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Posts Tagged ‘web design’

Friday Fun! (Tiffany, Wii, and Websites at Work, Oh My!)

March 12, 2010 6 comments

Even though this week was spring break from grad school, I still had to work full time and of course managed to be super-busy outside of work as well.

My friend Tiffany from my days of interning with Americorps/the National Park Service has been in town for training for her job.  She lives in Virginia, so this was pretty darn exciting.  This was her last week in Boston, so she came over to my apartment so we could visit in relative quiet as opposed to the noise of a restaurant or pub.  It was so lovely to get to catch up after all this time, and I was glad to discover that in a relatively short time we were chit-chatting just like we did when we lived and worked together at the park.

This week I discovered that having the tax return money to buy a Wii and tv is one thing, finding places that have them in stock is another entirely.  I won’t even go into the debacle that was the store brand tv purchased at Best Buy (needless to say, it was returned), but I will say what the hell, Nintendo?  You have an insanely popular gaming system, and you’re not meeting demand?  That just doesn’t make sense to me.  After much searching, genius finally struck me in the form of Walmart.com, which had a few consoles in stock.  Huzzah!  It arrived on Wednesday, and I’m enjoying it just as much as I thought I would.  My tv arrived from Walmart.com yesterday, but I have yet to set it up.  Fingers crossed that we’ll be able to make Netflix stream on it!

Work has also been very busy as this is the time of year when I update our website.  Long story short, with hospital privacy concerns, one person has control of all of the websites connected to the hospital, which means we get to update our websites once a year and that we have zero to very very little control over the appearance.  This is frustrating to me as it limits what I can do.  (For instance, I’ve been having to use tables. TABLES).  Since we can only update once a year, that also means a bunch of our links are broken by the time that comes around, so I spend a lot of time hunting down the good ones.  Thankfully, this will soon be in the past as the hospital is organizing an intranet, which means I will get to be webmaster of our websites! (And the nurses’ websites, which I’m actually a bit nervous about).  So as soon as I finish this update to tide our patrons over until the intranet, I’ll commence working on the intranet.  You guys, I’m nervous, this will be the first time I’ll be using my real web programming skills for work. Eep.  *crosses fingers*

I’m excited for the weekend!  Be expecting more reviews of old and obscure books as the Audiobooks app is a good companion to web design.  Happy weekends!

The Library as Virtual Place

Last week, a patron walked through our library door and excitedly exclaimed to us, “I haven’t been here in forever! I’ve been living electronically.”  He went on to explain to us that he’s been conducting most of his research in his office via our library website.

In my graduate classes, we often talk about the library as place.  By this the professors mean establishing the library building as a place the community thinks about.  “Let’s go to the library” should be as natural a thought for a group of friends as “Let’s go to Starbucks.”  Yet a library doesn’t only possess a physical space, they also possess a virtual space patrons frequent.  Often far less, if any, thought is given to branding the library’s virtual space.

Most libraries have some sort of home page in addition to the online catalog (OPAC).  Many also have a few pages directed toward certain patrons, such as a teen page in public libraries or research help for the humanities for academic libraries.  The more cutting-edge libraries might also have a blog and a link to a twitter account.  In my exxperience, there is no cohesiveness among these pages.  There is no clear brand that this is Noname Library’s virtual space beyond perhaps a bar across the top of the page with the library’s name on it.  Although I know a lot of effort is usually put into designing these pages, they often seem haphazardly thrown together.  There is no cohesiveness.  Worse, especially for a public used to the cutting-edge of technology, many libraries are using old, out-dated, and even proven inadequate website design theories.  It’s like the designer has paid zero atttention to the research conducted in the last decade showing what works best for making a website browsable.

Thus, while Noname Library may have the most up-to-date chairs and the best seating arrangements at the actual library, their website screams the 90s, and most likely turns off at least a few users from coming back.

Libraries should think about themselves the way social networking businesses do when it comes to their presence online.  There should be a symbol that automatically makes the user think of the brand, like Twitter’s bird.  Although pages may look different from each other, they still should be recognizable as belonging to the same website.  There should be space on the library’s website for patrons to socialize with each other, even if it was something as simple as a blog members of the book club were given guest accounts for so they could blog about the current read.  Finally, and probably most importantly, the library website should consistently be assessed for browsability.  Outdated web design ideas should be cleared out from the website, leaving clear, modern space.

While the library as physical place is important, the fact of the matter is, most of our patrons do not solely live their lives in the physical space.  They also have virtual lives, and libraries should be a go-to place in that area of patron’s lives too.