ALA invites member participation, sort of

Dear ALA’s Member Participation task force,

I am happy you have a blog. I am happy that its URL is fairly short. It’s very attractive. However I think one way that you could help members participate would be to make the links in some way distinct from the text that surrounds it. They are, on my monitor, the exact same color and boldness as the text around them. The underline only shows up when you hover over the link making using your blog an experiment in hide and seek. Usually links are indicated by a distinct color, an underline (not just a hover underline) or by being in bold when the surrounding text is plain. Using two out of three of these increases usability dramatically.

Two other smaller points which are more a matter of personal preference.

  1. Usually titles of blog posts link to the post on a page by itself with the comments underneath, a permalink. The blogging software you use does not do this. This is not necessarily a problem, but it is non-standard and might confuse people. One of the great benefits of blogging is that it allows people to use a user interface that does not change much from blog to blog. You might want to consider configuring your blog to work the way most blogs work.
  2. Linking to Word documents is a less than optimal way to get your message across. While I think allowing people to look at a Word document with “track changes” turned on is a neat way to show the evolution of a document, it relies on a proprietary piece of software that people may not have (or Open Office if they are savvy enough to use it) and makes the information contained in the linked document unavailable to search engines and posterity except for the pull-quote you provide. It also increases download times for people on dial-up which is a non-inconsiderate amount of ALA members. Consider making the text of documents you describe available in some way that is more findable and usable to the widest range of people. While I wish it were not the case, ALA member are not always the most tech savvy people around and anything we can do to encourage their participation is a good thing.


Your friend

4 thoughts on “ALA invites member participation, sort of

  1. It would also be nice if there were an “about” page, or a link to a static page that would tell me what the Member Participation Task Force is and how (and whether) I am supposed to participate. It would also maybe be nice to have the top part read “ALA Member Participation Task Force,” since at the moment the only place to find out that the page is related to ALA is by looking at the url.

  2. Unfortunately, the blog went live before I was ready for it to. I just threw up a default skin, planning to make some changes, including the ones you list plus a couple of others. Now that the blog is being publicized, I’ll move that work up on my to-do list. :-p

    Good to know my intent was on the right track. Thanks.

  3. Okay, I made a bunch of changes that should improve usability on the blog, but please let me know if you think I’ve missed anything.

    Also, I thought I should point out that while your concern about Word is valid, Windows folks can also download the Microsoft Word browser plugin for viewing documents. Not ideal, I know, but one more possible workaround that they’d have to manually install.

    I think the major search engines do index Word documents and provide a “View as HTML” option in the results, which is good. It does not, however, help when searching using the blog’s search engine, which is bad.

    However, I think you’ll see most, if not all, of the discussion take place on the blog now that it is ready.

  4. Hey,

    Thanks for that throwaway comment about Open Office – I Googled it, found it, and am now downloading. Very cool!

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