In my last column (LJ 10/1/15), I did my best to convince you that improving library UX must be a librarywide endeavor—all parts of the library impact the user experience, so everyone needs to be on board. Here, I want to look at the topic from a slightly different angle: Where do you begin with library UX? There’s so much to think about when it comes to improving libraries!
The User Experience
At the end of our 2014 book, Useful, Usable, Desirable: Applying User Experience Design to Your Library, Amanda Etches and I left readers with what we consider to be an important and inspiring message: “Every decision we make affects how people experience the library. Let’s make sure we’re creating improvements.”
Criticism is necessary when a library aims to evaluate and improve the experience it is providing its members. Before you can start making improvements, you have to know what needs to be improved. This, of course, is no excuse to be negative, mean, accusatory, or defeatist. Criticism can and should be done positively and with good intention. After all, more flies get caught with honey, right?
Spring is HERE! Let’s celebrate this season of rebirth and renewal by thinking about making some changes in the library. Every library is burdened with a sacred cow or two. Some have an entire farm full! Laws of entropy dictate that once a library program or service starts, there’s a fair chance it will continue, even if it becomes clear at some point that it is no longer serving the purpose it once did. Sacred cows and other ineffective programs use up the valuable resource of staff time. The cost of feeding and maintaining sacred cows oftentimes doesn’t return much benefit to the library.
A big part of improving library user experience is designing libraries based on user preferences and behavior. There’s no way to optimize touchpoints or create meaningful services if you don’t know anything about who you’re trying to serve, right? Many libraries collect and analyze user opinions, but fewer dive deeper into examining actual user behavior.
It takes hard work to create a library that provides good user experience. As convenient as it would be, building an exemplary organization doesn’t happen by waving a wand. Instead, libraries must optimize all of their touch points, develop sane policies, design relevant services, and empower staff to provide members with top-notch function.
I’ve heard it a lot: “We want to make OUR website better, but we’re stuck using our city’s system!” It breaks my heart every time, not only because of the underperforming library website but also because it means that a stakeholder in the local government isn’t recognizing that librarians are information professionals who might know a thing or two about websites. If you or someone you know is in this position, read on. Below is a letter, from me—a library website specialist—that you can send to your city manager or other stakeholder. With any luck, adding another voice to your cause will help you prevail.
Thursday, November 20th, 2014, 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM ET / 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM PT
During this insightful discussion between Aaron Schmidt, Principal, Influx Library User Experience and LJ columnist (The User Experience) and the co-founders/directors of DOKLAB, we will highlight a variety of novel and meaningful things that libraries around the world are doing to engage their communities. Register Now!
Tuesday, October 28th, 2014, 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM ET / 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM PT
During this insightful discussion between Aaron Schmidt, Principal, Influx Library User Experience and LJ columnist (The User Experience) and Scott Young, Digital Initiatives Librarian, Montana State University, we will cover usability, web conventions, writing for the web, content strategy, and user research. You’ll take home tips and ideas that you can immediately use to improve your website.