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Web > 1. Improve the user experience

1. Improve the user experience

Improve the user experience


The following is what I submitted to the Web Committee when asked for ideas as to what I wanted to do with this portfolio; any progress will be listed in the Practice section down below.

To quote “Only connect“:

“Listen to your users as much or more than you talk.” (5) Users are most importantly York students, faculty, and staff, but everyone in the world is a potential YUL web site user.

  • Build the web site on user needs.
  • Improve the search experience.
  • Create online environments that engage users in the creation, organization, and sharing of information through interaction and collaboration.
  • Keep users informed about news and events.
  • “The catalogue has to tell you more than what you ask for.” (6) Consider “the catalogue” in the broadest sense of a discovery layer and more, and add features such as tables of contents, abstracts, book covers, closer integration of resources with subject guides and reading lists, etc.
  • Explore how users can contribute to the site, through comments, feedback, metadata, linking and relating resources, etc.
  • Support the user’s information literacy needs with learning objects, help at point of need, etc.
  • Explore customization.
  • Create a style guide, conforming to York and web standards.
  • Explore a multilingual version of the site.

Improving the user experience is a goal we all share, so this area really covers just about anything we might want to do (i.e., the entire “Only connect” document is relevant to this goal). Bill and I had a conversation over lunch just before the Christmas break, and what follows is a list of some of the things we might do in this area:

  1. To “build the website according to user needs” and “create online environments … “, we need feedback; in addition, our users need feedback on their feedback! To that end, we thought about: a general library discussion forum, with both pre-determined topics (e.g., navigation issues, dead links, subject guides, individual departments) and a free-for-all (moderated, of course, but only gently). This forum would be accessible via the top menu bar, so that users could get to it whenever they might want to use it. It would also be styled to make it look more like an element of our website. These forums could replace the purpose for the account (or at least supplant it to a large degree; it would also show users that their feedback is being acted on, to some extent, or at least force us to acknowledge it.
  2. To “improve the search experience” could mean a great many things. One thing would be to improve the display of results of any search; to that end, we discussed the possibility of allowing the user to customize the faceting that is possible in VuFind, according to their immediate needs. Another possibility would be to allow the equivalent of Google’s search alerts and creat RSS feeds for canned searches, so that the user would always be kept abreast of the things they were looking for as the catalogue and electronic collections grew.
  3. RSS feeds everywhere – In addition to a page that list all available RSS feeds, we should create more and make them readily available, and provide users with links to information about how to use them. I also thought of creating something like the Daily Rotation site () that gathers together all our feeds from forums, blogs, etc. (and any others that we might think are relevant) and allows users who might not know how to use a feed reader to create what looks like a static web page that provides access to feed contents.
  4. For the last bullet (“Explore a multilingual version of the site”), we discussed providing links to Google Translate (or the equivalent) to allow easy access to a translation service.


Forum software links

  • ForumMatrix — site that permits comparing features of many different forum tools; what we need to do is agree on what is important. I chose:
    • threaded forum;
    • free and open source;
    • no preference as to storage system;
    • no attachments;
    • support for multiple groups;
    • RSS feeds

    According to these criteria, here are my results.

  • Forum software reviews

  1. Stoddart, Richard A., Thedis W. Bryant, Amia L. Baker, Adrienne Lee, and Brett Spencer. “Going Boldly Beyond the Reference Desk: Practical Advice and Learning Plans for New Reference Librarians Performing Liaison Work.” Journal of Academic Librarianship 32.4 (2006): 419-427.
  2. As Seymour Lubetzky said in 1977 at a conference, The Catalog in the Age of Technological Change. “The answer of a good catalogue is not to say yes or no.” Audio clip:

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