Ten things your web sites should be doing

This article discusses ten things websites should be doing. Here are the 10 things, rearranged a little (because of repetition) and with comments pertinent to library websites:

1. Offering regularly updated information (blogs, CMSs, etc.) and 2. Increased efficiency in news and information distribution (RSS, ATOM, etc.)
Blogs are great ways to quickly and painlessly update information on your website. CMS’s are another (think of them as fancy blogs that keep better track of your info). Or just start typing good ole’ HTML – at least you can have updated information on your site.

RSS, ATOM, etc. all make information distribution quick and easy. If you want frequently-updated information on your site, this is the way to go. Otherwise, you can talk your web developer into creating a custom version of a CMS (what we did). But it accomplishes the same thing – it allows our library staff to update information without messing with HTML, CSS, etc.

3. Alternative methods of information distribution (email newsletters, RSS, del.icio.us, etc.) and 4. Enhanced notification and announcement systems (pings, email alerts, etc.)
Again, RSS… In this case, think of the aggregator part of RSS – sorta like an e-newsletter. The point here is not so much with website design, but how to get new information out to your customers. And RSS and email are two great ways to do this. But remember – we’re librarians! There are other simple ways for us to alert our customers to new information – think printed bookmarks by the circ desk, flyers for library programs, and other more traditional methods. Use those just as often as you use RSS and email!

Pings? Anyone know how this helps? Let me know…

5. A place for your site’s users to offer feedback and input (blog comments, forums, etc.) and 9. Collaborative communication and documentation (Wikis, blogs, etc.) and 10. On-demand support feedback (user-driven FAQs, click-to-chat, etc.)
Besides the methods mentioned, use chat reference, email “ask us” links, or create an online comments form (go here to see ours in action). Just remember to update it if you creat one!

6. Improved performance and code optimization (CSS, XHTML, etc.) and 8. Intelligent system to system communication (XML, SOAP, etc.)
The geek stuff. Translation? Keep your website up-to-date with current coding practices, techniques, and language adjustments. This will keep the techies happy with your site in the short-term, and keep your site working on browsers in the long-term.

7. Multiple ways to access information (multi-faceted navigation, folksonomies, etc.)
Great suggestion, and one I hope us librarians remember. Make sure there is more than one way to access your great information! For example, if someone wants a new fiction book – provide multiple ways to access it – from the catalog, a fiction page, a staff book review page, a genre page, etc…

Have a wonderful Christmas, and here’s to better library websites in 2005!