Wednesday, 29 March 2017

User Experience - incremental & radical change

My last post began a general conversation about the library users' experiences, particularly in relation to our online services and products.  As I indicated, I'd like to take this discussion further to look at our current products and services, how they do or don't work and what we need to do to fix them.

I think a key issue here is that while we know some of what is wrong with our online presence, if we're talking about the users' experience then we need to find effective and efficient ways of testing our services with our users to make sure that changes we make are things that they want to see & that they know will improve their experience.  

Having said that, there are certain standards and metrics that can be used to determine product effectiveness even before users are engaged in providing input into design. For example, there are Web standards to make sure that the content of websites is accessible to people regardless of their disability. 

We also know that more than 30% of all web browsing/use is done from a device other than a computer - i.e. some form of mobile device - a phone or a tablet etc.  So we need to make sure that we can provide a positive user experience on various devices.  Are we doing that at the moment?  No, not to my satisfaction

And more broadly, what works well or doesn't work well in our consortium's online offerings?
  • Finding and using Enterprise on a mobile device?  I don't think so.
  • Registering as a new library user online?  No
  • Finding and accessing e-books? No
  • What about e-magazines, or other content we provide such as, Ancestry? Not really.
  • Keeping customers informed about library offerings (new books, events etc) in their areas of personal interest?  No.
Is there anything that we can point to where our online offerings are so good that we don't want to change them?  I can't think of any, but would love to hear from anyone who can point to areas of excellence in our online offerings.

So - what are our options?  I think that there are three options available to us:
  1. Work with the vendors of the current products we're got to seek incremental improvements where this is achievable
  2. Look for new / replacement solutions that are clearly superior in providing for the customer
  3. Look for radical solutions that may allow us to co-design and co-develop new solutions that take the user into account from the design foundations.

I don't think that these options are mutually exclusive.  In fact I think that we need to be actively pursuing both incremental changes while also exploring visionary opportunities.   And of course anything that we do also needs to ensure that any changes that we propose have been given the User Experience (UX) tick of approval. 

I believe that we do have options in the three areas I have mentioned above.  Therefore PLS is exploring various options in all three of these areas & we look forward to working with libraries over the next year or so in all of these options.  We do have some improvements in the pipeline & others will come to fruition over time with library staff participation. 


  1. Hi Geoff, it's great to hear there's more work being considered in this area. It's a real challenge to engage more tech-savvy community members with our digital offerings when the UX isn't on-par with community expectations.

  2. Hi Ben, I agree with you that if we're not putting a good experience out there then people will be turned off. And it isn't just the tech-savvy ones. I am concerned for the less than confident online user who tries our systems & after 10 clicks & screens gives up - thinking that the problem is them. We've lost them.

    Just because PLS is the custodian of our current software doesn't mean that we can't see its pitfalls. We are very keen to overcome the bugs and issues, and while we know some of the issues, we also need to engage library staff and customers to ensure that any changes that are made meet people's needs.