Libraries have long made up the cornerstone of community learning, education, and other support services. As their scope and utility grows, so too must the capabilities of their website. Far too often, however, cities don’t supply them with the resources necessary to optimize the user experience of their websites for their most common users. In this episode, we take a look into the challenges faced by libraries with their websites, and what can be done to help them out.
Accessibility of State COVID19 Sites (4:29)
- axe – The Standard in Accessibility Testing (browser extension)
- Blind Users Struggle with State Coronavirus Websites
- WAVE Browser Extensions
Library Websites (17:26)
- Weave: Journal of Library User Experience
- Library User Experience Community
- Library UX: What Exactly Is It?
- Library Websites Analysis
- Library WordPress themes at ThemeForest
- Redesigning a local library website — a UX case study
- Take Charge To Maximize Your Library’s Online Presence
- The Ugly Truth About Library Websites
- User Experience (UX) Design for Libraries by Aaron Schmidt and Amanda Etches
- User experience (UX) in libraries: let’s get physical (and digital)
- The User Experience of Libraries: Serving The Common Good
The following is a machine-generated transcript of this episode. It will contain errors until it has been reviewed and edited, and we apologize for the difficulty that may cause for screen readers. Do you want to help us speed up our transcribing process? Consider sponsoring an episode.
Good morning. Good afternoon. Good evening. Good night. Good tomorrow? Good yesterday? This is the Drunken UX Podcast. And you’re listening to episode number 64 where we will be reviewing some of the usability and layout and website issues related to library websites. I am your host Michael Fienen.
I’m your other-other host Aaron Hill, back from the void…
The depths of the depths of the deep geometry that boggles the human mind terrifies small Children.Folks, this episode of the Drunken UX Podcast is brought to you by our friends over at nuCloud, you can check them out at nucloud.com/drunkenux for any of your interactive campus mapping or illustration needs. Go stop by, say hi and let them know that Drunken UX sent you. Let’s see, where can they find us, Aaron?
They could find us over at Twitter or Facebook.com/drunkenux or instagram.com/drunkenuxpodcast all of your web meme needs and also at drunkenux.com/discord. To come and chat with us.
This court is the place to be. It’s worked quite well and we had mentioned we did this kind of facilitate the use of a new tool we wanted to use super happy with us of any other part. It’s pretty amazing to this episode now that Craig bot for doing multi track recording remotely is, ah, heck of a tool. So…
it’s pretty amazing.
Otherwise, this evening Ah, last week I was having a sippy, sippy taste of my Jim Beam Devil’s Cut in my mini cask that is seasoning. And there I This is now Ah, week after that episode recorded, and so it’s now been in, I think, Well, this would make well right at two weeks. Then that that has been seasoning.
How do you like it?
It’s Ah, it’s Jim Beam. I mean, there is that I don’t love it in general, it’s not bad. It was. It was all right. And last week I kind of noted that I I definitely could tell the difference. After a week in a mask,Two weeks is still very similar. It’s not like a huge generational jump by any means. It definitely has brought out mawr of like this sort of cinnamony, and like a wet leather, like if you’ve ever smelled like good wet leather. Okay, okay. You’re familiar with that kind of knows. It’s got that, but as kind of a flavor to it, it’s, I think I said last time. You know, it sanded off the edges, I think was the phrase. It’s definitely a mellower palate than what I wouldn’t expect from especially normal Jim Beam room. What do you got, Aaron?
I spent all afternoon doing yard work like pruning dead branches and pulling down wild grapevine and ripping up roots from the ground. And the sun was really hot And I came inside and I was like, I want something that’s gonna like kind of rehydrate me, but also is like a refreshing thing.
Your own blood? That was weird.
I call it, um, wild Berry death. And it’s basically just like random, like beverages that I had in my kitchen at the time. What it is is it’s about a shot of blue carousel, almost a full side of triple sec, maybe a full shot. I measure it, I just eyeballed it and then it’s got some Snapple raspberry iced tea. Cranberry juice is actually really good I mean, it tastes like just a mixture of Berries on there’s like a tiny bit of bite on it. I don’t know, man. I’m like, I’m beat and I got a lot of sun and really sore. My skin’s all scratched up and this thing is the bomb.
It sort of sounds like a jungle juicy, kind of like, Yeah, here’s what we got. Let’s throw it together.
I got no regrets, man. It is enough. It’s safe.
Then it’ll go down smooth. Yeah, This week I want to talk and we’ve already alluded to this. I think in the last two episodes, and we’re finally getting to it. There’s an article over the market dot or go on a blind user struggling with the state of Corona virus websites. I think this is an important topic. A. We’re recording this literally on Global Accessibility Awareness Day, so this makes for a good topic for this, even though it will not be released until starting June or something.But it’s a ah look at They say that if they look at it ah, all 50 state pages and ran accessibility tests against unjust automated tests just to see how they fared because, especially when you consider a disease that disproportionately affects lower income people, elderly people, you know, folks who may have other disabilities, maybe more risk to contract the disease. You’re talking about information that should be accessible to those at the greatest risk.What they found.
It will probably not surprise you that many of those sites didn’t They’re great. Let’s point out sort of defensively on their part. Obviously, many of the states had to set these sites up very quickly and probably without a huge amount of planning. And so mistakes happen. And that’s just for mystics remains.So they start like, Yeah, here’s one of the quotes and I’ve got several things I want to read to you guys out of the so I apologize for that. But there’s some good information in here. 41 of the 50 state pages surveyed contained low contrast text, which can be challenging for users. Low vision, including seniors, were at the highest risk for the outbreak. Contrast is gonna come up later in this episode as well, so keep that kind of in the back of your head. But vision we we so often frame accessibility in terms of visual acuity, obviously not the only accessible accessibility issue. But it does make up a major one because one of the most common things is eyesight. Did you didn’t Genya or Gendered? This is my mom, my generation, the generation Generation X Man. This is way too early.
31 of the 50 state pages contained empty links or buttons. This means the screen reader hits the linker, hits the button and doesn’t know what to tell the user. This is a basic thing, and it’s It’s the kind of thing that is so easily remediated. But yet over half the states had problems accomplishing that very simple. Ask you mind, The state sites are also some of the sights that are most strictly regulated by accessibility laws. And yet still, so much of this problem right.They used wave to scan these sites, and they reported that on average they found 28 a half errors per Corona virus home page, he did note. This is lower than typical websites, which had an average of 60.9 errors per home page. This is based on a scan they did of like the top 1,000,000 home pages back in February
Is WAVE similar to like acts and the, um, the subway to like the tools we just click a button. And then it scans the page and then tells you all the like things that are wrong with it.
Yeah, yeah, you know, with aimed there’s a plug for that. You congest drop into your browser to and use, And so and I will talk about this later. I used acts to do some of this for the talking about library websites, but it’s just a tool that goes through. The thing is,I would expect government websites to have a lower incidence rate of black herbal errors. Keep in mind that Onley something like 40% of accessibility problems could be detected with automated tools,so that’s something to consider. But they are governed by these laws and, at least in some cases, states and federal government. These organizations try to have some baseline standard by which they build sites, which can help with those issues. That said, that’s still too many errors. If your goal is to not have errors,
I know on federal sites, at least there’s ah, Section five await, which is what kind of governs Web accessibility, right? I don’t know that states have to abide by that. Obviously, they should
Many states, quite I know Kansas is one. Kansas has what they call policy 12. 10. Okay. Also, 12 10 is basically just them saying we will adhere to section 508 guidelines to be weak. AG two point. Oh, double A. Okay, debate. Like they just said, It’s just a pass through policy, basically on that, right? Okay, if a state has not, you know, done their own policy or whatnot, that’s, Ah, everybody. I mean, that’s on you all toe. You know, each listener make sure to check your state laws and what compliance they said, if any. If they don’t then contact somebody and tell him past do folks. We we go killed three story buildings without elevators. We don’t put in stairs without a ramp Alternative. You know, we have already decided that we can make this part of our system in the physical space, and it’s just the way we do. There’s no reason it can’t be thing we do in the digital space.They There’s some other stuff here. North Carolina’s website includes a slide show with the number to call for assistance and illustrated symbols of the house by the virus. But the text is hardly images, making it only accessible visually. Alaska’s website includes links to public health mandates as pdf, which are terrible in screen readers. I just
I I see all this and all I can think of is it’s designed by management. It’s like the somebody said,
We need our power point so we can go show it right So and so and then they say Now let’s just put this on the website because it has all the information but exactly what he said, Yeah, but
yeah, it’s the like It’s the person who is ultimately making the decisions, you know, like the director or the program manager, etcetera. They’re responsible for just making these decisions, and they they’re not a Web expert. They’re not trained in this and but they’re still making decisions about how to do it and what goes on there. They’re not trusting their well. I don’t know they’re hiring any experts, but
some do. And that’s mentioned in this article that some of the states did contract with people to help Amy Adams Ellis is a spokesperson for the North Carolina Department of Health, and she noted that the site includes a toolbar called Audio I, which gives users additional options for accessibility. Now one that doesn’t help you for something like a slide show embedded on the site where your images have the text burned in. Just doesn’t that toolbar is not gonna make that text accessible to any user.The second thing I want to call out to because there this was one of my best controversial moments so far has drunken you. X. I shared a few weeks ago on Instagram and Twitter, a screenshot of a university site that had an accessibility toolbar, a and custom built accessibility toolbar. And I shared a comment about it saying, Hey, look at this. Isn’t it great that these folks are trying to provide accommodations and tools for these users? Many of you are quick to point out
You got served man.
Yeah, folks were very quick to be like, No, that’s terrible accessibility, because you shouldn’t be trying to override the assistive tools that the users are already using. You know, if you’re using jaws or envied EA or things like the screen. Readers like this. Most of them, you know, already have their controls baked in. You know, some of them will already be using things like style sheets in their browser to change contrast and stuff like that. My counterpoint was I both agree and get it. But that shows an organization that is interested, at least in providing accommodation, all right, and they’re trying.
I have a counterpoint to that. Though they’re acknowledging their, I agree that they’re acknowledging that it’s important. We’re acknowledging that it’s something that should be doing.The concern that I have is that they might think, Oh, well, we put this tool on It was easy. So we’re happy about that. And now we’re good. We can walk away, Accessibility solved.
That is a genuine problem. Yes,
yeah, and they’re not actuallyreally addressing. The problem is an ongoing effort. You wannaapply the remedies and then follow up and verify that is actually doing it and turn key Solutions aren’t going to do thatbecause, like you mentioned text burnings onto imagesisn’t going to be read by these toolsas well, you know, like fake buttons and pdf’s and other things. It’s not gonna catch those,
right? The next point I put in my show notes I bowled it. I triple underlined a winky Smiley face under it with a sad emoji. And and they were caught. I don’t I don’t know.
I don’t know why the apricots there?
I don’t really, either. I’ve never even apricots. I wouldn’t even know what is good for.Rosano was also unable to use the sites chatbots.Another issue that did not register in wave now,Huh?
Folks, pull up a pew to the Church of Ffynnon. Uh, first and foremost on and and ah, earmuffs, earmuffs that yes, earmuffs. Why the fuck are you putting a chat botson your code 19 site? What purpose does that possibly serve?There is no way you can tell me that you have had the time to make that tool adequate and functional and interactive in a way that solves a problem better than your website would.
Dude, you worked in higher into You know what it is?
Oh, I know. Believe me, I know. Butsome people need to go to church, so don’t do that.Not to mention the fact that like, as this pointed out,the chatbots existed. It didn’t register as an error, but it was inaccessible to the people that tested it.
So it’s not even a feature that can be used by those people that you want to try to help out.It just doesn’t make sense. I have. I railed on Twitter two or three days ago again about chatbots because of the whole thing that came up with podcast addict podcast at it got booted off school play store. The guy who wrote Podcast Attic shared a screenshotof his Twitter D M interaction. The Google play store account on Twitter said, Hey, D M s, Let’s help you out He did and got a chatbots as the service element. Theo. Outcome of that exchange was almost so comical. It would make you cry at how bad it was. And this was Google. This was Google with all of the ai algorithms and access to systems that they have. And the tool was garbage.So don’t use a chatbots on your code 19 side. Don’t use a chap out on your site, period. Just don’t do it. If you want the full rant on that go back. I think it’s Epsom 55 or 56. I literally spent in episode ranting about this. Don’t do it
before you think that you know everything that is insurmountable and can’t be done. Main in New Mexico had sites that didn’t register any errors. So it’s possible to do folks.It’s not hard. It’s actually quite easy toe build aside if you just build a site with a little care and attention to detail,huh?Anyway, go check this out. It’s over the market dot or the link is in the show notes. Give it a read and just consider, you know, use it as sort of a framework for considering how you approach your audiences and what you do about accessibility, how you apply it to your sides.
This is ah, request. Actually, that came in from ah, friend of mine and listener, whoworks in libraries and was interested in our take on how library website steak up. We’ve done this before with weather sites, restaurant sites like car dealers.And so I thought, you know, yeah, we’re overdue for this kind of episode. So let’s look at a bunch library websites and see how the state of this iswe are gonna try to stick primarily to public libraries, not like academic or research libraries. For this conversation, I will have to break with that at one specific point. Um, only because the data was really good for what I want to articulate. But they only looked at academic websites.
So first and foremost, I want to take a look at an article. This was by James Day over library technology launchpad.One thing we see is that there are libraries starting to take their Web presence a lot more seriously than they used to,Um, and they understand the need to provide services and provide information through them in a way that requires an elevated experience.What James Day said is that the user experience librarian is a new job. Title institutions such as New York Public Library, Cambridge University, University of Arizona and the University of Virginia have a dedicated user experience librarian, and that’s
a new thing for this world. Acknowledging that that person isn’t just doing you x for a website, it’s literally you x or the library the same way like you think about Casino ux and things like that
the only caveat I wanna have here is I think, saying that library starting to take it seriously.I think thatlibrarians in generaltake all of this stuff very seriously.They just might nothave the specialized skills necessary to apply. They’re like knowledge of information scienceto thelike,admittedly very specific set of skills for doing like Web presences.All every librarian have ever known takes everything about the library super seriously, like they’re really passionate about working in libraries.
No, that’s absolutely affair.
Everything in this episode like please, if you are librarian or, you know one, please understand. We fully respect the care that librarians have aboutthe library and its product.
One thing, a lot of the problems that we’re gonna highlight come back to is this thing where a lot of public libraries, the maintenance of their site, becomes one of those other duties as assigned responsibilities for somebody who isn’t a Web developer. And, like, just like you say, they may be the best library and in the world in the physical space. But that doesn’t necessarily mean those skills just magically translate to building website. If they did, we wouldn’t have a lot of the problems that we have in the industry in general.
We’ve talked about this on the show before you and I. This is what we do professionallyandwe don’t even know everything. There’s there’s stuff like we constantly have to, like, sharpen up on and accessibility is definitely one of them.
We have to paddle our boards up that way of the same as everybody else. And let me tell you, my arms were starting to get damn tired. The older I get,
Yeah, yeah, so, like, it’s It’s totally understandable. Like any of the areas like for improving or anything on a library website. We see you librarians, we love. We love what you’re doing
to that end. One thing I want to be very clear about, we are going to talk about a lot of problems. I’m not going to call out anybody. I’m not gonna tell you which websites we looked at. I’m not gonna go into like where some of these issues are specifically bad explicitly because I don’t want them to feel bad and feel like they’ve done a bad job. I will probably call out some folks who I think are doing good job.Good job.Good Lord, I can’t talk tonight doing a good job on various things because I think celebrating some of that stuff is very different. Sure, um, pooping all over it.That is not our intent. But we do have to draw attention to some of these.
Sure, something’s issues. So as I’ve got and I’m literally sitting here with, like, a dozen, uh, library sites open from what I looked at, just I couldn’t even tell you how many I clicked through. Probablyah 100 e basically type public library into Google and just started opening uplocal sites and looked around for a few minutes on each one.Yeah,
so let’s start with Layout is allowed to the first thing you notice you land on a library website and the layout is the thing that speaks to you. First and foremost, my favorite thing about this was there is so much especially. And let’s clarify one other thing real fast.There’s a big difference. Like m I see a big difference. I mean, the gap is like Grand Canyon in terms of a major cities public library site. Oh, yeah, and your average communityPublic Ivory site. Houston, Denver, Detroit. Even sorry, Detroit.These folks are large cities. They have.
I don’t want to say, Oh, they’re well funded and have all these resource is because I know even they struggle with that, But they simply are better provisionedthan your average community is. And the difference is staggering in some cases,
if it is not a particularly big city, I think that when all the students air here, I think our population is around maybe 40,000 if that and that’s only half the year. But our library site isgreat. They they did a phenomenal job just with everything. And the figure makes library system. There’s a really good job of supporting that.Yeah, I think it comes down to, like Do how well supported is that public library?
Ah, huge gap there because you say, Well, Ithaca, you know, not a big C. Pittsburgh’s 20,000 people were half of that,and we’re a big city in Kansas. So you’re talking about you could have you drive through ah town, a city in Kansas, and you’re going to routinely see the bulk of our communitiesunder 5000 peopleright. I know that that’s, you know, a little more unique to this area. But even then, most states just from a proportion of population, you know, it’s Ah, it’s a very long tail kind of curve,
you know, three or four major Metro’s that the state maybe has, and it drops off dramatically and for a long way for the rest of those communities. And those are the ones that I think we’re going to see most of these issues in and right there are also the ones that need the most help. And that’s why I’m like, I don’t I don’t want this to feel like us going at you or anything like that, cause that’s definitely say We both have a ton of respect for that,right? And hopefully the goal is,Here’s the problems. Let’s draw attention to them. And then here are the ways to go about maybe trying to address some of them, not all of them, but who pick your things and you know how we would go about it.So with layout,
one thing I saw is when you look at some of these, there is so much like stock. CMS layout And what I mean by that is, if you have built enough or even just seen enough websites built in WordPress and Jundallah specifically,you can usually pick them out just by looking at, um,and that was something that I ran into multiple times When perusing some of these junior in particular,you hear a very non customized junior website really stands out as being Jundullah because of just the way they integrate modules and sidebars and things. But even WordPress, you can usually look really quickly at a site and tell, Oh, yeah, this is WordPress. If there’s no custom development done and it’s a can theme or even a custom thing, that’s just basic.
I haven’t done a lot in Juma, but by my experience with it was that Julia is what happens when you have a job. A developer who burns a little bit of PHP and is like PHP would be better if it was more like Java.
I just fun fact. I did use Juma for quite a while many, many years ago. I haven’t in a long time, and it’s probablyhopefully much better now. But, um,that’s why I guess maybe that jumped out at me was because I did have enough exposure to it.Like recognize those those design patterns. One of those patterns that applies to both of these is my God. Widgets, widgets fucking everywhere. A widget for everything. Or, you know, like a graphical image stamp for every service or every certification or every service they offer. Everything has to have a widget. A box. Ah, my God.
Like the point of a library or any kind of archive is tookind of collect everything. Like like you want. The more things you have in an archive, the richer and better the archive is.I can totally see how thatthat mindset could be applied to. Oh, well, obviously, the website, the more things we put on, the better the website will be.
Erin, while we’re sitting here talking, I just threw a link right into our slack. Are discord. Sorry. Are discord channel for you? I want you to open that. Ah, while we’re sitting here so that you are looking at the same thing, right?Signs out
of this one earlier,
right? I mean, is this not literally the widgets, widgets everywhere? Problem? Yeah, it’s to describe this to folks. What you’ve got is it’s a It’s a very basic layout. It’s, you know, a white backgroundkind of a menu. Sort of. It’s like it’s literally what happens when a tab. The menu has three times to any items, so your tabs actually wrap on each other
in the tabs. Money of them have drop downs.
So they’ve got a carousel right in the middlethat’s rotating many of these same noise was carousel. Yeah, the middle deal there, right in the middle, is a carousel and notice,right? These are,uh,
images. It looks likeyeah, images with text in them. So again, we’re gonna talk about accessibility here in a few, but images with text in them. But they want to 34567Working. 15 16 17 18 19. Funny, funny one, by my count, um, widgets. Badges like, yeah, and each one has a little top bar on them as well, Which is? It makes it even funnier in a way.They’ve got a title bar above each one. That’s dark gray and blue text, and it’s not not pretty. It is not pretty. Is my point.
The expectation seems to be likeand how I think they would anticipate a user. Using the site is too said and read the wholepage not There’s no structure. There’s a littleyeah, it’s not using any, like conventional layout patterns or anything. I mean, it’s using like, a three column layout, but I if you were to tell me like, Oh, where is the contact us link part of the pageother than like the parts that are in the header like II don’t know. I don’t know where there’s There’s the about about Link. It’s
impossible to know where anything is on this home page without literally looking at every single item reading it. Basically, there’s no no hierarchy, no I A. To it, no flow to it. They’ve just put everything up that they think is important. Um, and that’s that’s a problem. And this is something that you were looking at this one here because this one was by far I think, the worst I found for this particular problem. But a lot of the sites suffer from some form of that kind of problem,
right?Doing a clean UX and understanding how to get rid of stuff you don’t need and like, really streamline your content is not an intuitive thing to do. And I completely understand how A,like a library that is doing the best it can,may not know that, like I or any site, really, if it’s a restaurant or whatever elseit’s,it’s not an intuitive thing like having West content less is more. It’s It’s something that you learn when you do this, and so
I don’t think there is. I’m just scanning the show notes here. I don’t think there’s a single problem here that I would say isa library problem like none of it is right nikto a library because it’s a library thes air, all normal problems that every kind of website has. It’s just, I think, many of these air more pervasive for reasons that we will get to when we start talking about the problems, like the underlying problems that caused these issues,
what I will give them credit for two things on this one of them is that they have a very, uh, current notice about Kobe 19 and what the library’s doing with that right at the top of the page.
and I have seen so many code nine dead centers on the inside, I know,
but it’s like, you know, kudos to them like, because that’s a really important thing to know. They made it really obvious 11
of my local friends who works in our library has been very vocal about. They’ve been bending over backwards to provide a number of services, hand delivering books, even in some cases, and pushing their digital services like they really have been doing a ton and kudos to of them for that and the fact that most of these sites figured out a way to get that messaging onto their home page in a fashion. Yeah, I am I going to say that I wouldn’t recommend better approaches in some cases? No, because I definitely would. But at least it is there, and it I don’t know that, like anywhere had it like hidden or out of the way. It was eitherat the very tippy top in a red banner or more right under their navigation and something that was set off like, generally speaking,if you wanted to know that information, you could find it quickly so that that’s definitely something that is good and something that does make using a known CMS like WordPress or do Melo are whomever you want to use. I know there’s a player in the space tothat does like they’re like a municipal website CMS radio. They operate in the space to meet me
civic, something press, civic something. Okay?And I know they do this toHere’s the other thing that jumps out at me, too. Is one of the risks you run is using something like WordPress in particularly you don’t want a library site to be a blawg.WordPress obviously likes being a blogger, a lot more press themes like being a vlog. And I did see a couple where
they sort of left their home page as sort of one of those feeds. And so they were using posts as a means of conveying information, which is good,but it resulted in a long home pageright out like good visual break up of that content, and it just made the page long as a car. You just at, ah, home page that was basically a wall of text and again that text changes and it has no information hierarchy. So the first thing on the page is is just the latest thing. It’s not the most important thing, and I have no way of knowing what the fourth thing down the page will be as a result. And so I would recommend avoiding that. Use your home page to feature services to feature your audiences, to feature the things events that are utility and purpose and give people understanding of what’s going on.There’s no point in having 10 blawg posts on your front page listed out because nobody cares.
Or just if you have to have them on the home page, because you do update it frequently just to the headlines like Don’t put the whole continents just put like a current updates or something in a block on the page. Put the headlines and a bullet invest don’t use. Ah, and then people know. Yeah,all right. So before I go to the next thing,I like the fact that they have The search box is really easy to see on the screen. It’s right at the top and then also the menu, even though it we kind of ragged on the tab menu. A little bit.They did a pretty good job with organizing the stufflike the menu items. I do have to read there, All of them. I can’t quickly scan it.And I have to make some guesses about where stuff’s gonna be.
This site is keyboard accessible.Yeah, the menus they’ve got, Some of them have drop downs, and the drop downs are keyboard accessible.
Yeah,it could be reduced a bit. They could probably stand toe, have things be organized a little bit better. But overall, though, like, it’s not bad. And if you just takethe top third of, like, just the top initial portion of the page, like the above the fold, if we’re still using that term,you got the cove in 19 notice. You’ve got all these, like tabs andthings that are like the actual content you’re gonna be clicking on. You gotta search box. I mean,that’s that’s really what you need. And they did a good job of that and all the other stuff, the quarter and everything you have to scroll down to get to it.
Let me say this is a defense. I think you’ll agree with meugly. But usableis okay.Yeah, I don’t mind if it’s ugly. If it’s usable, right? Ugly doesn’t have to impede usability ugly. You know if if your site is using Comic Sands. Yes, I saw library sites using comic sans on the front. Mayam I gonna like it? No, But if that’s the biggest problem on your home page, you can get away with that. And I always say, Look at Craigslist.Craigslist is not a pretty website there. An ugly website, but they know their job. You know, they know what they’re trying to be and do, and they could get away with it. And library size can be that as well.Who cares if it’s not well designed or it’s needed? You couldn’t afford to hire a agency to come in for 50 grand and give you a layout.
Don’t worry about that. Make it ugly, but just make it usable. Case in point right. Many of these sites are responsive,but that’s it.And the reason I say it that way is because responsive doesn’t mean mobile friendly. In fact, right badly articulated responsive design can be worse than no responsive design. In my opinion,the way this happens, I think in a lot of cases is somebody comes in maybe a volunteer, you know, who knows,
and they have applied a responsive theme. You know, let’s say they’re using WordPress and they had a can theme that was okay again, notes. It’s fine,and it’s got some responsive elements built into it.But then it’s handed over to people who have no understanding of how to do content, design and content modeling four responsive elements. And so they’re just putting all their widgets in the page and all their graphic items in the page and all their content blocks inwith no thinking about how that’s gonna re flow on a mobile device.
That’s what I mean when I say, like, Responsive doesn’t mean mobile friendly and a lot of the sites that aren’t the higher in big city sites. Very few of them were what I would consider mobile friendly,particularly because so many widgets badgesadds. But you know, things that would be equivalent to an ad links to their services, things like that. It’s just it turns into just a giant list of those things on your mobile phone, and that’s not usable
that feels a little bit like the thing we mentioned earlier, aware of like Oh, well, we checked off the responsive box. We’re good, right? And like it just, you know, always test isn’t
responsive. It is their responsibility. Well, yes, we do have a media query in the CSS.
Okay, like the compliance issue, there is not. Did we do this thing that’s ostensibly works? It’s Does it actually work in practice? And that’s that’s always should be the whether or not you’re checking the box is can we do the thing we’re intending to do with this?
So there’s another article from the library technology launchpad that they did. And this is where I I mentioned. I’m gonna talk about academic libraries. They did a review of the top 100 academic libraries in the country on and pulled out some stats. And there’s a lot of very cool stats and information in this article, so I would recommend Go look at it. It will also be in the show notes. Actually, there will be several things in the show notes that we don’t refer to directly, So go check those out if you get a chance. Butthis was some form of libraries or locations and or hours appeared on only 57% of weather news.
Oh, my gosh.
So this takes me back about two seasons.This is whatever sort of bore the most implore things that people care about when it comes to a library.Where are you and Winnie Open?Uh, and Onley. 57% of sites had that Internet blew my mind. And
not only that, like they broke this down and they collated, Um, the some of the language that was used and the language that was used will throw you off. The number one link that conveyed this information was just labeled librariesnumber two, libraries and collections.Number was ours, and only seven websites said hours.Seven more website said libraries and hours before 10. If you want around that up and then it goes from their locations campus libraries, hours and locations, libraries and departments, libraries and spaces hours for the week. So it’s not even like 57% even got this right. In my opinion, I think a lot of them
got this wrong as a consequence.
Okay, So many years ago, when I worked at a college. I I was I was working onreorganizing the campus library’s website, and this is a bit of a contentious issue.It was my first run in with librarians, andthere there are very like I said, protective, very passionate about what they do and protect protect.
That’s a good word.
Yeah. Um, so,uh and, you know, they were both like, you know, they were both Web users from, like, the nineties. And they had a long history, and it’s just like,you know, stuff was just constantly changing, and they just they hadn’t kept up with the newest best practices. But anyways,I did actually usability like a Steve Krug style usability test we brought in students. We give them gift cards to the campus cafe, and we did a, um, like a page paper page mock up of the site and that I recorded all the sessions andit took a few hours, but we got a really great feedback from that. And if you are someone who has influence on the layout or the architecture of the library site, I highly recommend this. Um, just find 5 to 10 people who patronise your site.Diversity is really good here. So, like different ages, different demographicsand then asked them to do like a few different tasks. Find out what’s interesting or useful to them when they go to the library site,get the words and get like the tasks that they try to do. And you won’t miss stuff like this.
Another one that was fun was some form of search or find appeared on only 34% of website. Manyso
okay way. Is it because not all of them had search or find features ivy that requires some server side technology.
That is something I couldn’t answer without going through. And I’m like reading the actual research that they did What? What I think they did was it looks and just looking from the other results and things that they included in this article. I think they’re basically saying, You know what’s in not just the menu, but I think they really mean masthead, so to speak, of the pain.But this there was more consistency here. Find search and find search, find, borrow, request, which I think is a little confusing. Find materials,maybe. Okay, but maybe I want to find something on the Web site, not a material is material to me implies books or, you know, magazines. Whateversearch tools that once on finding site
search collections, a surge library, search library resources, search this website.And that’s one thing that I will mention to. In a lot of the ones I saw,there was a lot of examples of search being like split like two forms. Search like you’re either searching the Web site or you’re searchingthe collections or whatever external databases they have, and they basically just
give you two boxes and you just pick one of them. And that’s how you go about. I think that’s you know, I’m not calling foul on that. I think that’s OK, because I know those external databases are kind of their own beast in general.
I want to call outthe Top gets County Public Library, our local library. Their search box is right at the top. It’s gigantic. It has a drop down selector at the beginning of it that lets defaults to catalog if you want to search your stuff in the library, but you can also select website if you want to search the content of the website. I thought that was super cool.
Yeah, are as I’m looking at our local, um,so sorry, Pittsburgh, but they’re sort of their search is just a search box. I’m not I’m not gonna say anything like Superbad. Their search box, Just a search box. So I don’t know that searching the web site or or other things they do have a separate link box for card catalogues. So I’m guessing that they, you know, the different search.They have a menu icon in the upper right that when I click it, it opens a sidebar fly out menu with nothing in it,I think, is eso talking about, you know, responsive failures, right? I would bet if I shrink this page down, their main navigation probably breaks into that. But God element for the menu itself remains on a wide screen, so it’s not
picking that up.Uh, it’s, you know, it’s generally well laid out, though for the most part, they have a color palette that they really settled on. Although I see some white text on yellow backgrounds gonna talk about that in a second.But then they they have the image problem. Um, after you get past the main masthead, then it’sbanners for the E books for the Kansas Digital Thing for consumer reports for hoopla. Who plays shows up everywhere now.
And these are all just giant image banners, basically image ads for all of these services, many of which will take you away from the website entirely, which is something else. That’s, I note that in the are notes, but taking people away from art your site because of those third party services is kind of ah, tough thing.Yeah, there’s an article it Fail lab that used the word clutter when describing the problems with library websites. And that’s what we will see a lot of is that clutter that has no hey, have you ever like give much? Horner’s
Yes, I was thinking that,
Yeah, like even if you’ve ever like talked to somebody who is a horrid or watched any of those shows, the hoarder generally knows where everything is, and that’s one of their biggest fears is by cleaning up. They are afraid they will lose things because they can tell you where anything is in all of their piles. I’m a digital hoarder I confined anything I’ve backed up or saved anywhere online machine, even though makes no rhyme or reason. Anybody with me?
I’m not a hoarder.I do have clutter in my house, but I can relate to that. I know where stuff is. If someone moves it and doesn’t tell me that I don’t know where it
s my shop. Workbench is a disaster. I can tell you it’s on it, though, and where it is because it’s a disaster. I made it.That’s where I think some of this clutter problem comes from, isit’s it’s perception. Bias, right? People are using their own experience or experiential buyers by us. Whatever their experiences with their website, they feel like, Well, I know where everything is. And that then is used to say, Well, if other people can’t find that, that’s not my fault.
That’s a problem that we saw a lot, um, in higher ed or really, like any industry specific website where you have jargon like registrar or worse are like those aren’t terms anyone uses in day to day life. So we shouldn’t use those for things that are like critical mission critical links. Right? Um,I got to say that article by Phil Lab is amazingand as so much could wreck recommendations, a content in it. If you are someone that works or has influence over a library website, I highly recommend reading. It was really good advice in there.
Sowhy clutter? Why is clutter a problem with the library website you hit on a little bit? It’s, you knowtheir responsibility the library is responsible is to collect information to make it available. Yeah,I would argue that this is
like a narc. I’ve by definition, yeah, likley is hoarding. I mean, it’s the library is just kind of a sanction horde hoarding knowledge, media, other thingsit’s just organized.
I think one of the bigger problems, at least from a Web presentational standpoint, is thatthey really have an audience and service problem that generates this. OK, it’s very similar to what we’ve talked about in higher ed with this idea of having lots of audiences to serve with lots of goals.Ah, andyou know, up it’s a public library, right? But you can’t just define your audience as the public.
That’s right, not something you can build towards because the public is too broad. It doesn’t narrow anything down, and it leads me to one of my favorite pieces of advice.
Wait, can in the show yet.
I can’t in the show yet, so I can’t run through it. No, but so
the advice. You’ll have to wait till later to get
after it till it’s it’s it’ll be in East Raggett the End. But let’s just say once you define these groups of people, you can write a piece of paper that will help you understand their goals and needs and experiences in a way that you can use them to inform site design. So, for instance, you know public libraries providesuch a huge array of services that they didn’t used to. When I I remember one of the big thing when I was a kidlike mid nineties early nineties,they start our public library, started getting into VHS lending. That was a whole new thing. They
blew my mind. They I’ve rented Ford video games from a public vibrate.What, What? I lived in the Midwest. I
Yeah, I know. It’s amazing to board games now.Computers were the big thing, so I’m going back to 1993 94. They had a dial up computer. You could go in, sign up for your hour and used the Internet. I didn’t have a computer then. That wasn’t We didn’t have that in my household. So I went to the I could walk to the library and use their computer for an hour and be in a chat room. Blues Traveler, chat room. As it turns out,you want to know why? Very strange child growing up.But now there was something, and I wish I could remember where I read this, that I think maybe on image or one of those that somebody was sharing like a library experiences, tweet, threat or something. And one of the comments was about
the old adage of like in a library. She, you know, gonna be quite in the library. Libraries aren’t quite places now because right they do so much mawr. They’re having events. They’re doing things for kids constantly with, like group learning over the summer and camps and are are local library does three D printing services. Now you can actually rent time on three D printers. What they have meeting rooms for things they You know,libraries do so much more than they used to do. And they service everybody from young parents needing somewhere to distract their kids to retirees who are coming into, you know, read murder mystery novels to homeless people. Talk to a librarian about how they work with homeless people. Now, as you know, a place where somebody homeless congest come, sit and not get harassed about having to leave right away.Right? You have event attendees coming in, but these are all groups you can define and start to understand and then figure out what are their needs and how do their needs and form what we should have right on that home page and in our navigation.
It’s really a community common space anymore. Um, it’s not just like students andbookish types wanting to go and read more books and study.It’s just a lot of different purposes. Yeah,
it really underpins why libraries now are almost more important than they’ve ever been. Even though, you know, we’re constantly talking about what should get funding or shouldn’t and we won’t go into the politics of that. Actually, Will we have to here in a second? Because that’s part of the problem. Butthe the number of services they offer just inherently then creates the clutter. That’s why there are links to all these e book services and all of their partner, Ah, lending services and all of the state your taxes. You go to a library, get your taxes done in some places like it’s just all these random stuff that they do. And we need to start thinking about how we can use I a toe hone that in and create, you know,reasonable silos to help people find that information in a timely manner and in a way that makes sense instead of just putting a link to every one of them on the home page. It’s why the widget problem exists, why the badge thing is happening, because everybody’s just saying, Well,we don’t know what to do. Sort is gonna link to every single service right on the home page, so everything gets a button, and then it’s just a mess.
The last big thing is accessibility, and I want to get to this before we dig into the underlying problem in what could be done about it.Accessibility. If is an issue everywhere, obviously. And like I say, we tie this back to the warmer topic with the code 19 sides. One of the most common things is one of the most common things that I see everywhere, and that’s having a big masthead with a giant photo and white text on it.It’s a contrast problem. You can’t control where that text falls on that image when you resize the browser for different screens or whatever, and you can’t generally read white text on a busy background, you have to give it contrast yet you know, every time and time again, I’m seeing thatthere were a couple size I looked at that had no active or focused states on links and menus
so tabbing through, you had no ideaI couldn’t find anything.The menu eso you had mentioned the site that we were looking at earlier, and you were like, you know, their menus. Not actually that bad, I said, Yeah, you can even tab to it and keyboard control itthey’re on. More than one occasion were sites with drop down menus that were invisible to a key border screen.
You couldn’t tab into them. You couldn’t open them. You couldn’t find them. They were gone until you physically clicked on them.Just
reiterating the point from earlier these air not problems. Exclusive toe rise by any stretch of the imagination,like just you go to any random website, I guarantee most of these problems will come up.
One that jumped out at me on a site was the use of the learn more buttonover and over and over and learn more is no different than read more. Read more, read more remote. What happens when the screen reader hits that link? Read more rain will read more. Read more. Read more. What? There’s no context associated with that. Click here. Click here. Click here. Yes, click. Here we have this, this modality that we feel like, well, if we’re reproducing an interactive peace and we want consistent nomenclature. But there are waysyet to the sighted user they know they can associate. Click here with the visual space. It’s in a read more whatever to know what it’s related to through context accuse. But you can add the rest of the text. Read more of this story about how our cove in 19 responses going and hide that from normal visual users, but make it available to screen readers and use tool tips so that when you hover them, you get that full context,right? Here’s where this got way worse for me.
had that button on it instead of using an actual button element or an actual, you know, anchor tag.That’s one of those things. It’s just II I do have to say it’s a little unacceptable Onley because there’s no wayyou can’t screw that up on accident. You know what I mean, right? Like I don’t think you’re doing it maliciously, but it’s it’s a CMS doing that or a plug in like somebody is using something that was flat out designed wrong. And I won’t say that very often, right? But that’s one of those cases.
I did take a few sights and I ran them through the axe plug in just to see where things stood. So I have four of them here and I get I’m not gonna go deep in any of these. Butthe 1st 1 had 36 errors. The 2nd 1 had 50 errors. The 3rd 1 had 229 errors. The 4th 1 had 54 errors, the last 171 errors.So many so many of these errors are color contrast.25 of 36 41 of 50
203 of 22934 of 5451 of 171. Color contrast seems to be the biggest thing. And I think this is where we get into that other duties as a sign. The problem, right? Yeah, maybe the best library in the world. But you’re not a designer and you’re not thinking about color, science and all that.
That’s not not an intuitive thing to think about it at all. Yeah,
but yet these problems are the most prevalent ones. Too many of those audiences we just talked about,
or even the word more thing you mentioned with the span instead of a button or a link like that’s not. That’s something that you need to have really specific knowledge about, like Web development and Web presentation to know, like why that makes a difference or why it matters.
These these kind of problems take,you know, specialty skills, right to resolve fixing accessibility problems in particular. That’s not just something you,you know, learning your garage overnight as somebody working on one of these sites. So what is the problem? Why is this an issue? And I have labeled this the funding problem. You get what you pay forclassic case of you get what you pay for. The quality of these sites reflects the amount of money that is invested in them, and
the reality of that is that number is so small that virtually none of these siteshave somebody dedicated to that It is the other duties as assigned problem that we see so many players, the restaurant or running their own website and not thinking about the fact they need the menu. And they need the hours or they shouldn’t put white text on a yellow button likethey just they just don’t know and hiring somebody to do that, even part time. The money is just not there.The library’s fault. Municipal funding just doesn’t prioritize
that kind of hiring in. You know that deep down the silo of municipal needs, right?Yeah,a lot of times you have some of this like I say is done by volunteers.Um, the librarians take it over and do the best they can,
they did hire a Web professional.Accessibility is a specific subset of additional training that you have to have. And like we mentioned before, many, many sites have accessibility problems because either they don’t prioritize it or they don’t know to make it an issue.So when you’re already dealing with a funding issue like getting the accessibility thing right can be really hard
and there’s the case, you know, maybe you get lucky. Maybe you find a young kid, you know, 18 years old, maybe doesn’t want to go to college, but he loves building websites, and he was eager to come in and show himself and build a portfolio. And he’s willing, volunteer, maybe and and do that as an internship or something like that, even. And you can come in and you can knock a killer side out. But if you can’t afford to keep him thereYeah, that that’s where you run into those problems, like the responsive sites that aren’t really very mobile friendly. Somebody came in and did the response of stuff, or they were smart enough to use the theme to make it responsive. But then it got handed over and there was nobody there to help maintain that, cause you can’t retain talent. And this is again, not a problem. Unique libraries.Retaining talent is a hard thing to do in this competitive field.
Yeah,they guess that’s that’s a That’s a really good reason to go with, um, you know, like a lower tech solution, eithereither using a wordpress type thing or going with the static site or just something that is not that isif you have a bespoke solutions for your library websitethat you’re gonna have a bad time, I think.And what other point I wanted to make isa site thattries to do accessibility, like, you know, the thing we mentioned earlier with Cove in 19 and whatI audio I
Yeah, so if they’re using a turnkey accessibility solution, I give them a small amount of props just for carrying enough about it. To even do that,if you’re doing accessibility and you don’t quite hit all the marks or it’s not done perfectly, but you’re still trying, that’s great. And I like you get all the apple sauce for that.It’s, you know, like it’s it’s still like you should test and everything and tried toalways be better.But at the same time,you know, kudos to you for at least carrying enough to try it,
and I I I fall into part of this camp because I did volunteer a couple years back to help a small community library siteupgrade their experience. They were using just wordpress dot com as their library,and so I helped him get on a real host. We set him up a WordPress site. I, you know, brought in a can theme and set him up. But it’s it was the same problem that I knew they were gonna have in that I tried to get it, get it set up simple for them because while I was needing to help him out, not needing, I wanted to help them out. Thereality was, I knew I couldn’t moonlight all their support without end. I needed to give them something that was simple enough for them to use and didn’t include features that would be too onerous for them to take on and maintain. The result was just like many of these sites. It was a very simple looking site that didn’t have a lot of dynamics stuff to it. It didn’t go out of its way to include a lot of features outside of a calendar for their events and an area for them to talk about. You know, their upcoming projects and link off Teoh. You know, their search in their catalogs and things.
And could I have done better? Absolutely. I could have built a significantly better sight than that,and I would have handed it to them, and it would have ended up kind of crumbling a little bit as a craftsman,not because they didn’t care because they absolutely did care. That was why they wanted to help. But they just didn’t have the infrastructure to keep it moving at that point.Right? And I wish I could have done better at that. And all I can say is this is one of those areas where, as an up and comer as somebody you know, if you are looking to get into this industry, this is one of those places where if you’re willing to put in some volunteer time,
you could probably get, you know, a, uh, what do they call that would perk probable good poco white right offin kind. That’s the rhythm of Beforethat you could consider it a donation of services that could be a tax write off as a a service you provide to them to build something and put it in your portfolio. Consider that. But if you do it, just make sure you’re thinking about what happens after you’re gone,because that’s where I think a lot of this falls apart.
This is also where I’ll advocate for the perfect use for some premium canned WordPress themes.I I turned to these a lot for turnkey type stuff or somebody want something quick and cheap on, and that’s a good case here. But if you go to theme forest and I’ll throw it like a link in there for one of their searches or something, there’s 1/2 dozen like library or book centric themes that are on there that range from 20 to $60.That’s not much. Most places can afford that kind of money occasionally,and it at least gets you something that is generally affordable that will come with some amount of support. Usually, if you buy a premium theme like a theme forest, you get theme author support on it. So there is a problem. At least there’s somebody there to fall back on in some fashion,
and your site won’t look like it was built in 2000 and nine.Yeah, themes are, you know, they can be a little onerous in their theme options and settings and stuff, but if somebody could go in there, set that up for them, do all the configuration, and then just say OK, here’s the stuff you need to worry about. Here are the pieces that you should care about and do right.That would take a lot of people a long way, and it would get them out of some of these older and less useful designs. Trainings, key and upkeep is key, and making it easy is key. I think all of those things,Yeah.
If you work in a library site, there’s some other help. There’s the library user experience community. It’s over on medium blawg dot lib ux dot co.We’ve is an open access peer review journal for library user experience. One caveat like on both these kinds of links. Library ux is a thing, and if you try to research library UX, you’re gonna get a lot of information on it. But it’s not just Web site specific. It deals with, like the end to end ux the experience in the library physically as well as digitally. So you do. If you want to learn about just the website, you have to do some digging to get through some of that. But there is ah lot of good information, and we’ll have a lot of that linked up in the show notes from what we found, ButI think you know the in story is we all need a little help sometimes and libraries are no different on. But I think there are a lot more deserving of some of that help maybe thanyou know, your local band. Who will break up next week.
Emo metal thrash.
I think just going back to one thing for earlier. I know that you mentioned that you did the bare bone site when you’re doing it. Pro bonoJust underscoring that.If you going to do volunteer work, it’s always better to go. Simple.Just a, um,they lost my train of thought, This drink always
bestial simple.I think that’s a good note to end on. It is always best simple because simple means findable and
what simple meets findable but also means maintainable, right?Like I get if you go for something complicated, it might bea better solution for now. But you know who’s gonna take up the reins after you’re gone, or, you know, if you have someone who’s were skilled,it just it narrows. It narrows the population of who can help maintain and keep going. And I’m saying I’m saying This is someone who, like, actively maintains an open source project like we specifically try to keep everything as vanilla rails, ruby on rails as possible so that more people can contribute. So
that’s a great point.
Yeah, it’s I’ve seen. I see a lot of projects that, like they do exciting and a cutting edge ended everything else and then make it end up dead in the water because only, like a few dozen people have that intersection of technology.But if you stick with something that is more accessible from like a creation and development perspective than you’re gonna have much word durability with your
contributed no, that’s, I think, an incredibly fair point to make that. Yeah, I could have given them something super fancying complex and eye catching and all of this. But now I’ve just raised the bar for them. Yeah, to figure out OK, how do you know? It’s like giving you know it’s hoper problem, right? You get a car and you get a car. Everybody gets cars and the cars were full of bees and the bees air, bringing to a giant tax liability bill now at the end of this, because I didn’t think about the fact that I just gave you a $60,000 car that you have to pay for it. Don’t worry about exactly the insurance on that brand new fancy car, and you have to put premium gas in it, said a regular unleaded. Yep, that’s the problem, right?You did the
library pro bono. The next person probably won’t.And what are they going to charge? Because of the skills required?
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So every found this useful. I hope that you learn a little something. I hope that what you got the show notes and looked through some of the articles. I think you’llfind some pretty darn cool stuff there,as always, if you want to ask those questions about the stuffer if you are. If you work on a library site, you have a question about how to do something because your stuff and you don’t know you know how to use WordPress or where do that Because you’re not a Web designer.Bio means reach out to us. Find us on discourse. Drunken ux dot com slash discord. You can hit us on Twitter or Facebook. It’s less drug. New X or instagram. It’s last drinking hot gas.
Share it out to folks. Ah, lot of us know somebody at a public library
again, we mentioned earlier. If you have influence over the development or maintenance of the library website, please read the Fail Lab article in the show Notescalled The Ugly Truth about library Web sites. It’s likeit’s solid. It’s such good stuff and it meets seven years old. But this stuff in that article is still very relative to the
sites maybe seven years old still,and the library technology launchpad is another good one to definitely settle into.And I mean, it’s it’s all good advice, and it’s all stuff that I think weaken, put to use and find ways to apply on when you think aboutjust how important libraries are in society, not just, you know, years ago, but today and how easy it is to pretend like they aren’t
When you sit down and really start breaking this stuff down and considering itas either a user, a developer or as somebody who is working in the library industry, you discover that is very important to keep your personas close and your users closer. Bye.
This episode of The Drunken UX Podcast brought to you by nuCloud.