Internet Librarian: day one

Rather than blog about every session I attended at Internet Librarian, I’m just going to just focus on the ones I thought were the most interesting.

Designing the Digital Experience
presented by David Lee King.

David told us that basically this is a 30 minute, presentation version of his book by the same name (which I had heard about before and was why I wanted to attend this session).

There are three paths to the experience:

Structure – Create an experience by making the website easier to use. A well designed experience should stay out of the users’ way. You should focus on developing parts of your site that users visit often. Don’t spend too much time on things users only do once a year. Look at your website with a critical eye, think about what would make people stumble. Figure out goals from there, don’t forget the “don’t make them think” philosophy.

Community – Provide a memorable experience though the online community. This can be done through conversations, connections and invitations (social networking aspects), participation, sense of familiarity, and telling our stories.

Customer – Extend the users’ real world experience into the digital space (i.e. more information to engage users about your product or service). This can be done through customer journey mapping (which can provide insight and organizational focus), and improving the ordinary experiences.

Through these three paths, you can connect the customer to products, staff, other customers, and the “extras” that can enhance their digital experience. Create an “experience stage” and work on conversation. Enhancing users’ online experiences will make them better users of your library in the real world. Change is coming. It can be hard, but well worth the effort in the end.

Strategies for Improving Website Performance using Google Analytics
presented by Marshall Breeding

Marshall started off his talk with some scary statistics from OCLC studies:

  • Users typically do not begin their research at the library website. Only 2% of those in the study said they did. Most start their research on sites like Google.
  • In the period from 2005-2007, those that said they used library websites dropped from 30% to 20%. During that same period the use of other websites in general went up

In his presentation Marshall suggested a close examination of website statistics can help remedy the situation. It’s important to track all resources (catalog, databases, etc.), and pay attention to the flow of use among all the library’s web-based resources. Don’t forget the flow from higher-level websites and portals (university site, courseware, etc.)

Marshall recommends using the free Google Analytics tool on your website, which gathers data dynamically (no server logs) and presents the data in aggregated patterns of use which are very easy to read.

When analyzing the data, go beyond simply page counts. Identify sessions, categorize users (students, faculty, etc.), determine use patterns, and measure interest (i.e. time spent on the site, bounce rate, and page overlay analysis).

Once you have the data, you can come up with goals for the website (i.e. more visits to specific pages or resources), look at the current benchmarks, implement goal oriented improvements to your site, measure the new impact, and repeat as needed.

I’ve already had Google Analytics installed on my library’s website, but I haven’t taken advantage of many of the features that are available. After hearing Marshall’s presentation, I’m anxious to to that.

Cool Tools for Webmasters
presented by Darlene Fichter and Frank Cervone

This session was kind of a quick-fire presentation where Darlene and Frank showed us all kinds of useful, interesting and just fun tools for webmasters. They’ll be posting their slides with everything they talked about at http://library2.usask.ca/~fichter/cool_tools/ (which also has slides from past “cool tools” presentations). Here are a few of the ones that struck my fancy:

  • Widgenie – create graphs as widgets you can use on your site
  • Freemind – mind mapping software, can help with brainstorming (this was also mentioned in the preconference session I was at yesterday
  • TrueCrypt – open source encryption software (great for portable flash or hard drives)
  • BrowserShots – get screenshots of how your website displays in a multitude of browsers and operating systems
  • Feng-GUI – creates heatmaps of a web page based on an algorithm that predicts what a human eye will focus on and how it scans a site