Saturday, October 16, 2010

12 User points of need - where to place your services online

Say you have a new service or page you want to advertise, what possible places could you put it? As libraries expand their reach online, it's no longer as simple as putting a link on your webpage.

In this post, I'm going to list systematically a dozen locations you could add online, some are directly under the control of your library (e.g. library pages), others are on third party servers that you indirectly control (third party hosted services), others could be totally third party systems (Facebook pages etc) and yet others could be under the control of other units (e.g Courseware systems).

Let's just take a link to a web chat (I know there are many ways the handle chat widgets, from embedding the chat box directly to various types of links that popup/expand etc but here I'm just considering a link regardless of how it behaves because chat is just an example). Where can you link it?




1. Library Front Page

Pro : Pretty obvious. Highest traffic page.

Con : Overcrowded homepage if you try to list everything there. Also is this really placing the service at the user point of need? E.g A library help page for OPAC that exists only as a link from the home page might be missed, as users might not need it until later when they are searching the OPAC.

2. On every page


How about placing a link on every page on some consistent part of your website's UI? There are many ways to do so, here are 3

Most obvious way is to place on banner, toolbar etc.








Concordia University Library has a link to Ask a Librarian page on every page


Some of the newer chat widgets like Olark, allow a "floating:" chat box that appears at the bottom of each page.



My own blog embedded with "floating": chat widget at bottom of every page


Recently I notice many services such as GetSatisfaction have began to popularize another type of UI, a "floating" tab widget that appears on the left (or right) of each page.



My own blog embedded with "floating" tab widget




Pro: This ensures the service is a click away on every page.

Con : As it's every present on every page, it might blend into background and be missed.



3. Library catalogue (discussed here)



 Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library catalogue, meebo chat appears when there is no hits. Image from David Lee King's blog.

Edit: Rudy Leon from UIUC suggests putting the chat link or widget on other library related search pages like the OpenURL resolver link page & other search engines owned by the library such as WebScale discovery tools and Federated search tools.

Pro : Placed at point of user need, high traffic place.

Con : Only makes sense for chat service or help files related to searching


4. Database (e.g Ebscohost, discussed here)


University of Calgary, chat embedded into EBSCOHOST, image from Distance Librarian Blog



Pro : Placed at point of user need, high traffic place.

Con : Only makes sense for chat service or help files related to searching



5. Subject Guide/FAQ
















My institution's LibAnswers/FAQ system






Pro : Point of user need, users are already "in the mood" to look for information.

Con : Traffic  might not be very high, depending on marketing/promotion.

6. Courseware (e.g. Blackboard, Moodle etc discussed here)







Pro: Most students spend a lot of time on courseware to download readings from lecturer, so this is high traffic page. Also at point of user need.

Con: Requires permission of lecturer (perhaps even on a per module basis)


7. Mobile pages (web apps or mobile apps)









Pro : Another access point, accessible on the go. At point of user need?

Con: Mobile pages are relatively difficult to create. Unproven.


8. Facebook/Blog/Twitter other social networking sites





For facebook it could be a facebook app, or it could be embedded into your Facebook page. Currently there is a change to facebook so facebook apps that work as boxes are phased out so you have to create a normal link, or a tab. I'm looking at Library Tabs for Facebook  and The 12 Best Ways To Customize Your Facebook Pages 

Also see "How to add a Meebo widget to a Facebook Page".  You could also add a link to your Library's twitter page as a background. For short term promotion, you can put it or encourage other university fan pages to talk about it. For example, some of our videos made by the library has made the popular (yet unofficial), Overheard at National University of Singapore.

Pro : For users who don't visit the library portal much

Con : NA


9. Toolbar/Browser button (e.g. conduit toolbar, Libx, PubMed toolbar etc)






Conduit browser toolbar with Meebo chat, from QuickSearch CMB Toolbar!



Pro: A browser toolbar creates an access point when user is not on library webpage. The browser toolbar will also quick access to library services no matter what page he is on!

Con: Have to encourage user to install


10. Desktop widget


What if the user has not opened a browser? You can offer desktop widgets that residue on their desktop to allow easy access. See this


Pro : User can access at any time even when browser is not open

Con : Have to encourage user to install



11. Word Processor/ Reference manager


Besides surfing the net, academic library users also spend a lot of time typing reports/essays and managing their citations. How about adding a button, or link to allow easy assess to library services? Say a student is typing a report, wonders what the proper citation should be, he can link on a link in Word or endnote and access a librarian chat.

Guus van den Brekel (@digicmb) mentions to me you can apparently do this by customizing the Research Pane in Word. Incidentally I notice that David Lanke also mentions the same idea briefly in this amazing video.




Pro :  Besides using the browser, academic library users also spend a lot of time managing their citations and typing articles. A link from there either set up as a extension or by customzing research pane, gives users one click access to library help. Very useful when user is working on report.


Con : Have to encourage user to install




12. Preinstall on library computers


#9, #10, #11 can be done on all library or university computers, so users don't need to install. Thanks goes to @CanuckLibrarian for suggesting this.




Conclusion

I've used the example of a chat link/ widget here but it easily applies to another link to a service, say a help page instruction. Is there any other online location they could be added I'm missing out?

Of course here, I cover only online locations, in a future post I will consider advertising/promotion in physical locations.
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