How Engaging is Your Website?

I just read Rising to the Challenge: Re-Envisioning Public Libraries, by the Aspen Institute.

On page 15, they talked about the library as place. I was struck by this:

The library as it exists within virtual space must be considered as a wholly independent but highly integrated experience; that is, the library’s virtual presence must be as engaging as its physical space and fully serve the library’s mission built around equitable access, learning and civic development.

Wow. Did you catch that? ” … as engaging as its physical space…” and “fully serve the library’s mission …”

Are we there yet? Look around your building, your service points, your programs. Your most popular stuff. Then look at your digital spaces.

Are we there yet? I don’t think so.

Pic by Quinn Dombrowski

What’s Missing?

Ever wanted to know what your customers think is missing from a service point in your library?

There’s an easy way to find out … just ask! Post something that asks “what’s missing?” and start gathering answers. For example:

  • Want to find out what’s missing on your public PCs? Tape a form to the table by each computer and ask for comments.
  • Have a teen room, and you want to find out what’s missing there? Put up a white board that asks “what’s missing?” (and be prepared for some snarky responses. They’re teens, after all).
  • Have a mobile website or app? Do what my library did. The last link on the main page of our mobile Boopsie app is “What’s Missing? Send us a Suggestion.” Clicking that link leads to an email form that gets sent to me. And believe me, people fill that out!
  • Ask through your library’s social media channels.

You can ask a similar “what’s missing” question on a website, in a room of the library, or even in the stacks. The point is this: if you want to make improvements in the library, you need to find out what’s missing … and fix that stuff.

Pic by crdotx

Experience Economy Goes by Many Names

Experience is called many thingsJoseph Pine and James Gilmore noticed this thing they called the Experience Economy. They think we’ve moved beyond purchasing mere goods and services – now, we can purchase “experiences” (hence, the experience Economy). In their newest book, they blend the idea of experience with something they call Authenticity.

But Experience or the Experience Economy isn’t the only thing this notion is called – this post will introduce you to some other similar terms.

For example, when I read their book, I didn’t see much in the way of website experience. Certainly, the underlying ideas were there, but no concrete examples were given (it was written in 1999, so I’ll give them a break). That bugged me enough to write my own book about it, and I called the website version of it the Digital Experience.

Rohit Bhargava, who writes the Influential Marketing Blog, comes from a customer engagement and marketing/PR background. In his book Personality Not Included: Why Companies Lose Their Authenticity and How Great Brands Get it Back, he calls it personality. Here’s a quote from the introduction that explains what personality is:

“The theory of Personality Not Included is that personality is the answer. Personality is the key element behind your brand and what it stands for, and the story that your products tell to your customers. Every element of your business, from your interactions with your customers to the packaging of your product is an element of your brand personality, and these are the elements that inspire delight or indifference among your customers. In short, personality matters.”

I heard Jane McGonigal speak last year at SXSWi 2008. She presented on gaming and alternate realities … and called it happiness. Here are some notes I took from her presentation:

Question – are you in the happiness business? Our primary product soon will be happiness… Happiness is the new capital

Four key principles of happiness:

  1. satisfying work to do
  2. experience of being good at something
  3. time spent with people we like
  4. chance to be a part of something bigger

McGonigal’s description of happiness sounds VERY similar to Pine & Gilmore’s description of experience and Bhargava’s description of a company with personality.

Ever heard of Touch Points? It’s sort of like usability … but doesn’t focus primarily on how the thing works. Instead, it focuses on the experience customers have during their interactions with the product or service or website.

Ok, one more. A few years back when Kathy Sierra was still blogging, many of her blog posts focused on this same concept – but she called it enchantment and kicking ass.

See what’s going on?

It’s not quite usability (but lives there). It’s not quite marketing (but it lives there). It’s not quite design (but it lives there too). It’s not quite customer service (yep – lives there). Not quite library 2.0 (even lives there).

There’s a convergence in many different fields right now – gaming, marketing, PR, web design, customer service, etc. – that all have, as their utmost goal, providing the customer with a positive experience … an authentic experience … happiness … attracting them with personality … enchanting them … helping them “kick patootie.” (ok, my wash-your-mouth-out-with-soap upbringing just kicked in – sorry ).

Question – how are you working to enchant your users? Not just meet their information needs … but delight them? Are you providing a positive experience, and if so – how?

David Lee King’s Digital Experience: Interview in TK Magazine

I Was Featured in TK MagazineI recently gave a book-related interview for a local-to-Topeka magazine, TK Magazine. People actually read it! I’ve had a number of people stop me and say they saw “my article” – that’s sorta cool. Here’s the interview:

**********

In the March/April 2008 issue of TK, we introduced you to the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library’s new “Digital Branch” – a library branch that exists entirely on the Web, enabling you to check out books, pick out movies and music, and just about anything you else you want to do at the main library (except you can do it all in your PJs!).

The whiz behind the development of the library’s website [aside – LOTS of very smart people built our website – definitely not just me!] is David Lee King. He has just published his first book, “Designing the Digital Experience,” which aims to help you create a website that offers such a positive digital experience that your visitors will not only return, but will share links to your site with all their friends, family and co-workers.

TK: What is “experience design?”

DK: Experience design is the practice of designing, well, lots of things – products, services, events, and environments – but with the customer’s experience fully in mind. A good example of experience design in action is a visit to two restaurants, McDonalds and Hard Rock Cafe. At McDonald’s, you get a sandwich, and the normal fast-food experience – rather bland (some would argue, just like the sandwich).

But when you visit the Hard Rock Cafe, the “experience” you have while at the restaurant is geared toward a theme – that of rock music. Everything, including the food and drink you order, the decor of the place, t-shirts you can buy, even the background music playing, is themed to provide you with a “rock and roll” experience that you can’t help but notice.

Hard Rock Cafe has designed an experience around rock and roll – only part of the total experience involves the actual food.

TK: How does that relate to my website?

DK: Websites are rapidly changing from electronic brochures about an organization or business to an actual destination, where real-life, real-time transactions take place. Take my bank, for instance. At my bank’s website, I can balance my checkbook, pay bills, and transfer money. I can do actual, real-world things at the website.

Organizations are starting to improve the experience their customers have while at the site in order to better serve their customers.

TK: What will our readers learn from your book?

DK: My book will quickly get you up-to-speed about what digital experience design is, and different approaches to take with your website in regards to digital experience. I also provide ideas to help jump-start your thinking about what your customers experience while at your website, and ways to help improve those experiences.

* original article online at TK Magazine, used by permission

** Photo by Bryan Nelson