Developing an Online First Mentality, Part One: What IS Online First?

I’ve been thinking about the whole “mobile first” strategy for websites, which makes a lot of sense. That’s the idea that, when designing a website, you make it work on mobile devices first.

Why does it make sense? These days, many of your customers are carrying a web browser around with them, on their smartphone or tablet. If they aren’t, they will be soon. So it makes a lot of sense to design a website to work on mobile browsers.

As I’ve been thinking and reading about Mobile First strategy, I’ve come across another idea that works in a library setting, too – the idea of creating an “online first” strategy.

What is Online First?

Online First is the idea that everything your organization does should have an online component first – before the in-person or physical component. Or at the least, the online parts should be as important as the in-person component.

Oh yeah – like that’ll work, David.

This concept actually makes a lot of sense for many businesses. Some examples:

  • Journalism. Many news organizations have, indeed, switched to an online first model for news reporting. New stories are immediately published online and distributed by websites and social media. Then the news organization publishes the best or most interesting stories into their print or broadcast versions. More on that here.
  • Retail businesses. Where will you find, say, the whole product line from the Disney Store? In their physical store? Nope. their full product catalog can be found online. Plus, in the online store, you’ll find product reviews, ratings, etc. In the physical store, you just find (maybe) the product on the shelf. I wrote about this (sorta) back in 2009.
  • Restaurants. Ok, you can’t drink an online cup of coffee or eat an online hamburger. But you CAN read all about the the food you’re planning to purchase online – nutritional info for the hamburger, or the origin and background and tasting description of the coffee beans. Want that “secret” In-N-Out Burger menu? It can be found online.
  • Customer service. Sometimes, you need to talk to a person about a product – how to assemble it, how to return it, or a billing issue. Does that always have to be a “physically in-person” interaction? No, and actually that’s sometimes impossible at the physical store. Why? Because the physical store closes at 9pm, but you might need that answer at 2am! Online, you can possibly talk to a person via chat. If not that, it’s very possible to still watch an assembly video, download instructions, or read some detailed information on a support page.

So that’s the idea, anyway. In my next post, I’ll give some thoughts to how this idea might work in a library setting.

Photo by the European Parliament

Ideas from Platform – the wrap-up

My last three posts have been about Michael Hyatt’s book, Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World. Great book! Go read it.

There were a TON of great ideas on how to build a platform in the book – well worthy of reading, digesting, then figuring out how to adapt those ideas into an organizational, library setting. It can be done!

Here’s what I wrote about:

  1. Building a Wall of Fame
  2. Content is Not About You. Ever.
  3. Is Privacy Really Dead?

Have you read the book? I’ve love to hear what you found interesting. Please share!

Image from Michael Hyatt’s website

Content is Not About You. Ever.

I’m still focused on Michael Hyatt’s book, Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World. Great book! Go read it.

On page 101, Michael writes this:

“Unless you are a megacelebrity, readers don’t care about you. Not really. They care about themselves. They want to know what’s in it for them. Your personal stories can be a doorway to that, but in the end, the best posts are about your readers’ needs, fears, problems, or concerns. Always ask, “What’s the takeaway for my reader?”

Cool thought. Now apply it to your library’s website, and not just to blog posts. Think about your library’s About Us page, or a page about a specific library service.

Then, ask these questions:

  • What’s the takeaway for my reader?
  • Is there a clear next step for the reader?
  • Is the question “what do I do next” answered?
  • Is that next step at the top of the page, rather than at the end of a humongous chunk of text?

If your website is like mine, after answering those questions … you have a LOT of rewriting to do. Get busy!

image from Michael Hyatt’s website

Thinking about Mobile Content Yet?

Mobile devices - December 2013My library’s web developer, Nathan Pauley, shared this article with me: The Mobile Moment, by Luke Wroblewski. In the article, Luke discusses how processes, priorities, and product thinking change when the majority of your web traffic shifts from desktop to mobile devices.

Probably a good thing to start thinking about now, rather than later. Why? Well, in my library’s case, we are getting closer all the time. For example, the image included in this post shows mobile visits for my library’s website for December 2013:

  • Blue = desktop website visits (67.4%)
  • Green = mobile device visits (20.3%)
  • Red = tablet device visits (12.3%)

So … add the mobile and tablet percentages together, and you get 32.6%. Almost 33% of web traffic coming from some type of mobile device! What was that percentage a year ago? A whopping 17.6%. If that rate continues, we’ll be around 50% mobile traffic in another year. Wowser!

What should we be thinking about when we hit 50% mobile traffic? Here are some thoughts – please add yours!

  • Responsive website, or at least some form of mobile website. That’s why my library is going responsive (our redesign should be live by the end of January!).
  • Mobile-friendly content. It’s not enough to have web-friendly content. Think about making that content mobile-friendly, too.
  • Easy ways to share, like, and interact with social media sites.
  • Quick ways to connect to library staff and to library content directly from a customer’s mobile device.

What else? Let’s get this mobile thing figured out!

Using Business Cards to Promote econtent

My library has a bunch of econtent – services like Freegal, OneClick Digital, Hoopla, OverDrive, Zinio, Treehouse, and Mango Languages.

Each of these tools point to real content – movies, music, books, magazines, and classes – but they live on the digital branch.

Our marketing department created a fun way to promote these econtent services by using business cards.

Each card has a word and an image on the front, and a brief description and a URL to the service on the back of the card.

We are using these cards to promote a bunch of services:

  • Music – promotes Freegal
  • Audiobooks – promotes OneClick Digital
  • Video – promotes Hoopla
  • Ebooks – promotes Overdrive
  • Language – promotes Mango
  • Magazines – promotes Zinio
  • Design & Program – promotes Treehouse

The idea? Place these cards around the building, hand them out at events, etc. Basically – give them to customers, so customers know about all this cool content we have. It’s one way of getting content that lives on the digital branch “out of the building.”

You can see the other cards we created over on my Flickr account.

Update: And here’s the back of the Music card, as an example of the info we provide.