Web Worker Daily is consistently a blog that I not only find interesting but that also offers up practical gems that help me do my job better, smarter, faster, more creatively.
One post this week really resonated with me and I’ve been mulling over it all week. This particular post asks “Is desire a priority in your site?”. And it got me thinking, is there anything about our library websites that really draws our users in and engenders in them a desire to explore what we can offer them?
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that desirability has probably not been a big focus for libraries in developing their websites. And the fact is, our websites are pretty much the gateway to a lot of what we do. Want to find a book? Search the OPAC. Want to read the latest newspaper from Chile without leaving the house? Log on to the library website and check out an online resource. Want to see what events the library is holding? Check out the events page. So it would make sense for us to spend energy building desirability into our sites, because to use the library, people need to use our website.
The WWD post relays three tactics for creating desirability, as outlined by Kerry Bodine in a recent Forester report:
1. Provide engaging content and functionality:
I’m not going to flog a horse that’s well and truly dead, because there’s absolutely no point. I have just one acronym for you here: OPAC. Is that engaging functionality? To be honest, your average OPAC causes me to disengage. I use them because I have to – I find what I want, and then I get outta there. Imagine if our OPACs actually made people want to use them. Imagine if they employed functionality that created meaningful linkages between collection items, allowed real personalisation, facilitated user-generated content of various types. Imagine what that would do for circulation figures. Imagine how much more useful the library would become for your average user. And content… Well, we’re traditionally pretty good at that, but there are probably opportunities for improvement here, too.
There is so much more we could do to effectively make our websites a library branch in and of themselves.
2. Focus on aesthetics:
As much as people laugh at me for being bothered by formatting, design and general prettiness in my work, I know that looks do mean something. Some websites are just so unappealing that I’m really not interested in using them (think internet banking, for example). I’m a visual person, and I need visual stimulus, but even those of us whose brains aren’t hardwired to glean meaning from the visual are (consciously or subconsciously) influenced by the way things look. Good design is not a luxury; it is an absolute essential. We cannot afford to focus solely on content and functionality. Graphic designers may be expensive, but can we afford not to use them? At the very least, we should acknowledge the skills of our more creative colleagues and involve them in the design process.
Pretty isn’t everything, but in this age of shiny shiny web apps, looks do count.
3. Incorporate elements of game design:
As the WWD post points out,
[i]f your visitor is playing, chances are, she’s staying. That may mean creating a system of challenge and reward or developing a narrative structure to motivate visitors to interact with the site.
How can we learn from game design to build tutorials, interactive help and self-service reference tools?
According to Bodine,
many Web sites make users struggle to complete simple goals, have little to no emotional punch, and fail to embrace the diversity of consumers’ wants and needs…
Is this true for our library websites? Admittedly, not always. Some libraries do a pretty stellar job of creating dynamic, engaging websites that address the needs of their users.
But these tactics definitely offer food for thought for a lot of libraries.
Know of a library that’s doing a great job at drawing users in to their websites? Drop the URL in a comment…