Usability is Still a Thing

AirTran Check-In

Usability. It’s something ALL websites should work on … all the time.

For example, check out this AirTran page. I was checking in and printing boarding passes for my daughter, and this page appeared. Directly underneath the “print now” label, there’s a button that says “continue.” The button is big, obvious, the text is bolded, and it’s right underneath the “print now” label.

Guess what I did? I clicked “continue.” Which was the wrong thing to do. There’s actually a “print” button there too, to the right of everything. Pushed off to the side, no bolded text, smaller, etc.

Do you think AirTran could improve this? Yep. Pretty easily.

Now – think about your websites. Is there anything … anything at all … that you could improve pretty simply?

Probably so. Go do it.

 

Developing an Online First Mentality, Part Five: More Reading on Online First

I’ve come to the end of my thoughts (for now) on developing an online first mentality for your library. Here’s a handy list of the whole series of articles:

Developing an Online First Mentality:

To finish up, here’s some further reading on the idea of creating an online first mentality. Enjoy!

Thanks for reading!

Developing an Online First Mentality, Part Four: Where does your community hang out?

Finishing up with this series. In this post, let’s talk about something simple that relates to adapting an online first mentality.

Where are your customers?

Guess what? For most of the day, they are not in your library building.

Darn! So where are they? At school, at home, at work, in their cars, exercising, eating, etc. But NOT hanging out with you, at the library.

And that’s ok and normal, obviously.

But here’s the thing. You have access to your customers … even when they aren’t in your building.

In fact, it’s quite possible you have BETTER access to them when they aren’t in your building. Here’s what I mean – how many of you distribute your library staff throughout the public area of the library, like a store, to help people at the point of need? Not too many of us. For most of our customers, it’s very easy to visit the library, browse for a book, check it out, and leave without ever having to interact with library staff.

But online, your customers are within reach:

So … if the majority of your customers are online instead of in your library … where should you be? What’s that look like in terms of staffing? In terms of events and classes and programs? In terms of your collection and reference tools?

Definitely something to think about!

Photo by David Goehring

Developing an Online First Mentality, Part Three: Everything Online

I’ve been talking about developing an online first mentality for your library. In part one, I introduced the concept. In part two, I gave some examples of how it might work in a library setting.

In part three, let’s make sure that everything your library does is represented online. At least, all the parts that customers interact with.

What’s that mean? Think about what your library does for a second. Is everything – programs, events, services, etc. – represented online? Can you sign up for them online? If not – how come?

Sometimes, a library doesn’t represent a service online … because it might become too popular. Seriously. I’ve heard of libraries purposely NOT sharing something online because of capacity issues.

It might be a book group with limited seating. It might be a service that the library couldn’t handle if the service got too popular. Sorta like the In-N-Out Burger secret menu (if it wasn’t shared online) – if you happen to know about it, we’ll do it. We just won’t tell you that’s an option.

There are a few ways to handle those situations:

  1. Consider NOT doing it anywhere. Either promote it and do it well, or don’t do it at all. Maybe you should be focusing staff energy in other areas?
  2. Consider ramping it up. Gina Millsap, my library’s CEO, likes to say that we “organize around the work.” So if there’s more work to be done in a certain area, we shift staff to go do that. You could also hire more staff – if the service is truly popular and worthy of that type of investment (and, of course, if the powers-that-be say yes to that pricey request).
  3. Consider creating an alternative. Back to the book group idea for a second. My library does book groups. If more people want to start a book group, we have a cool service called Book Group in a Bag. We stuff 10 copies of a book in a bag, along with some “how to run a book group” instructions, and let customers check it out … and start their own book groups.

SO can you represent everything your library does online? I think so – get busy!

Photo by Steve Rhodes

Developing an Online First Mentality, Part Two: In the Library?

In my last post, I introduced the idea of an online first mentality, and gave examples of how modern businesses use this idea.

OK. That makes sense for those guys. But what about a library? Can Online First work there?

I think so. Not in the news organization, “publish online first” way, but more like the restaurant business, “here’s the rest of the story” way.

How, exactly?

Make sure that whatever you do has an online component, and that that component is created at the same time as the physical service or tool or area. Here are some examples:

Storytime. If you are creating a storytime program (or already have one), also develop some online storytime videos, uploaded to Youtube. This serves a few purposes:

  • It gives you storytimes for your digital branch.
  • It provides storytimes for your community that can be played any time – before the library is open and between programs, for starters.
  • It showcases the storyteller and the service. If a school or daycare wants to know what you do, you can easily provide a link to the video, so they can “try before they buy.”

Reference. Only so many people can line up at the reference desk. And that’s not really where most questions begin. That’s why many libraries also offer chat, text, email, and telephone reference services. You might also think about offering similar services in your social media channels (i.e., Facebook or Twitter). Easy to set up, and most of you have one or more of these services. Now do some targeted promotion of those services, and see what happens.

Your catalog. You have already adopted an online first mentality with the catalog (though you probably haven’t thought about it that way yet). The only way to access your library catalog … and your whole collection of stuff … is through your online catalog. In-person shelf browsing is fun, but it never leads to the whole collection, because a bunch of your stuff is checked out. Want access to everything the library owns? You have to go online to do that.

Ebooks. Another no-brainer. The only way to access that collection is … online.

Events, programs, classes. Let’s say you’re planning an author talk at the library. The actual event is an in-person thing. Why not also create a short video interview that can live on after the event? It showcases what you do and offers your community an extra glimpse at the author, too. We did this with Jim Richardson, a National Geographic photographer – it’s one of our most popular Youtube videos.

Can an online first mentality work in a library setting? I think so, and I think at the least, we should have a representation of all we do online … which is exactly what I’ll talk about in my next post!

Photo by Penn State