December 9, 2009

Discovery and user control

I was reading The Joy of Discovery in Web Design in the Inspect Element Web & Design Blog and it made me think of designing user experiences online and in the library. The post talks about taking that extra step to make the experience memorable for users by providing opportunities for discovery.

From an in-person library experience, I think an intuitive understanding of this would be related to browsing. Libraries that go all-digital can really hinder this important experience for users by making browsing and discovery more difficult. I remember this being one of the most exciting aspects of the library for me: searching for something in particular, and then browsing around related shelving; the best part about it was being able to discover something new myself.

Now, this blog is pertaining to web design, and the post can be directly related to library websites too. Creating alternative search features, and even going as far as to hide some fun features within pages that are more interactive could certainly improve a user's experience visiting the site. Even creating more resources for users that they might not even think would be provided through the library, for example, feed listings for interesting subjects to outside blogs or recommended Twitter feeds for research topics, or maybe tutorials for concepts related to but not directly involving just how to use the library or search a database. Maybe even including more library polls for users to contribute their feedback so they feel more involved with the library and are able to say something when they come visit the library virtually.

As Inspect Element says, "Subtlety can play a large role in discovery too even if the visitor doesn’t feel as though they have discovered anything, subconsciously giving them a feeling of greater control." I think that's an important idea to think about with libraries -- giving the user a feeling of greater control; greater control in manipulating library information and resources online, as well as navigating the library in person.