Overcoming the Challenges to Creating an Online User Experience


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The modern library web environment consists of multiple content sources and applications that perform essential functions that often overlap and could potentially create a fractured user experience. For example, content in a library’s website may be replicated in LibGuides, blogs, a knowledge base, or even a course management system like Blackboard. Search functionality in a discovery platform may be replicated in a federated search tool or the ILS OPAC. What's even more challenging is that all these tools might be managed by different departments within your library. This presentation will highlight the technical and political challenges to building a single web experience for users and really focus on how to overcome these challenges.

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  • No legislation, but rather the consequences of unexpected policies around managing your library’s web presence when there are multiple applications that are integrated, and multiple individuals, departments, and committees that manage those other applications. It’s hard to create a single user experience that isn’t fractured.
  • Before we get started, I would like to quickly see what areas you work in within libraries. What area do you work in within your library?Systems/Web/ER/ILSReference/Public ServiceTechnical Services/CatalogingAccess/Circulation/ILLAdministrationOther
  • Think about the number of applications you use in your libraryCMSCatalogILLLibGuidesMaybe a few others….
  • Go through the types of applicationsCatalog (Innovative)Research Guides/ study guides (LibGuides, LibAnswers from Springshare)Digital Library / Local repository (CONTENTdm)Institutional or state repository (Texas Digital Library)Discovery service (Summon)Computer Availability (Lab stats from Computer Lab solutions)E-Reserves (Docutek)Content Management System (Drupal)Finding Aids (archon)Course Management system (Blackboard)Interlibrary Loan (Illiad)Blogging software (Wordpress)Link ResolverE-JournalsProxy pagesOther applications might be room booking service, computer reservation system, calendaring tool, Tool that lets users give to the library via online paymentsEven with a discovery layer tool that brings disparate sources of content together, we still need multiple tools for different services and functionsAlso, functionality can be very different from system to systemSearchingBrowsingNavigationHow customizable each application is
  • How many different applications are integrated within your website?1-56-1011-15More than 15
  • Now that we know about how many applications you are running via your web presence, time to ask the more political question:Who manages each of those applications integrated into your website?Each application is managed by a different individual/department/committeeMultiple individuals/departments/committees manage multiple applicationsOne individual/department/committee manages all of the applicationsIf you have a different situation than those options, you can share it in chat.In my library, my department (Web Services), is tasked with overseeing the web presence. Therefore we have to work with every department in the library, and in the branch libraries. We manage many home-grown, open source, and purchased/licensed web applications and systems, but other departments also manage many of the systems that are integrated in to the web presence.We also don’t currently have any sort of a web management committee, which I would recommend to help reach consensus and agreement and buy-in on many of the challenges that might come up.
  • Another challenge to creating a single online UX is that our users are coming from everywhere. Out physical library has one door in and one door out. Not the case on online environments.
  • We have different access points for each application, and of course many of these are integrated within one another. Some are alias’s
  • Branding across applications is one thing, but going the extra mile within databases.Not all are possible.Headers, colors, and fonts may be modifiable, but screens can still be locked in a very different layoutLayouts and search functionality are still differentCode is too often proprietaryAlso, consistency between virtual and print branding. Which do you design first? More than likely the person that is in charge of signage within the physical library, or that orders stationary, or maybe even design newsletters is not the same person that manages your web presence. These people need to communicate!!!
  • Old logos linger around.Institution creates new branding, and you suddenly get confusion about what is official or not.Branding for user in icons, avatars, etc. for social media. Challenging, because it’s a different shape that your logo.Who chooses the font? Can you recreate things with the correct font?Cougar red. So many different colors.
  • Multiple branches, multiple campuses, audience portals, unique services
  • With multiple people in the library creating content across multiple systems, you end up with duplicative content. They are little silos and this isn’t helpful for keeping content current or accurate.
  • Small libraries might not have this problem as much.Also, if you are in a smaller library, you might have to deal with consortial decisions, or even someone who works in a government building who doesn’t understand your users as well as you do making decisions about what applications you should have, the design of the user interface, or both. People in different departments might also have different levels of skills or experience working with the applications, so it becomes crucial for someone (or a dedicated committee) to pay attention as to how these applications are integrated into the bigger picture. Someone needs to take a holistic approach to the website to make sure the library is trying to present just one library experience. So…. In my library, these areas manage these applications.
  • Not on the list is Web Services, which manages everything else and tries to bring everything together.
  • Assessment is so helpful in making strategic decisions about the value each application brings to users.Each tool has its own means of gathering statistics and information about useIt can be hard to reconcile the numbersLike comparing Apples to OragnesNot even all the databases are COUNTER compliant
  • So where is the user in all these challenges? Lost at sea?Here’s an example:
  • Note:Branding is differentLet’s say they don’t find their article. Search functionality is different in these systems. If they get stuck and need help, end up in an ER tool, assuming they can find it.
  • SOOOO many challenges.
  • Let’s take a step back for a sec.
  • I’ve mentioned a bit about wanting to get to a single user experience. The single most important thing to get there is the answer to this question. (needs to be a yes)Does someone in your library oversee the entire web presence?Yes, an individualYes, a department, team, or committeeNo, each person or department manages their own sectionNot sure
  • Give amazon as an example of how users can do all kinds of things. Lots of separate tools, functionalities, yet all feel like you never leave the site. Wishlist, Lists, comments, shopping cart, reviews, help, browse, search, etc.
  • Understand your users!!!
  • User vs. patronActive vs. passive voiceNarrative vs. listsemail or e-mail, website or Web site
  • Talk about Nike not even needing text anymore. Visual recognition. And users have expectations based on what they have experienced before.
  • Logos not always the same size.
  • Start Start slow. Think turtle. No need to jump into everything.List out all the applications, how things are integrated, etc. Write out what needs to be done for each one. Prioritize that list.
  • "You can catch more flies with honey than with Vinegar"
  • Work with your ER library staff.
  • Challenging, but strategically work on it.
  • Overcoming the Challenges to Creating an Online User Experience

    1. 1. Overcoming the Challenges to Creating a Single Online User ExperienceRachel Vacek, Amigos Conference -Head of Web Services Technology: UnexpectedUniversity of Houston Consequences of LegislationLibraries and Policies in Libraries@vacekrae February 8. 2012#amigostech
    2. 2. Poll #1 What area do you work in within your library? • Systems/Web/ER/ILS • Reference/Public Service • Technical Services/Cataloging • Access/Circulation/ILL • Administration • Other@vacekrae #amigostech
    3. 3. Overview • Examine today’s challenges of managing library websites • Understand what a single online user experience means • Learn tips for overcoming these challenges@vacekrae #amigostech
    4. 4. What are the challenges?@vacekrae #amigostech
    5. 5. Multiple Applications@vacekrae #amigostech
    6. 6. Poll #2How many different applications are integratedwithin your website?• 1-5• 6-10• 11-15• More than 15@vacekrae #amigostech
    7. 7. Poll #3Who manages each of those applicationsintegrated into your website?• Each application is managed by a different individual/department/committee• Multiple individuals/departments/committees manage multiple applications• One individual/department/committee manages all of the applications@vacekrae #amigostech
    8. 8. Multiple Access Points@vacekrae #amigostech
    9. 9. Plethora of Access Points • info.lib.uh.edu • archon.lib.uh.edu • library.uh.edu • uh.edu/library • guides.lib.uh.edu • uh.edu/libraries • digital.lib.uh.edu • lws.uh.edu • search.lib.uh.edu • login.ezproxy.lib.uh.edu • weblogs.lib.uh.edu • illiad.lib.uh.edu • ask.lib.uh.edu@vacekrae #amigostech
    10. 10. Branding • Library branding • Overarching institutional branding • Logos • Colors • Fonts • Functionality • Consistency between virtual & physical branding@vacekrae #amigostech
    11. 11. @vacekrae #amigostech
    12. 12. Proprietary products can be difficult to customize in a uniform way@vacekrae #amigostech
    13. 13. Different Library Types • Academic • School libraries • Public libraries • Special Libraries – Business – Law – Medical – etc.@vacekrae #amigostech
    14. 14. Multiple Sources for Content Creation • Website CMS • Mobile website CMS • LibGuides • LibAnswers • Blogs …And multiple people throughout the library create that content@vacekrae #amigostech
    15. 15. Organizational Politics Applications might be administered by different departments • Public/Access/Liaison Services – Guides, IM/virtual reference – Blogs/social media/communication channels – ILL/reserves • Technical Services – Catalog – Discovery layer@vacekrae #amigostech
    16. 16. Organizational Politics • Special Collections/Digital Services – Finding aid tool – Local/institutional repository • Information Technology Services – Server/website access – Network/user accounts@vacekrae #amigostech
    17. 17. Assessment Tools Google Analytics Can apply these across your library’s Transaction logs web presence Click Analytics Analytics from Database A separate sources Database B can be challenging to compare Database C@vacekrae #amigostech
    18. 18. Programming Resources • In-house (or community-contributed) custom programming can help hide the seams • Too few libraries have advanced programming knowledge or skills in-house • While this is changing in larger organizations, some smaller libraries will not be able to hire a programmer for the foreseeable future, if ever@vacekrae #amigostech
    19. 19. Where is the user? Example: User looks for an article from home Link Library Discovery Resolver Database Full-textWebsite Layer (Serials (various) article(Drupal) (Summon) Solutions)@vacekrae #amigostech
    20. 20. @vacekrae #amigostech
    21. 21. Enough is enough!@vacekrae #amigostech
    22. 22. What is a single user experience?@vacekrae #amigostech
    23. 23. Poll #4 Does someone in your library oversee the entire web presence? • Yes, an individual • Yes, a department, team, or committee • No, each person or department manages their own section • Not sure@vacekrae #amigostech
    24. 24. User Experience (UX) • Accessibility • Information Architecture • Interaction design • Writing for the web • Usability and usefulness testing • User research • Visual design • Web analytics@vacekrae #amigostech
    25. 25. Single User Experience Apply UX concepts across your website’s multiple applications andcontent sources so users feel like they are interacting with a single website
    26. 26. Interface, branding and functionality should be familiar across systems@vacekrae #amigostech
    27. 27. Single UX isn’t easy 1 website = 1 UXComplexity 1 website with multiple applications integrated well = 1 UX 1 website with multiple applications not well integrated = Multiple UX Multiple UX across 1 website = Confused users @vacekrae #amigostech
    28. 28. How to get there@vacekrae #amigostech
    29. 29. Tip #1: Ask questions • What is the purpose of the website? • What is the purpose of each section of the site? • Who is the audience? • Is the branding and content presented consistently across every application? • Is the functionality associated with each user behavior presented consistently?@vacekrae #amigostech
    30. 30. Tip #2: Create content style guides • Provide consistency • Clear up confusion among multiple contributors • Resolve questions on frequently problematic elements like abbreviations, capitalization, tone, brand, naming conventions – Rockwell Pavilion vs. EDR Pavilion – User vs. patron – Website vs. web site@vacekrae #amigostech
    31. 31. Tip #3: Create consistent brand• Establish a plan for using: – Fonts – Colors – Logos• Create consistent user expectations@vacekrae #amigostech
    32. 32. Tip #4: Create a consistent social media presence • Branding • Be frequent • Voice • Integrate where • Be engaging appropriate@vacekrae #amigostech
    33. 33. Tip #4: Take advantage of APIs • Some APIs allow for complex interactions, others just permit widget construction • Most ILSs, institutional repositories and discovery platforms provide APIs • Many content management systems also have APIs • Structured data coupled with APIs means content can more easily be pulled across multiple platforms • Helps to prevent duplicative work@vacekrae #amigostech
    34. 34. Tip #5: Create appearance of uniformity • Start with high impact, low effort projects • Use consistent branding • Streamline the data sources you control • Try to employ similar functionality across applications@vacekrae #amigostech
    35. 35. Tip #6: Play the politics game • Create buy-in from all stakeholders when making decisions about a web application • Some people can be territorial about the systems they manage, but remember you are working together to provide the best services you can for your library • Try to get involved in all decisions about the services your library offers on the web • Accept the limitations of your environment – Tech skills – Staffing – Funding – Time@vacekrae #amigostech
    36. 36. Tip #7: Be nice to others • If you aren’t the manager of an application that is integrated into the library’s website, it means that you will have to work closely with others • Not everyone will grasp the importance of a single UX – help them to understand@vacekrae #amigostech
    37. 37. Tip #8: Research before you buy • Is the user interface customizable? • Are there APIs available? • Can you push out or pull in structured data? • How is the customer support? • Is there an open source version of the application? • Are many other libraries using this application? • How will this application integrate with the other existing systems?@vacekrae #amigostech
    38. 38. Is a cohesivesingle userexperienceeven possible?Yes, but it’s not easy.@vacekrae #amigostech
    39. 39. Thanks!Rachel VacekHead of Web ServicesUniversity of Houston Librariesvacekrae@gmail.comPresentation also available onhttp://www.slideshare.net/vacekrae@vacekrae #amigostech