Make Subscribing to Blogs Easy

alablogThere’s one little thing that bugs me about blog design/usability – it’s where most of us place the Syndicate this Blog section… usually at the BOTTOM OF THE PAGE, and usually hidden in arcane geek language.

Generally, the syndicate/rss info is placed at the bottom of a blog site because that’s where the blog software designer / skin creator originally placed that info. For example, an out-of-the-box WordPress blog sticks the RSS feed info down at the bottom of the page, and calls it … of all things… Meta, then lists Entries RSS and Comments RSS as links. A new Blogger blog doesn’t even include the feed info on the page – you have to add it manually (most people don’t).

The image included in this post is ALA’s Member blog. Believe me, I’m not picking on ALA here – I think it’s great that they have gone from GormanGate to having a blog for members! But I just discovered the blog this morning, and it reminded me that I needed to write a post about blogs… And it’s a great example of a good, useful blog that can be made better and even more useful with a couple of itty-bitty changes.

Anyway, look what ALA has done with their RSS info – it’s at the bottom of the blog page in a section named Syndicate This Blog. To their credit, they’ve also linked to a page explaining RSS.

Why does that bug me? Because while all of us highly geek’d out blog readers generally know where to look and what to look for when hunting down an RSS feed, there’s a far greater percentage of people who don’t really know what RSS, Atom, syndication, or Meta is, and don’t really know where to look for this info.

What should change here? On the ALA Member blog, here are a few things I would change:

  • Call the section Subscribe to this Feed or something similar
  • Bump the Subscribe to this Feed section up to the top of the page (either over or under the blog summary/introduction thing)
  • Have someone write a better What is RSS explanation, rather than linking to someone else’s (in ALA’s case, the explanation they chose to link to isn’t very good, there are misspellings, etc, etc… and I think they have someone working at ALA who could probably write a decent, down-to-earth explanation… :-)
  • OK… while I’m at it, in ALA’s case, I’d add some text in the html Title tag section… right now, all it says is “memberblog.” They could add some hearty meta-text about ALA…
  • And I’d remove the Valid XHTML, Valid CSS etc links in the footer section of the site. No one really cares about that stuff – and the ones that do can figure it out pretty easily, if needed.

Why should this change? Again, I know what all that RSS stuff means. But most librarians don’t. So:

  • change the wording a little (from syndicate to subscribe) and they’ll quickly have a mental picture of what that means.
  • Move the link to the feed from the bottom of the page to the top of the page, and newbies who want to subscribe don’t have to search for the link.
  • Write a clear “what is this” explanation, and use it as a teaching tool – SHOW how easy it is to subscribe to a blog (do a screencast using Camptasia); point people to Bloglines, My Yahoo, etc.
  • And point them to all your great blogs, if you have more than one – in ALA’s case, they at least have this one and an ALA news feed, for example!

Making these little changes on your blogs will help guide your future blog readers (translation: your members, your patrons, your customers) to your feeds, will hopefully make the “subscribe to this feed” process easier for them, will introduce them to your range of blogs, and will possibly teach them something, too.

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Experience Staging in College Admissions

This isn’t technically related to libraries or digital spaces, but it might get you thinking nonetheless. Check this post out from the Experience Economy Evangelist. In a nutshell:

Hendrix College stages an experience for their prospective students. What do they do? Here’s a list:

  • The call it the Hendrix Experience (that’s just cool)
  • They create a customized, reserved parking space for the prospective student
  • Student’s name on a welcome sign
  • outfitted with a backpack and escorted to a class
  • Ate with students in the dining hall
  • at the end of the day, student is given a gift, that includes a tie-dyed t-shirt (that says “not just another college visit), frisbee, water bottle, pencil,  and chocolate.

Why are they doing this? They are going for a college visit “that is engaging, memorable, authentic, has a signature moment (or two) and a whole lot of fun!” When an experience is memorable, has signature moments, and is just plain fun, the college figures its more likely to hook that student – when the student visits all possible colleges, they’ll think about Hendrix College… and start smiling… and end up going there (well, that’s how it’s supposed to work, anyway).

So… start thinking… how can YOU stage an experience at your library? How can you create memorable experiences with signature moments? How about on your websites and other sigital spaces?

Hmm…

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Target Being Sued for Website Inaccessibility

Go read “Court Denies Target.com Plea for Dismissal,” from the Web Site Accessibility Blog. The Federal Court Judge marilyn Hall Patel has ruled that “a retailer may be sued if its website is inaccessible to the blind.”

What Target lost was their plea for dismissal – not the ruling on whether or not federal law on accessibility applies to websites. But stay tuned – it has some HUGE ramifications for those many library websites that aren’t terribly accessible.