Monday, October 26, 2009

Web Managers Acadamy: Redesign 2.0

Here are my notes for Sunday's seminar at Internet Librarian 2009. Hope they give you a feel for the things that we talked about!

Why redesign for 2.0? Design thinking and evidence-based practice.

The User Experience

--Studies show that sometimes, it's more about the things users like, rather than what is absolutely useful. In polls, the well designed, pretty websites were rated higher, even if their work flow was modified to make them less easy to use. Design matters, big time.

Simplicity is a myth

--The idea that a simple site will satisfy the patrons is a badly flawed concept. The site should appear simple, but anyone will tell you that the art of getting things to look easy is the hardest thing to accomplish.

New Rules of Web Design
-Design is key
-Users judge your site in the blink of an eye
-Visual appeal is ranked higher than actual usability

-Find your few highest priorities, then emphasize those
-Emphasized priorities and tasks will provide a starting point for your overall architecture. Those always come first, everything else being secondary.
-Provide many ways to connect with your resources
-Provide many ways not to fail at common tasks

User's Expectations: NOT formed by looking at other library websites
-Instead, they compare you to popular sites and services they use every day, like Amazon and Google.

-Different audiences have different expectations and perceptions--they actually see pages differently.
-Different age groups interact with sites in different ways and have different needs.
-There are things no one likes, though, like small fonts, bad contrast choices, and unpredictable site behavior.

Web Services:

A discussion of web services followed, along with the suggestion that they be used for as many low-effort tools as is reasonable and useful for the site. Allowing off-site services to provide you with useful widgets via web services allows you to maximize your cost/benefit and time spent. Web services work by communication between disparate entities on the web, in some cases by reaching out into the "cloud" and grabbing fun tools.

CMS: Content Management Systems

Drupal now used for website. Score one for open source!

Content management systems, like Drupal, Plone, and Joomla! are all simple ways for non technical staff to input data. They are often modular, and many of the good ones are also open source. Some, like MS Sharepoint, are expensive, though. Many libraries make very good sites out of CMS programs, and they are often able to sustain and enhance service as times go on.

Other software types:

Some other types of software can be used for websites. These include blogging engines and wikis. There are libraries who build their whole website out of such software types. Most popular are blog engines such as Wordpress, and wikis, like Mediawiki. We use Mediawiki for both the Computer Services wiki and the staff intranet page.


Analytics help you understand the impact of changes you make. Without them, "better" is totally subjective.

Google Analytics:

Asks the following questions--
-How do they get to the website?
-What are they searching for?
-Who is coming?
-From where?
-Which pages are most important/most often searched?
-Are they getting lost and back-clicking?

Google Analytics process:
-Set Goals
-Find inital benchmarks
-Make changes
-Measure changes
-Evaluate the differences
-Hone changes
-Measure again...

Other things Google Analytics can measure:
-Where, geographically, are your users located?
-What browsers are they using?
-What operating systems are they running?

This all leads to:
-Getting familiar with the way the website is used
-Testing changes with provable results
-The ability to A/B test a change
-In the end, a better website, with great navigation schemes and tools where they will do the most good.

--This was a long, but worthwhile class. I have a lot of things that will be useful going forward with our web redesign. An especially timely workshop for our current issues.

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