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

CIL2010: Well-Organized Sites and Portals

   April 12th, 2010 Brian Herzog

Well-Organized Sites & Portals
Mr. Chris Jasek, UCD Portfolio Manager, Elsevier
Emily R Shem-Tov, Research Portal Program Manager, Global Market Research & Planning, Adobe Systems, Inc.

Jasek offers best practices on how libraries can organize all of the features that their websites offer. He shares a five-step process that explains how to get from understanding users and the main tasks they come to accomplish to making the right choices on links or features to present. He recommends broad categories for organization of tasks/content to help web browsers find exactly what they need by improving the overall organization of features offered. Shem-Tov presents a case study of how a team of special librarians collaborates to provide services through a taxonomy- and search-driven research portal, physical and online libraries, information skills training programs, and a variety of social media tools. Find out how they continue to push the limits of what they can do by incorporating new technologies and tactics to better serve their customers and raise awareness of their offerings and of better information skills in general, and how they tie in the different elements through coordinated campaigns.

Chris Jasek:

Well-organized refers to

  • page layout, visual design, perception
  • user's mental model, user's tasks, intuition

"People don't come to a website to admire in, they come to get work done."

5 Steps to a well organized site

  1. Research your users Understand their needs and tasks, why they're coming to your website and what their abilities and expectations are.
    • Allow for multiple ways to locate information (by name, by suject, by material type)
    • provide detail (people want description, fulltext, and good suggestions)
    • Need help in recovering from wrong paths
    • Use words they understand
    • They want speed
  2. Survey similar sites Look at how other libraries are doing it. But don't blindly take ideas - test it with your patrons.
  3. Follow best practice design
    • Use page real estate wisely (top left is most important) and cut down on junk/ads/noise
    • Minimze number of clicks - shoot for 2-3 clicks
    • Use consistent navigation
    • Treat links according to convention - don't get fancy with colors and underlines. It's easier for patrons if your links look like what they're used to, and all of yours should be the same
    • Be consistent with design elements (provide help and contact links in upper right corner)
    • Use minimal colors and fonts
    • Make sure your site is accessible
  4. Test your design with users
    • Getting feedback is key, and make sure stakeholders and decision makers observe user tests
    • Plan first before development
    • do usability studies - observation is the best
    • Track stats
  5. Address issues and repeat
    • Identify problems, not solutions (figure out what is wrong, don't implement a fix that doesn't address the why
    • Multiple iterations are important - prioritize and realize that you are never done

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