Inviting Comments

Sometimes, a blog post or article on a library website doesn’t get any comments. And that’s fine – not every post is comment-worthy, right? But there are ways to prompt, or “invite” visitors to comment … even by using the website’s built-in comment functionality. Let me show you what I mean.

Here are two examples – the first from my library’s website, and the second one from Atchison Public Library. Both of these examples are screenshots taken from the main page of both websites – each a teaser for an article.

Mine first (screenshot below):

no prompting

We let the comment functionality simply announce that no one has left a comment on this post (and darn it – it’s MY post!). We do that via the text “0 Comments.” This works fine – it’s what that functionality is supposed to do.

But check this out – here’s what Atchison Public Library does (screenshot below):

prompting for comments

See the difference? Atchison uses their lack of comments to … invite people to comment. They do this by prompting their website visitors to “be the first to comment.”

I know – it’s one of those little detail-y things. But it’s that type of detail, that focus on inviting patrons to participate, that just might prompt them … to participate. It might just convert that lurker into a more active participant.

Nothing wrong with that – good job, Atchison!

Conversation is Experience

Some web designers, especially those with a marketing or graphic design background, say they want to build an experience – but their designed experience, no matter who the website is for, tends to be designed like a movie or a rockstar’s website  – heavy on the Flash, on the intro page (complete with low-pitched ominous music), and it makes cute noises when you click on a link.

That’s great for a movie or a rockstar website. But most of us are building library, organization and company websites. What type of “experiences” should we be creating for those types of websites?

Conversation Spaces

Visitors to your website want to talk – with you, and with each other. Are you providing conversation spaces? The web is FULL of conversation now – check out Amazon, most newspaper and TV news sites, YouTube, this blog, Facebook, Twitter – all spaces where conversation can happen. And conversation DOES happen, because that’s what people do. We like to talk, we like to share, we like to voice our opinion (as I hope some of you do in the comments!).


So, my simple digital experience tip for today is this – make sure to create conversation spaces on your websites. Places like comment boxes, online forums or discussion groups around a topic, Twitter accounts for feedback, online places to Ask a Librarian, etc.

Enable Conversations

Also remember to actually enable conversations once you build the space. What’s that mean? In my library’s case, we allow unmoderated comments to fly free and easy onto our digital branch. I know what some of you are thinking – “OMG, David! Don’t you have a TON of cussing, swearing, name-calling, and other highly inappropriate things being posted? How could you EVER allow that!???!!??”

Um. No. We simply don’t have that. Yes, once in awhile we have some negative comments. But why would we moderate or not show those? Instead, we respond appropriately.

But some of you will need to moderate comments for one reason or the other (i.e., those old-fashioned city attorneys who haven’t yet discovered the joys of Facebook). If you DO moderate comments, make sure to do it quickly. Same day is good. Same hour is best. Why? Because it’s a CONVERSATION. If someone starts a conversation and you don’t get around to moderating the comment for a few days … well, you have killed the conversation. And that’s really no conversation at all.

pic by Adventures in Librarianship

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

Connecting the Physical to the Digital

IMG_0516Recently, while on a family vacation, I noticed something in a couple of stores … and thought I’d share.

My kids wanted to venture into the Disney Store and Build-A-Bear, and I went along for the ride. While in both stores, I saw signs that directed customers to check out the stores’ websites. But not just for kicks – look at what the signs said:

Disney: “Visit DisneyStore.com for an Additional Selection of …”

Build-A-Bear: “have fun and give back at Buildabearville.com.”

This is cool. Why? In both cases, the stores didn’t just have a sign letting customers know they have websites. Nope. Instead, they directed customers to visit the store websites for specific reasons.

By providing those reasons, they helped extend the customer experience with the store onto the web (and into our homes), after the fact. This type of after-the-purchase experience is sometimes called a “post-show” experience. The actual “show” was buying the product or visiting the store.

We can go a bit further with this, too. Look at the specific instructions we are given: Disney directs us to “an additional selection” of stuff. Think about that for a sec – they’re saying the larger, more complete store isn’t the physical store – it’s the digital store – the website.

Build-A-Bear directs us to their virtual world, where we can “have fun and give back.” OK – I don’t get the “”give back” part. But the “have fun” part I do understand! They’re giving you a specific reason to visit their website, and are suggesting it will be a fun experience. I’m guessing they get a lot of first-time traffic with those signs!

When you leave our libraryGuess what? We can do this too!

Look at this pic of a sign in my library, for instance (bigger version here). For a while, we had this large banner sign up by the exit doors – everyone walking past saw this sign. Our goal was simply to remind people that although they were leaving our physical building, their library experience didn’t have to end there. They can visit our digital branch and still do lots of stuff!

We could also direct customers to our “larger store.” Think about this for a sec – which place gives you a larger selection of library materials: browsing the shelves at the physical library … or visiting the online library catalog and putting stuff on hold?

Your larger, more complete library is NOT the physical building. It’s the website – the digital branch.

I’m guessing there are other ways to connect customers to your digital branch, as well as other reasons to do so… what are they? I’d love to hear them!

Think Simple

apple keySimple is good. But that doesn’t mean your site has to BE simple.

Let’s use Apple as an example of this. Apple computers tend to have a “simple” experience attached to them. When you pick one out, there are relatively few choices – three models to choose from (as opposed to Dell, which has LOTS of models to choose from). Macs come with all the software a consumer needs to start out – basic writing, email, photo, video, and web apps – all conveniently installed. And even those apps are simple – iMovie is extremely easy to use, for example – it’s highly visual. Even the power button is simple – it’s the only button on my Mac, as opposed to my kid’s HP laptops – they have a good 5-6 buttons that do a variety of things (including hiding the power button for the uninitiated).

But is my Mac REALLY simple? Think about iMovie again. That scrolling, visual timeline of the video is anything BUT simple to create. It’s simple for the user, sure… but I’ll bet there’s some extremely complicated coding going on on the back end of that visual scroll bar!

good bookNo, it’s anything but simple. Apple has designed my MacBook experience to make sense simply, so I can focus on other things (like write this post).

We can do this with our websites, too. Our goal should be this – Think simple… always. Can we have detailed functionality? Yes – as long as it doesn’t get in the customer’s way. Our goal should be to keep the customer focused on the task at hand – and that task should NEVER be to figure out how your website works. Let’s keep our website innards out of the customer’s way!