I presented with my colleagues Ginger Bidwell & Josh Williams yesterday, “Extreme Website Makeover: Center for Creative Photography Edition.” It was at the annual Arizona Library Association (AZLA) conference held in Phoenix.
I started off by discussing who was involved, how we communicated with stakeholders, what user research we conducted (survey, personas, remote card sorting), our competitive analysis, and how we developed a purpose, voice & tone for the new website. Ginger discussed all things Drupal, including how we built structured content and why it’s so important, and Josh discussed the visual design decisions and how & why we went with a responsive design. The audience seemed very interested in the process, and for many of them working in public libraries across the state, this was at the first time they had heard of techniques like personas, card sorting, structured content, and responsive design.
I just came back from edUi 2012. What a great conference – engaging speakers, relevant topics, and lots of opportunities for networking. I hadn’t been before, but would love to go again.
I presented a talk, “Too Many Cooks in the Web Kitchen? A Successful Case of Herding Cats to Improve the User Experience.”
It was standing room only, which proved to me this is an issue near and dear to many of us working on websites for educational institutions. We do have a lot of stakeholders to deal with and a lot of responsible parties. I hope that what I’ve learned will be helpful for others, but I also want others to tell me where they have been successful. I am really happy that I was able to make a lot of connections and collect a lot of business cards – content strategy is a murky area so the more people to talk to (and vent to!) the better.
You can see more information on my talk, including the abstract and audience comments, at Speakerrate.
I was assigned as “Website Product Manager” almost exactly two years ago, and since then I’ve sort of figured out what I’m doing, but have still felt quite alone in that I don’t know of any other librarian that considers herself in this same particular profession.
Then today I was cruising for some readings for my recently-announced DIY Usability Testing online course (thought I’d throw that pitch in there), and ran across today’s post in the fabulous A List Apart blog, titled Product Management for the Web. Hey – that’s what I do! Everything that article mentions is very much in line with what I’ve been trying to do at the University of Arizona Libraries – forming and maintaining networks of relationships, earning trust, communicating like crazy, researching user needs & gathering analytics, setting priorities, and writing & implementing a website road map.
It’s true that when I went to Usability Week back at the end of 2010, I would introduce myself as “website product manager” and would get some “oos” and “ahhs,” so I think it’s safe to say it has been around in the larger world for a long time. But when I tell a librarian colleague that title, I am more commonly given a “huh?” response.
Perhaps this will continue to be a growing trend in how website work is managed… I think it’s pretty new for libraries, but perhaps it will become a trend in libraries soon enough, too. I don’t think it would be a bad idea, although in fairness I’m a bit biased.
I just got back from ALA where I presented a poster titled, “Is Your Web Content Useful, Usable, and Findable? Developing a Content Strategy for Your Library Website.” You can see the abstract and attached documents on the ALA Connect posting.
For an hour and a half, I was able to share what we’ve been able to achieve at the University of Arizona with other librarians, directors, developers, and web professionals. We all struggle with the same thing: we have gigantic websites with complex content. Many of us have no clear oversight or accountability related to this content. Rather than having content lifecycles, we have content that is created once, edited rarely, and that never goes away.
I hope that my presentation helps start a discussion among libraries about how to go about getting a handle on our website content and figuring out ways to manage it in a effective and sustainable way.
The content strategy I developed, which includes defined roles & responsibilities, workflows for creation & deletion of pages, editorial standards, accountability measures & success metrics, and lots of training, should be transferable to similar organizations. I hope others will share their own experiences and we can all learn from each other. User experience is as important as ever, and our website content needs to be useful, usable, and findable, if we are to continue being relevant.
I’m the product manager for our library website, and over the past few months I’ve learned that it’s actually pretty easy to gather user input. It’s data that’s extremely important and should guide your website decisions, but so many of us neglect to do it in any frequent, systematic way, often due to fears of time and budget constraints.
Well it doesn’t have to be that way, especially if you are fortunate enough to have a physical location & therefore your primary audience all around you. Here are two methods for gathering quick and dirty user input:
5 Minute Intercept Usability Testing
Spend 20 minutes coming up with your key tasks you want to test and scenarios in order to test them (I recommend Steve Krug’s Rocket Surgery Made Easy for a quick read on this). Grab a laptop and some candy bars, and preferably a colleague to take notes, and then go out in the world to solicit volunteers. If you are on a university campus, it’s super easy to find students willing to trade 5 minutes of their time for a candy bar (king sized, of course). The student union after lunch won’t ever fail. I’ve been able to conduct 8 tests in the course of an hour or two. And learned so much in the process.
10 Minute Card Sorting
This method is often used to guide an entire website’s navigation, but it can also be used to test sections of your website. It’s a great method for testing your own assumptions about how your audience thinks about your content; you can use this technique to come up with an organizational structure that makes sense and labels that are more meaningful. Don’t get bogged down coming up with perfect descriptions of content or the ideal labels you want to test. Treat it as an iterative process. This week we’ve been testing all of our “help” content. We began the first round with open card sorting using 28 cards; more were added when we realized not every type of content was captured, and others were taken away when we realized they were confusing. We then added labels and now do a blended version of “open” and “closed” sorting where we show them the labels after they’ve established an organizational structure to see if any labels make the most sense given their structure. Similar to usability testing, you can find users willing to trade minutes of their time for a candy bar. We’ve actually found that students enjoy the activity, as well. They like the library and like knowing they are contributing to improving our website.
I’d like to hear if others are conducting similar sorts of user testing on a dime. Intercept usability and card sorting are the two I’ve had success with. We have also managed to recruit faculty members to conduct some more formal testing later this month (we offered them lunch). I hope to continue to conduct testing on a regular, systematic basis. In an ideal world, all of our serious website decisions should be based on user input.
My colleague, Yvonne Mery, and I created this video for the ACRL contest to win free registration. We are presenting this year but need the funds to secure our trip. Wish us luck… and enjoy!
Special thanks to Emily Hardy, who is in graduate school right now studying for her MLS. She was great at coming up with the pre- and post- conference Libby characters!