Magazine article Information Today

Publisher Sites-What's Hot, What's Not

Magazine article Information Today

Publisher Sites-What's Hot, What's Not

Article excerpt

Apanel at the ALA Midwinter meeting in New Orleans last January, sponsored by the Publisher Vendor Library Relations Committee (PVLR), addressed the value of publisher and vendor Web sites-what works and what doesn't. "Publisher Sites on the Web: How we communicate in the online environment" was a forum focused on the thinking of two vendors in developing their Web sites and a critique of how well Web sites in the industry function from the perspective of two acquisitions librarians. Although each of the panelists presented their views as their own, their experiences and observations provided a range of options to consider.

Most publishers and vendors have Web sites in varying stages of development or revision, yet comparatively few are actually delivering a journal or product directly via their Web site. Everyone agreed that a Web site is not a static product and the ongoing cost of maintenance is higher than the cost to create and develop it, sometimes by a factor of five.

What's Been Done

Publishers and vendors find that the opportunity to communicate with clients online in an interactive mode necessitates a design strategy that begins with the customer perspective rather than the company's internal organization. How easy is it for customers to find what they are looking for? Determining what goes where on a Web site involves dealing both with customer requirements externally and competing priorities internally.

One of the impacts of a Web site is that it prompts the conversion of print material, such as catalogs, into searchable databases. This means a change in the production process, taking into consideration how users may wish to search, such as by title, author, subject, or ISSN/ISBN.

Realizing that the Web search engines (Yahoo!, AltaVista, Hotbot) are not necessarily efficient or always effective for customers trying to find a company online, Jacqueline Trolley, director of corporate communications for the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI), commented that ISI chose to promote its URL (Uniform Resource Locator) through advertising, print literature, promotional items at shows, etc. Having an established brand name is a decided benefit in the Web environment and influences the design strategy, since less explanation is needed on the initial page.

Web sites often include product demos and samples, training modules, product information, directory of staff, and scheduled conferences. A good statistical package will track what resources visitors use the most. Trolley noted that the list of journals indexed in Science Citation Index is the most popular part of the ISI Web site.

Stephen Rhind-Tutt, president of Chadwyck-Healey, pointed out that its Web site has evolved with the concept of offering value free of charge to attract new users, ultimately to increase sales. Recently Chadwyck-Healey added a "writer-in-residence" who runs a poetry workshop and conducts a master class on writing, appealing to end users who would access the company's database through a library.

What Works

Librarian panelists Joe Raker, coordinator for technical services from Boston Public Library, and Nancy Gibbs, head of acquisitions from North Carolina State University, agreed on the best and worst features of the Web sites they had visited and offered different examples.

Simplicity of design led the list, meaning a clear and easy-to-read home page. Jacqueline Trolley pointed out that screen layout is crucial for presenting information to Asian customers whose screens are not as large as those in the U. …

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