Creating Great Content for Library Websites


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A presentation on taking a professional approach creating and maintaining content for library websites given at the Seminar on 25 Oct 2011.

In this presentation I talked about what libraries can learn about improving their content from the web design industry.

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  • a bit of background...  I had primary responsibility for our library's website for about 10 years Sutherland Shire Council had set up a project to select a new CMS, build an intranet and replace our existing website. Because of my experience I was seconded to council and spent the last 2 1/2 years working on that project  As part of that project I had to think much more strategically about our website than I ever had before.
  • We had some professional assistance from a consultant to lead us through the process of building a site from scratch I am a bit of a compulsive reader of blogs for professional development  and I had already been subscribed to a number of web design blogs but I started to pay much more attention to website strategy as a topic in my professional reading So it was serendipitous when one of my favorite podcasts, boagworld, produced a series of shows entitled building websites for return on investment. This series of boagworld focussed on how to approach a website project from the perspective of a professional web design agency.
  • I had never really thought about our library website strategically before.  It had grown organically over time with content being added because someone thought it would be a good idea BUT It costs staff time to maintain a website so why have one?   What objectives does it fulfill? Where is the return on Investment?
  • I'm guessing NOT many of the people in the room have given time and consideration to what they want their library website to achieve. Or if you have, haven't written down clear, measurable objectives. But without thinking about the objectives for your site it's easy to fall into bad habits in your content It's much easier to make decisions about your website content when you have clearly articulated what you want to achieve
  • Not to mention that it's impossible to measure whether your website is doing its job unless you have a clear picture of what you want it to do.
  • some examples of possible objectives these type of objectives identify ways your website can meet the goals of your organisation. It might be to  save time and money Increase the usage of expensive resources you subscribe to or build a relationship with your community.
  • but sometimes your objectives are different to those of your site visitors/customers You need to recognise this and make sure that you don't ignore the reasons people are visiting your site. It's almost certainly a bad idea to make it more difficult for your site visitors to do what they came for just so that you can achieve your objectives.
  • So what do your visitors want to do on your site? 10 years ago people used to surf the web for fun...   Today the web has become a utility.  People come to your site to complete a task such as renewing their loans or  checking opening hours
  • The 1st step in satisfying your site visitors is to ensure that it is as easy as possible to complete their top tasks. This has major implications for the way that you create your content. Whenever you are putting information on your website you should be thinking about it from your visitors perspective and ensuring that it supports their goal of completing a task. 
  • Some of you may have read a series of posts from DLK on his blog recently about this very topic, title '3 questions every web page should answer' If you haven't I encourage you to track them down and read them. They match pretty well the things we were asking ourselves as we were re-writing content for the new SSC website.
  • Fortunately, it is pretty easy to create good content, however, it's often not very evident on library websites. Partly because, I think, most often that content is created by people who's primary training and responsibility is not the web. So here's my key points for ensuring your web content is focussed on achieving your objectives.
  • Does your content outline in plain english, as simply as possible, what your are offering? Have you explained it in a way that demonstrates the value from the users perspective - that is, Why should they care?
  • It is not enough to simply make a good case on a webpage.   visitors must be able to complete their task or goal for your site to work Do they fill out that online application? do they take the plunge and login to that database or service? Making it easy for users to take that step is the key to transforming your site from frustrating and difficult to effective (and in the best cases delightful) In the industry these are called 'Calls to Action' and once you see and understand calls to action you will start to se them everywhere. So let's have a look at some examples...
  • Which of these four promo's do you think apple wants you to click on?
  • Squarespace is a relatively new hosted cms solution.   Their call to action really stands out - there's no missing it. If you're not prepared to sign up straight away, they follow it up with the 2nd best option, learn more...
  • ...and as you scroll down the page, if you make it this far, they reinforce the call to action by trying to remove any impediments to taking the plunge. 14 days for free... only 30 seconds to sign up... no credit card required... all aimed at easing the most common reasons that prevent people from signing up. It's clear they have thought a lot about their site from their customer's point of view.
  • What is the single most important thing all charities want you to do? That's why the donate now button stands out If you're not prepared to donate right now, they want to keep in contact with you in the hope that you will donate in the future. Even in  their nav menus they have tried to lead your eye to the 'Connect with us' section. Their use of language is crafted to encourage you to take action Stay Informed Join our community...
  • Topeka Library's recently redesigned library site. The thing I want to point out here is their use of active language. Get a Library Card... Request a personalised reading list... Download free music... All written from the point of view of the user doing something
  • Lastly, I'd like to show you a real-life example from our website. This is how our book clubs page looked before I last updated it. The information is all there if a visitor takes the time to read through it all, but it's not organised as well as it could be.   We know that visitors are task focussed but quickly scanning the page provides no real visual clues as to what they could or should be doing on this page. There are details of the library run book clubs that currently have vacancies but they're not immediately obvious. In fact the most obvious things on the page are  The National Year of Reading graphic the link to starting your own book group Links to Other book clubs and resources
  • The library's main objective with this page is to fill the available spots in those book groups.  This gets people into the library and using our resources. Now, I think it's also a reasonable assumption that people visiting this page may want to be part of a book group. Once of their top tasks would be to join a book group. Our objectives and our users top task are mutually beneficial so I don't have to worry about alienating visitors by pushing content they don't want. I've really just re-organised and styled the content to tell a story about how users go about completing their task. Started with a heading that resonates. I've improved the readability of the list of book groups Added some calls to action that make it easy to take the next step toward joining a group The content finishes with contact details so that if a visitor is still not sure they can contact someone for more information. The extras, National year of Reading and other community book club resources, have been relegated to the right column where traditionally people expect related content (this column is often ignored)
  • Adding more pages to the site adds complexity to the navigation and makes it more difficult for the user It takes time to maintain pages and if there's no demand for that content then that time can be better spent elsewhere make sure there is a real demand for this information and that it helps you achieve your site goals. If it doesn't, get rid of it, you'll be doing your users and yourself a favour!
  • If I can leave you with one parting thought to keep in mind when working on your website... Human beings (not librarians, or other computers or even you!) will use this site. Save their time and make it as easy as possible for them.
  • Creating Great Content for Library Websites

    1. 1. Creating Great Web Content for Libraries
    2. 2. Seeing the light or, the getting of wisdom picture credit: The light /La luz by SantiMB on Flickr
    3. 3.
    4. 4. why have a website? picture credit: Close up of the thinker by marttj on Flickr
    5. 5. Goals picture credit: 85/365: In Soccer We Trust... by Socceraholic on Flickr
    6. 6. Objectives can be measured picture credit: FAIL by amboo who? on Flickr
    7. 7. Sign up n  new members online each month Raise the usage of electronic resources by n % Offer an online alternative for  all in library services generate 100 likes on our face book page by November 2011
    8. 8. Don't leave your audience out in the cold to meet your goals picture credit: Waiting in the cold by David Hofmann on Flickr.
    9. 9. how do people use the web? picture credit: Eyetracking test from Feng-Gui on
    10. 10. Focus on the action picture credit: Crosshairs by e53 on Flickr.
    11. 12. 2 simple questions picture credit: Questions by Oberazzi on Flickr
    12. 13. What is being offered?
    13. 14. What is being offered? How do I get it? 
    14. 15. apple
    15. 22. a 3rd question for good luck
    16. 23. do we really need this page? a 3rd question for good luck
    17. 24. Human Beings will use this picture credit: Ohio University's Alden Library Alice Catalog, 1983 | Flickr - Photo Sharing! by Ohio University Libraries on Flickr
    18. 25. many images used in this presentation were obtained from under a creative commons license. many thanks to all who make their photos available to others to build upon. This work is licensed under a  Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License .
    19. 26. Questions?  Contact me... Thank You @boycetrus [email_address]
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