At the recent CILIPS conference in Glasgow I was lucky enough to attend a presentation by Lesley Thomson from the Scottish Government. The presentation, focused on improving library websites, highlighted seven areas that if you get right, the website will be effective.
What is an effective website? In the words of Lesley “an effective website meets the needs of users… it’s not about whether your manager likes it”. Her message was clear – focus on the end user and keep the following seven ‘habits’ in mind whilst writing and designing your website.
1 – Purposeful. Be clear in what you want the website to achieve.
2 – Integrated. Integrate into the wider institution/council website with both design and voice. If you have a social media presence, integrate this and make it easier for users to share.
3 – User centred. Design the website to do what it’s supposed to. The aesthetics, interface and information should all focus on the users interaction with the site.
Make the website user centric by following these simplicity rules:
- Keep it simple but use common sense; don’t lose message by going too minimalistic
- Stick to the ‘rule of seven’. Users shouldn’t be given more than seven options to choose from
- Stick to the ‘three clicks rule’. Users should be able to access any content within three clicks
- Stay above the fold. Important content and messages should be accessible without the need for scrolling.
- Don’t use vanity pictures. Include images if they are relevant (branding/reinforce message etc), but remove if they add nothing otherwise you waste important screen estate.
4 – Content relevant. Ensure the content is written for the user. Avoid ‘library’ terminology that your users may not understand, eg, ILL. Give your main message in the opening paragraph, many readers won’t get much further through the text than this.
5 – Inclusive. Ensure the website is accessible to all. It needs to be optimised for screen readers and colour blindness.
6 – Findable. Make best use of keywords and search engine optimisation (SEO). This should really take care of itself if rules 1-5 are followed
7 – Redesign, redesign, redesign. Your website is never finished. Be responsive and flexible to new technology and user demands to continually improve your site.
And that’s it. Stick to these rules and your website will be effective. You can read more from Lesley about the topic on her blog, where there are links to her presentation slides and examples of good (and bad) library websites.
I think it is fair to say that these rules apply to all websites and not just libraries. During our transition from Talis Information to Capita, I will be sure to keep these in mind to make our new website effective.