Monday, August 29, 2011

Little things add up in web pages

I fear the content audit of our site is making me a tad obsessive - little things are starting to stick out and I want to hit them with a hammer. 

I'm seeing many example of pages being renewed without any obvious review of content and little things are annoying me, like this line in a big page.
Wikipedia has a very good section on Australian Copyright law. See Wikipedia Online.
Why would you append 'Online' to Wikipedia? Is there a print version? The link doesn't work any more (but not obviously, an auto link checker wouldn't pick up that the intext anchor to Australian_Copyright_Law no longer exists, because the general copyright page in Wikipedia is still there, no error 404).

Then there's the question of the link text's relationship to the actual link.  If your link text is 'Wikipedia Online' then the user expectation (and Google's) is that the underlying link will be to Wikipedia Online, not some sub page. If you're linking to an item on Australian Copyright Law, then that's your link text.

On the plus side I'm a fan of linking to in-depth explanations on sites better equipped to provide current accurate content rather than trying to maintain our own bowdlerised versions of information, especially when the bulk of users won't have any interest in seeing that sort of detail.

My other plus is that the phrase 'check out this ' hasn't been used. I hate that phrase.

I have problems with the pseudo-review phrase 'very good'; would we link to a 'very bad' Wikipedia article?  Are we confident the Wikipedia article will remain good?

So I ended up with:
See Wikipedia for more on Australian Copyright law.
That's about 60% of the text we started with, and no loss of meaning.

The tough thing for us is not only acquiring editing and writing for the web skills, but finding the time to apply them. I hope with this example (yet another in a long series of nags) you might spare five minutes on the next page you review and see if you can improve it even a little.

A gold star if you can  give me an example of where you've used Steve Krug's 'cut out half of the words, then cut out half of what's left' method!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Usability in Real Life

Maybe I'm too immersed in usability considerations, but I see usability issues in almost everything, from television advertisements for 'Johnson's IGA' that don't tell you where it is to keyboards that are impossible to ctrl-alt-del with one hand.

So this morning I see this poster for the Cairns Festival:

and can't help but wonder ...

"What sort of steel pan can go on a grand parade and requires a work shop?"

A misstep we in libraries can make when we write from our perspective and not our (typically novice at researching) users.  The assumption that what is familiar to us is familiar to all is common, and takes a mental commitment to even acknowledge.

So next time a CMS page is due for review pretend you've never worked in your library and see what does and doesn't make sense.

* Yes I found out what it was (I am a librarian, in spite of the denials). A steel pan (more correctly steelpan is what I know as a steel drum (originating in Trinidad and Tobago)
Image courtesy of WikiCommons

If the poster maker had just included one creative commons licenced image, I wouldn't be writing this blog post.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Discovery Tools in all 39 Australian Universities [Part 2]

Well, that didn't take as long as I thought.

The tally of Federated Search/Discovery Layer tools in use in all 39 Australian universities looks like this:

Not sure that the increased popularity of Primo in non-law teaching universities is causal or not.

Even with universities using the same platform there is not a cookie cutter approach. The use of the tools varies widely in terms of content and presentation.  University of Western Sydney for example, keep their catalogue records out of Summon and use Aquabrowser to visualise the catalogue search results.  The University of Ballarat presents both Metalib 'interfaces' as two separate services: Quicksearch across generic databases and federated searches across databases grouped by subject.

A Tally of 'Meta' Search Tools in Australian Universities

I was passed a list of the discovery tools/federated search engines in use in 29 of Australia's 39 universities (I think the common link is that they all offer Law Degrees, and yes I will hunt down the remaining 10 when I get a chance).

Anyway here's the graph: