Posts filed under ‘libraries’
Presentation I gave as part of the UX Unconference we organized at the UA Libraries early in December. This is a 20 minute version of the 4-week long class I teach for Library Juice Academy.
Yesterday, I presented a webinar sponsored by the Arizona State Library, Archives, and Public Records. They organize professional development for library workers across the state. This was a great opportunity to share an overview of how to conduct usability testing easily and on a budget.
We had a few technical issues at the start, and some of my slides came out funky or incomplete, but other than that I think it went well.
Webinar recording (1 hour)
I was fortunate to attend edUi for the second time this year. Excellent conference that brings together leaders in user experience from the higher ed community. I presented twice – first with colleague from UNC Chapel Hill, Kim Vassiliaddis on bringing together stakeholders and leading staff during times of big changes:
I then presented with former colleague, Samantha Barry, on techniques for effective web writing:
Earlier this year, I helped organize the UX Certificate program for Library Juice Academy. It’s 6 courses, completely online, with each course lasting 4 weeks. I’d previously been teaching the Do-It-Yourself Usability Testing, which was super fun & interesting, so I was happy to add a couple more, and also bring in some colleagues from elsewhere to contribute.
I was lucky to get others on board to help with the curriculum and the teaching:
- Carolyn Ellis, User Experience Librarian at University of Texas San Antonio. She teaches the first course: Designing a Usable Website (the fundamentals of user-centered design)
- Susan Teague Rector, Information Architect and Web Strategist at the University of Colorado Denver. She teaches Information Architecture: Designing Navigation for Library Websites
- Sonali Mishra, User Experience Specialist at the University of Michigan. She follows my usability testing course with Beyond Usability Testing: Other User Research Methods.
- Nicole Capdarest-Arest, Emerging Technologies Librarian at the Arizona Health Sciences Library. She co-teaches Writing for the Web.
It’s great to see so many familiar faces in these classes – students taking the entire program. I also see some new faces in each course, which is also fun. We have a mix of students from academic, community college, and public libraries as well as some who are working towards their MLS or who are just seeking some continuing education.
We have in the final month of teaching right now, wrapping it up with Content Strategy for the Web. I am possibly most excited about this course, because content strategy has been on my mind for a long time and I want to share the love. I published an article earlier this year, Developing a Content Strategy for an Academic Library Website, and am currently right in the middle of a search for a one-year Web Content Strategist for our library. I’ve been de facto content strategist, but if we could have someone whose whole job is dedicated to this type of work, that would be awesome. I think we could so some really innovate stuff with our site. And we have some great candidates, which is really exciting. This position has been funded for 12 months, but I am thinking we might be able to justify having a permanent line in this role, depending how the year goes and what we accomplish. We shall see!
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.