Three Questions every webpage should answer, #1: What can I do here?

Question #1Ever visited a webpage, then looked around, wondering “what can I do here?”

If you have … that web designer failed!

I think every webpage should answer the question “what can I do here?” either visually, or by spelling it out:

  • Visually: design in such a way that the stuff you can do on a page, like clicking a button, filling in a text box, or even just reading or watching content, is extremely noticeable. Amazon does this by using complimentary colors that “pop” out on the page. They often use blue as a header or sidebar color, but the buttons they really want you to see (ie, the “buy now” button) are orange – a complimentary color.
  • Spelling it out: Use words, colors, graphics, etc to “spell it out” for people – tell or show website visitors what to do on the page. For example, we try to do this at my library’s website. The main page directs people to “Get a Library Card,” “Donate Now,” “Find Stuff,” “Ask a Librarian,” or Subscribe to our blog posts. People know what to do on our site, because we direct them.

On your library’s website, do people know “What can I do here” when they visit the main page? How about the catalog page, the “you didn’t find anything” page, or on your blog? At the comment box? On your Facebook Page even?

Think about it … and make sure to answer the question “What can I do here?”

Use the Front Door

A front door in Delft

If your library’s like mine, you have staff-only ways to access library stuff … things like employee parking, a staff-only entrance, a back-end way to access the library catalog, etc. Whenever I put a book on hold, I get it delivered via inter-office mail.

I never have to use the library like a patron if I don’t want to!

My question – is this a good thing?

Try using your library like a patron. Is it easy or hard? Is there something that frustrates you about the whole process? It’s probably doing the same thing to your patrons.

Here’s a thought – maybe we should create a “Work Like a Patron” week, where we only use the library like our customers do – use your library’s wifi (bonus points for using a Public PC), search using the patron version of your catalog, maybe even sit at those lovely desks in the library. Or hang out in a cafe, accessing all work- and library-related stuff from outside of the building. Use the front door, and see the library through your patrons’ eyes.

This works for the IT department, too. Use library employee tools like … library employees, rather than like IT dudes and dudettes. Is it hard? If so … it’s probably hard for the rest of the library, too. Make it work for everyone!

If it works wonderfully, great! If not, maybe you have some things to improve.

New Presentation: Creating Community Experience Using Mostly Free Stuff and Staff

Here’s the Slideshare version of a presentation I did for Proquest at the ALA MidWinter 2011 meeting. It was a fun presentation to do – I was experimenting with creating recurring themes throughout the presentation, and working on my transitions.

I think it worked well. Enjoy!

It’s the Experience that Matters – Notes from a ULC Webinar

I attended an Urban Libraries Council webinar on the customer experience today – it was good! Here are some of my notes from the session.

Speaker – Melanie Huggins, Richland County Public Library

Stuff I found interesting…

Definitions:
User Experience (UX) – interaction between technology and humans
Customer Experience (CxP) – all aspects of a customer’s interaction with an organization, its product and services

Think about the whole interaction – the before, during, and after – that’s the customer experience.

6 laws of customer experience:

1. Every interaction creates a personal reaction
– An experience designed for everyone satisfies no one. You need to optimize for a specific set of customers (ie., use personas)

2. People are instinctively self-centered
– don’t sell things – help customers buy them
– don’t show your corporate underpants

3. Customer familiarity breeds alignment
– think of your company as a large production crew making the stars (front-line employees) shine on stage (during customer interactions) – nice thought!

4. Unengaged employees don’t create engaged customers

5. Employees do what is measured, incented, and celebrated
– me – ok. “encented” is a silly word.
– don’t just expect staff to do the right things. Instead, clearly define good behaviors.
– watch for mixed messages

6. You can’t fake it!
– it has to be top priority to be successful
– advertise to reinforce, not create, positioning (ie., job ads)

Definition of brand: a customer’s gut feeling about a product, service, or organization.

Good stuff!

Rethinking the 3rd Place

I had a conversation with my supervisor (Rob Banks, Deputy Director of Operations at the library) a couple days ago, and thought it was worth sharing with y’all.

We were talking about our impending website redesign (yes, we’re at it again). I had sent him a rough draft of my redesign plan, and we were talking through it. He had been reading my book on digital experiences, and that had fired off some really cool thoughts about the concept of 3rd place for him… here’s what he said that made us start thinking:

“It’s not 3rd place – it’s The Place:”

  • Typically, Rob has maybe 6 windows open on his computer while at work – email,   a couple of work documents he’s working on, TweetDeck (ok – does YOUR deputy director have TweetDeck open constantly? Just sayin), and a couple of websites – usually including Facebook.
  • He’s doing several things at the same time … but Facebook is always on, and he’s always connected to his Facebook friends.
  • When he’s not at work, Rob has a Blackberry with a Facebook app – so Facebook is always on there, too. He can connect to Facebook whenever he wants to, no matter where he is.
  • Rob can still be in his physical “3rd place” and (important point) STILL BE CONNECTED to Facebook and his friends.
  • And that’s the idea that needs to be translated over to our library’s digital branch.

Our library websites/digital branches will probably never be a real 3rd place to people – and that’s ok. Instead of working towards that, let’s work harder to make this now-old phrase, “be where the patrons are,” a bit more seamless.

good bookRob can be in his 3rd place – but he is also constantly connected to friends/colleagues/family in Facebook at the same time. Facebook, in a way, has transcended the 3rd place to be “The Place.” It’s always on, always available to him, when he wants to be there.

Our library websites/digital branches can be like this, too! So… still developing, but this is definitely going in the redesign plan.

Thoughts? How are you “always there, always on” when patrons want to reach you?

Photo by javaturtle