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Making First Contact on the Library Web Site

Magazine article Information Today

Making First Contact on the Library Web Site

Article excerpt

Making First Contact on the Library Web Site Web Site Design with the Patron in Mind: A Step-by-Step Guide for Libraries by Susanna Davidsen and Everyl Yankee Chicago: ALA Editions, 2004 ISBN: 0-8389-0869-1 114 pages $40

Almost all libraries now have a Web presence. Many are well-developed and offer dozens of services and hundreds of pages. As Web technology marches on, we all want to incorporate new features. However, redoing those hundreds of pages is a big job. Just thinking about it can be overwhelming.

If you're considering a major site overhaul, you'll need to do some planning to make the process as smooth and simple as possible. It may seem easier to just do piecemeal changes, but that approach can end up gobbling up time and effort in the long run. Susanna Davidsen and Everyl Yankee explain what to do in Web Site Design with the Patron in Mind: A Step-by-Step Guide for Libraries, a concise book to help plan your redesign process.

Davidsen has been at the forefront of library Web design since 1992. She was a member of the interface design team for ProQuest and is currently the managing director of the Internet Public Library. Yankee is a usability consultant who has worked with both software and Web-based applications. Both authors have extensive experience in Web site design and usability.

In the introduction, Davidsen and Yankee say that there's certainly no shortage of books on Web design. However, most of what's available is too general for library needs. The authors want to "teach you how to design a site for your users. An effective Web site is one that allows a particular group of users to find the information they need quickly and effectively." They emphasize that the library's Web site has become the main contact point for many users, and as such it must be useful.

While the authors try to make the book relevant for public, academic, and special libraries, they admit that there are many specialized areas of Web design that aren't covered, such as accessibility, graphic design, and searching. Their approach focuses on figuring out who your users are, what they want, and how to give it to them.

The book jumps right into the process of creating (or re-creating) your site. Usability is a vital concern as the design should be user-centered rather than system-centered. This leads to a discussion of the four phases of the authors' site-redesign process: set goals, analyze, redesign, and evaluate. Within each of these phases are specific tasks. …

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