Four Mobile Options for Libraries

I just read Your 4 Mobile Options by Paul Boag. Good stuff! In the article, Paul suggests that there are basically four options when it comes to having a mobile presence (taken from Paul’s article – you should go read the whole thing!):

  1. Responsive website: A responsive website is one that adapts to whatever device it is being viewed on. Whether that is a desktop computer, tablet or mobile device, the same website will display the same content using a visual design most suited to that device.
  2. Native application: Native apps are applications that run physically on the mobile device and are coded specifically for the operating system of that device. These are the applications you typically find in either the Google Play or iOS App Store.
  3. Web application: A web application shares characteristics with both a native application and a responsive website. As with a responsive website a web application is built using HTML, CSS and Javascript and lives entirely online.
  4. Hybrid application: A hybrid application is essentially a native application built with HTML, CSS and Javascript. By building it with web technology it is quicker to develop and easier to publish to multiple platforms (e.g. iOS or Android). The downsides are that performance tends not to be as good and they lack the design style of each platform.

Which one of these options should libraries use? Paul says this as a general rule of thumb: “A good starting point is to ask whether users are primarily completing a task or accessing information.”

I’d agree – that’s a good starting point. I’d go a bit farther, and say this – figure out what your mobile users are doing, and how they do it, and more importantly – WHAT they want to do. Then figure out the right flavor of mobile accessibility that best meets those needs. Also, figure out what you can do. For example, when my library was still on Horizon for our library catalog, we chose Boopsie because they could create a mobile version of our catalog (something our vendor hadn’t yet figured out). So we went with an app-driven mobile catalog.

We’re on Polaris now, and it comes with a web-based catalog that works great. Will we stay with our Boopsie app? Not necessarily, since the mobile version of Polaris works well. More on that later this year!

One other thing – if you haven’t yet started to think about the mobile web … why not? Pick something – anything – and start. Your smartphone-loving public is waiting!

Pic of Paul Boag from boagworld.com

Find & Fix your Potholes

potholesDoes your website, your library, or your new service have “potholes?”

Here’s what I mean by potholes – on your website, if the navigation is unclear, or if that “what do I do next” thing doesn’t make sense, you have caused a customer to stumble. You have effectively placed a pothole in your customer’s path, making it harder for them to navigate towards whatever it is they wanted to do.

Not a good thing!

A physical library building can do that, too. Poor (or non-existing) signage in a building can make people stumble. Arranging your book collection in a “made sense at the time” way can cause people to stumble.

If a new library service is confusing, has too many rules and policies surrounding it, or if information about the new service is hard to find on the website – again, these things make our library customers stumble.

A great way to increase usability – and hopefully satisfaction for our customers – is to find and fix those potholes. How do you do that? Here are some suggestions:

  • do some usability testing for the website.
  • ask customers if they can easily find things in your building.
  • keep track of frequent questions at the reference desk (i.e., those “where’s the bathroom” questions could mean that you have a new customer, or it could mean your signage stinks. Or both).
  • Create a “No” list – keep track of every time staff have to say “no” to customers. Then see if those “no” answers can be turned into “yes” answers with some policy tweaking, etc.

Then fix those potholes, so your customers don’t stumble.

What makes your customers stumble?

Pothole pic by Andy Wilson

Is the Web Modern Yet?

Today’s web is the “modern web” – css, HTML5 coming soon, websites designed with grids, lots of functionality. Yes-sirree, this is the modern web.

Just like this was a modern car:

This “modern car” could’t move fast enough for today’s modern highways (top speeds of 40-45 mph), wasn’t automatic, and didn’t have a/c, radio, or an iPod hookup. Or windows, for that matter. But I’m guessing that to the buyer back then, it was a pretty modern car, and a major change for them. They had to figure out the details of the change – i.e., what should we do with Bessie the horse? Where do we park it? Where do we get gas? How do we maintain it?

My point? That’s where the web is today – roughly 20 years after the first web page went online, we have today’s “modern” web. It certainly looks pretty modern to us, much like those cars from 1927 probably looked to the buyer.

Guess what? Much like that Model T … I don’t think we’re done yet. With websites or with libraries.

Car photo from Wikipedia