With the trend toward responsive web design, which is the making of websites that automatically adjust themselves to fit desktops, laptops, tablets, or smartphones, there is a new emphasis on text on websites. Fewer graphics are being used and a bit more text may be needed. But the text itself must be visually pleasing, friendly, and concise. This was one of the key points of the program Better Websites Make Happier People: Web Management Essentials Beyond Visual Design.
Richard Kong of the Skokie Public Library (formerly of Arlington Heights Public Library) began the session by discussing the importance and methods of user testing. He urged libraries to avoid massive redesigns if possible, making incremental tested changes, always being in a state of subtle reconstruction. For testing, he recommended watching members of the library public try to accomplish assigned tasks, such as find the hours or send a message to library staff. The test conductor should, of course, emphasize that the website, not the volunteer, is being tested.
Anne Slaughter from RAILS (formerly of Oak Park Public Library) talked about having a content strategy from the beginning of a website design. Too many sites work on the look and the structure first, with the result that content is then wedged in. The overall consideration should be that the website is a platform for providing information and services. Only pages that serve the goals enumerated in the content strategy should be created.
Brodie Austin of Skokie Public Library (formerly of Des Plaines Public Library) made the observation with which I started this report. He said that websites heavy with images load slowly on mobile devices and tablets, so reducing the number of them serves everyone well. Cleaner design aids with simple, effective text is the new goal. To help web writers, there are new simple word processors, such as Draft and Prose.
In the questions period, Kong described an exercise that he had website stakeholders do to identify the reduced number of items to get space on a library's main webpage. It involved giving each person ten post-its, each marked 10 cents. Once all the proposed main webpage items are posted on a board, each person sticks her post-its on their preferred items. The items with the most post-its make the cut.
Austin agreed that many library website users are seeking links to other services, such as library catalogs, ebook platforms, and other online resources. More than most other websites, a good library website with have a high bounce rate.