Developing an Online First Mentality, Part Four: Where does your community hang out?

Finishing up with this series. In this post, let’s talk about something simple that relates to adapting an online first mentality.

Where are your customers?

Guess what? For most of the day, they are not in your library building.

Darn! So where are they? At school, at home, at work, in their cars, exercising, eating, etc. But NOT hanging out with you, at the library.

And that’s ok and normal, obviously.

But here’s the thing. You have access to your customers … even when they aren’t in your building.

In fact, it’s quite possible you have BETTER access to them when they aren’t in your building. Here’s what I mean – how many of you distribute your library staff throughout the public area of the library, like a store, to help people at the point of need? Not too many of us. For most of our customers, it’s very easy to visit the library, browse for a book, check it out, and leave without ever having to interact with library staff.

But online, your customers are within reach:

So … if the majority of your customers are online instead of in your library … where should you be? What’s that look like in terms of staffing? In terms of events and classes and programs? In terms of your collection and reference tools?

Definitely something to think about!

Photo by David Goehring

Developing an Online First Mentality, Part Three: Everything Online

I’ve been talking about developing an online first mentality for your library. In part one, I introduced the concept. In part two, I gave some examples of how it might work in a library setting.

In part three, let’s make sure that everything your library does is represented online. At least, all the parts that customers interact with.

What’s that mean? Think about what your library does for a second. Is everything – programs, events, services, etc. – represented online? Can you sign up for them online? If not – how come?

Sometimes, a library doesn’t represent a service online … because it might become too popular. Seriously. I’ve heard of libraries purposely NOT sharing something online because of capacity issues.

It might be a book group with limited seating. It might be a service that the library couldn’t handle if the service got too popular. Sorta like the In-N-Out Burger secret menu (if it wasn’t shared online) – if you happen to know about it, we’ll do it. We just won’t tell you that’s an option.

There are a few ways to handle those situations:

  1. Consider NOT doing it anywhere. Either promote it and do it well, or don’t do it at all. Maybe you should be focusing staff energy in other areas?
  2. Consider ramping it up. Gina Millsap, my library’s CEO, likes to say that we “organize around the work.” So if there’s more work to be done in a certain area, we shift staff to go do that. You could also hire more staff – if the service is truly popular and worthy of that type of investment (and, of course, if the powers-that-be say yes to that pricey request).
  3. Consider creating an alternative. Back to the book group idea for a second. My library does book groups. If more people want to start a book group, we have a cool service called Book Group in a Bag. We stuff 10 copies of a book in a bag, along with some “how to run a book group” instructions, and let customers check it out … and start their own book groups.

SO can you represent everything your library does online? I think so – get busy!

Photo by Steve Rhodes

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

Your Website is Already Mobile

Your website is already mobile. It just might not be delivering the best experience.

Jeff Wisniewski, in his presentation on responsive design at Internet Librarian 2013, said this – “All of your content is now mobile, so be kind.”

What did Jeff mean? Probably this – If your organization has a website, it’s already “mobile” … because people with smartphones can get to it using their smartphone web browsers.

It’s a done deal.

Well – sorta done. Your website might be available to mobile users, but is it usable? Does it adapt or respond to different screen sizes? Is the content written to be quickly scannable on a mobile device, or is it a huge river of text?

Here’s a question for you: What kind of experience are you providing your mobile customers? Is it good or bad? Have you ever thought about the mobile web user experience? If your organization is providing a less-than-stellar” mobile web experience, what are you planning to do to improve it?

I’d love to know!

Pic by Robert Scoble

Web Design Trends for 2014

I recently presented this talk at Internet Librarian 2014, and wanted to share it here too! If you want to see some really good notes from my presentation, check out Sarah Houghton’s post (thanks, Sarah!).

I did some research via Google on web design trends for 2014, took the trends that reappeared a bunch, and … here they are: 15 Web design trends in 6 loose categories:

Category 1 – Mobile:

1. Mobile-first design. Start designing on the small screen, then widen out to tablets and desktops. If you can’t do it on a mobile device, you probably don’t need it on your “big” website, either.

2. Responsive. Use a responsive or adaptive design, so your website works great on all screen sizes.

Category 2 – Designy Things:

3.Simplicity. Many web designs are going for a more minimalistic, simplified look. Make sure the design doesn’t get in the way of, or overpower, your great content.

4. White Space. Goes along with simplicity. White space can help emphasize content. Use it just like they do it magazines.

5. No Flash. Websites are still working on moving away from Flash and towards more modern design languages like HTML5 and CSS3.

Category 3 – Visual:

6. Parallax. Parallax design is a way to provide design depth and almost a 3D look to your website. IT reminds me of layers in Photoshop … just done on websites.

7. Flat Design. Sorta funny. Flat design and parallax design are almost opposites (but not quite). Flat design focuses on clean design and good use of color and whitespace. Think the new iOS design, and you’ll get the idea.

8. Blocking. Blocks of content – think Pinterest. I think it works great on sites like Pinterest or Flickr, where there’s a ton of content and the content is all on equal footing. On library websites like New York Public Library’s main page? Not so much. I’d guess their content is NOT equal in terms of importance, and the bottom of the page looks like an afterthought, like they forgot to “finish” the website.

9. Big Images. Use of large images on websites is a trend at the moment – even having a large image in the background of a website.

10. Colors. Using colors is big, apparently. Depending on what “hot web trends for 2014” you read, you’ll get a variety of answers as to what colors are trending – subtle and calm colors, retro colors, even neon colors! But know that web design is “colorful” these days. So think about using a tool like Adobe Kuler to help choose popular colors for a website. Or just go to Home Depot and get some matching paint swatches, and use those as a color base for your website.

Category 4 – Typography:

11. Web Fonts. We’re no longer limited to a couple of web-safe fonts. Think about using new web fonts like Google Fonts or Typekit.

Category 5 – Content:

12. Video. Video is still growing in importance.  A recent Pew report on online video says that 78% of online adults now watch or download video content. It’s an easy way to provide viewable content on your website.

13. Social Media. Social media integration is important for all types of websites and organizations. It’s a great way to share content out to customers in all the online “places” they hang out at.

Category 6 – Navigation:

14. Large Buttons. Websites are starting to use large, easily seen buttons. Make them big and bold!

15. Vertical Scrolling. Think about using “sticky” navigation that glues itself to the top of the page, or social media sharing plugins that glue themselves to the side of a page.

There you go! 15 web design trends for 2014. Are you redesigning your website? We are! Please share your new design ideas!