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


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.



Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,



Reference Question of the Week – 1/3/10

   January 9th, 2010 Brian Herzog

You Can't Do That on Television sceneAbout 30 minutes before we closed one night, a patron came to the desk and asked:

How do I find a website that starts with "F"?

When I asked him what he meant, he said he was on a website last week that had Armenian Christmas music, but all he could remember was that the web address started with "F" - maybe "fru" or "fron" or maybe not.

Remember that show on Nickelodeon, You Can't Do That On Television, with the teacher who always said, "Where does the school board get them and why do they keep sending them to me?" Yeah.

I was pretty sure that Google's [site:] operator didn't work with wildcards, but I tried searching for "armenian music site:f*" anyway. That did not work, so I searched to find out how wildcards can be used with Google's limiters. A nice forum posting mentioned the [inurl:] operator, which seemed perfect (if you don't already use them, read about operators and other tips for searching Google).

I re-searched for "armenian music inurl:www.f" and that worked - it showed all websites that mentioned Armenian music and have a web address that starts with "www.f".

Of course there are holes in this tactic: the site might not start with "www.", the site might not mention the words "armenian music," the site might not be in English, etc.

I gave him these caveats when I showed him how to use [inurl:], but he was still excited. He tried a few combinations of "armenian" and "christmas" and "music," but he hadn't found the right website before closing time. I actually haven't seen him since, so I'm not sure if he ultimately found it or not. It's kind of a needle in a haystack situation, and it feel like all I did was give him a very small magnet.



Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,



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.



Tags: , , , , , , ,



New Google Feature?

   March 6th, 2008 Brian Herzog

U.S. Mint SearchWhen I use Google to find information, I often use the "site" limiter to improve the returns.

For instance, when looking for information on the new economic stimulus tax rebate thing, a search for "tax rebate site:irs.gov" gives much more direct information than does just searching for "tax rebate." Which is great if you know the domain to which you'd like to limit your search, but yesterday, I didn't.

Someone was looking for information on the James Madison dollar coin, and the U.S. Mint website seemed the most logical place to look for it. However, I didn't know the Mint's domain name. So before my usual site-specific search, I first searched for "us mint" to get the domain, and then I was going to run a second search limited to that domain.

But Google is one step ahead of me (I don't know if this is a new feature or if I just never noticed it before): my search for U.S. Mint returned the Mint's website as the first result, and the listing included a site search built right in to the search result (see picture).

Neat. And it saves me a step. Searching there for "james madison dollar" gave exactly what the patron was looking for as the first result.

I'm generally skeptical of Google as a company for hording private data, but they do have smart people working there.



Tags: , , , , , , ,