or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk



Archives for Websites:


Resources for Redesigning Websites

   November 18th, 2010 Brian Herzog

Thinking about the new design of the San Jose Public Library reminded me that I've been collecting links to tools and articles about web design. I posted a few resources before, but the demise of Bloglines has prompted me to pull out all my bookmarks and do something with them.

I'll be using these when we redesign our website, and hopefully you'll find them helpful too:

Web Design Overview

 

Design Tips & Goals

 

Testing & Development Tools

 

And the final word on this subject will come from Chuck - Design Coding is not only hilarious, it's amazingly accurate:

But I'm sure there are tons of other tools out there, so please share your favorite in the comments. Thanks.



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New San Jose Public Library Website

   November 16th, 2010 Brian Herzog

Whoa - check out the new website for the San Jose Public Library:

San Jose Public Library website

Sarah goes into some detail about the features of the new website and their reasoning behind it, which is worth reading. Here's my two cents too:

  • I love that they've done away with organizing their website along library department lines (Reference, Childrens Teens, etc.)
  • The design is wonderful - so clean and simple, yet colorful, engaging and informative. It's so different it's shocking at first, but once your eyes and mind adjust to the new design, everything is just there
  • Actually, now that I think of it, the homepage reminds me of the app icons on a smartphone - which is an interface that increasing numbers of people are becoming familiar with
  • I like embedding functionality, so two things I'd be curious to try to see if they'd work are:
    • In the New and Events block, instead of a picture to click on, embed a scrollable list of upcoming events to bring that info one step closer to the patron. Also include the link to drill down into the rest of that section
    • In the Locations block, again instead of a picture, it'd be neat to just embed the Google Map right there, and have each of the branch location markers include address, phone, email, and hours. That would put so much information right on the homepage, and of course again include a link to get into the rest of the section
    • But these might be overwhelming, so you'd have to try them to see

My library is planning to redesign our website, ahead of our migration to Evergreen. I'm definitely going to lobby to use SJPL's design as one of our models. Good job guys.



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Resources for Free Images and More

   November 19th, 2009 Brian Herzog

squirrelSometimes, being a librarian equates to being a packrat. At least in the virtual world, I can collect as many links as I want and it doesn't take up any room. However, to be useful, it does take organization.

For awhile now I've been bookmarking posts about free resources for clipart, photographs and other artwork. I use them for library publications, and also for my posts here. But just this week I got my act together and started transferring those links from my Bloglines account to my Delicious account, and thought I'd share them.

If you're curious how to do this with Delicious, check out my how-two post for creating library subject guides.

And just for good measure, here are a few web design tools I had bookmarked, too:



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Be Careful What You Tweet For

   April 14th, 2009 Brian Herzog

chelmsfordlib on TwitterTwitter has been around for a long time, so all the press it has gotten recently surprised me. Personally, I never really had much interest in it, so I just more or less ignored it.

Until a few months ago, that is, when I found a way to use it for the library.

The snowfall and storms this winter seemed particularly bad, and we had quite a few early closings or delayed openings. Whenever this happens, one of the ways we get the message out is to announce the change in hours prominently on our homepage.

However, it's the library director who makes the decision to close the library, but she had no easy way to update the homepage from home. She hasn't coded in html for years, and installing an editor and ftp program - and then her having to remember how to do everything - seemed like an unnecessary barrier. So, she asked me to find an easier way for her to update the homepage.

Ah-ha, I thought - I know libraries are displaying their Twitter feeds on their homepage, so why can't we?

homepage with embedded twitter feedI signed up for a Twitter account, learned how to customize the feed display, and added it to the library's homepage. I set the feed to only display one message, and after some trial and error figured out how to send a blank message (use the html code  ). That way, after the storm passes, we could send a blank message to remove the announcement from the homepage.

Then, to make it as easy as possible for my director to update from home, I also created a Twittermail account. Using Twittermail, all she needs to do is send an email message to our account, and whatever she types into the subject line with then display on our website (centered on the very top of the page). Neat.

When I demo'ed it for her, it worked like a charm, and she was very happy. But of course, we haven't had a snowstorm since.

And see, that's the problem - I created this Twitter feed for a very specific purpose, and we haven't had much of a need for it yet. However, since I created it, seven people have started following the library on Twitter.

We don't promote it, so how'd they find it? They must have gone looking. If our patrons are expecting us to be on Twitter, and voluntarily pay attention to us, doesn't it make sense that this is a tool we should be using? To me, it does.

So, in addition to storm closings, I've lately been trying to think of other "announcements" that deserve top billing on the library's homepage - just so I don't feel guilty about these Twitter followers not getting their library tweets.

This is very much a case of "if you build it, they will come." Now I need to live up to the implied second half of that saying, "when they come, make sure it's worth their while."



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In Praise of Short URLs

   April 7th, 2009 Brian Herzog

mass.gov logoThe Mass.gov website has a lot of great information, and being a librarian in Massachusetts, I use it all the time. However, one thing it does very poorly is URLs.

The powers that be at Mass.gov recently launched a new section of the website, devoted to the Massachusetts Recovery and Reinvestment Plan for the state's economy. What's the URL, you ask? This:

http://www.mass.gov/?pageID=gov3agencylanding&L=4&L0=Home&L1=Key+
Priorities&L2=Job+Creation+%26+Economic+Growth&L3=Massachusetts+Recovery+
and+Reinvestment+Plan&sid=Agov3

A recent promotional email introduced the site's resources, and listed the URL. My first thought was, wow, that pretty much guarantees it won't get used. Perhaps it's the Marketing degree in me, but if something doesn't have a catch name, or at least a moderately decipherable one, it automatically has less chance of succeeding.

I'm sure whatever CMS software the state uses is to blame for the ugly URLs, but they certainly have the power to do better. To wit: about a week later, a second email went out saying the new URL for the website was Mass.gov/recovery - perfect.

I use redirects on the library's website, and am glad that the state is too (and I'm sure it took more than my complaint email to do it).

But in addition to local redirects, URL shortening services like tinyURL.com, icanhaz.com and others can also help. Their popularity seems to have shot up with Twitter, but I use them in email instead of having monstrous URLs wrapping to multiple lines and thus not working. There are drawbacks to these services, but now that custom URLs are possible, I feel a little more comfortable using them with patrons.

It'd be great if all domains offered these short URL redirect services, and were limited just to that domain. That way, anyone could turn one of the standard Mass.gov long URL into a nice and clean Mass.gov-based useful URL, while at the same time not redirect a Mass.gov short URL to a porn site. I checked around and didn't see such software, but I'm going to keep looking.



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Single Serving Sites

   March 31st, 2009 Brian Herzog

The internet is endlessly innovative and entertaining. My current favorite phenomena is Single Serving Sites - websites that do only one thing.

In stark contrast to the "be everything to everyone" mentality, these one-off'ers are kind of refreshing. Most of them can't even be called "websites," because they consist of only one web page - but, for a fraction of a minute, they serve a purpose. Here's a list of my favorites:

Useful Sites

Weather Sites

Silly Sites

Once you start looking for these, it almost seems that they outnumber regular websites. Check out longer lists of single-serving sites here and here. Also, IsThisYourPaperOnSingleServingSites.com is worth reading - I hope he got an A.



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