understanding what users understand

Library Terms that Users Understand – a big survey of available data to show us that there ARE best practices as far as our users are concerned.

This site is intended to help library web developers decide how to label key resources and services in such a way that most users can understand them well enough to make productive choices. It serves as a clearinghouse of usability test data evaluating terminology on library websites, listing terms that tests show are effective or ineffective labels. It presents alternatives by documenting terms that are actually used by libraries. It also suggests test methods and best practices for reducing cognitive barriers caused by terminology.

Surprise surprise, the word periodical is confusing. So are words like database, pathfinder and Do-it-Yourself in Unicorn. [web4lib]

Accessibility in books, websites, libraries and your mind.

I have been reading a lot of books about accessible design lately. This started around the time that I got sent this story about the National Library for the Blind in Norway and some of the design flaws that make it very hard for the visually disabled to get into, much less use. The Vermont Technical College has a lot of these books on access. Sadly, I am one of the only people to have checked them out in the last decade. As an aside, I think at this point I would have a very hard time going back to a library where they didn’t have datestamps in the back of the book. I think libraries keeping circulation info “secret” — not on purpose, but by ILS system design — is a decline in information-sharing with patrons, and a shame. Here are the books I have read, with links to my reviews.

Beautiful Barrier Free
Access by Design
Design for Dignity: Studies in Accessibility

And, of course, let’s remember how to make our web sites accessible. Jacob Nielsen has come out with lists of top ten web design mistakes as well as top ten weblog design mistakes. Check to see if you make any of these mistakes. I recently wrote a note to ALA’s webmaster commenting on the lack of ALT or title tags on the ALA Midwinter Meeting page. It’s a nice looking page, but information is imparted through lots of graphics, with no alternate navigation. Usually there is a set of text links at the bottom of the page if they use images for navigation. This is what someone viewing the page with a text-only browser would see. I cannot stress enough: this is the conference information page for the largest library association in the world. If we can’t follow our own rules about accessibility, how can we expect others to?

radio book, book radio

When you look at the creative bleeding edge things people are doing with user interface design you have to wonder why we can’t hire someone like this to design our OPACs. [thanks adam]

Our final concept, the “book radio,” takes the mental model of a physical book where user can browse by flipping pages, read by keeping a page open, and create a reminder of a specific page by placing a bookmark.

Each page of the “book radio” represents a frequency. The user flips pages to scan the frequency spectrum; opens to a specific page to listen to a station; places the bookmark on a desired page to listen and store the station; and slides the bookmark up or down to control the volume. In addition, the “book radio” inherits other qualities of a book. The user can scribble in it, place stickers or take notes while listening.