools and systems. “You want to create happy experiences on your website.” Create meaningful pages by defining the purpose of the page.

UX is not just about usability. It is so much more. It’s about accessibility, information architecture, ifnromation design, interaction design, writing for the web, etc.

Need to think about your audience, purpose, consistent presentation across the tools and aplications, and functionality.

Having Content Style Guides is very helpful to increase consistency across the different content editors. Resolves questions on problematic elements like abbreviations, capitalization, tone, brand, naming conventions, etc.

Content Style Guides should be part of a larger content strategy.

Jason: How to reach the Ultimate Goal
Lots of ways we can make things better. You will still have Frankenstein (your website made up of many different tools and resources) at the end of the day. But it will be the best Frankenstein you can make.

REST and SOAP to retieve content. Very good for mobile integration. REST=REpresentational state transfer. SOAP=Simple Object Access Protocol. Both are platform and language independent.

Data Structures: Streamline homegrown systems and databases for accessibility by using MySQL databasees and OAI, XML, REST, SOAP.

ILS, IR and Discovery: Most ILS provide APIs, Institutional Repositories often use OAI. Discovery tools: REST or SOAP support is essential.

Content Management Systems: Examples include: Drupal, WordPress, LibGuides. Many options for pulling in content.

Mobile design: Very important and APIs are important in mobile design. Prevent duplicative work.

Takeaway
Websites are an amalgam of many different tools, applications, and resources from many different vendors. Even though we can’t get around that, we can create a more seamless experience for the user by using the tools and techniques talked about in this session.

Slides from this presentation are available on Slideshare.

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