Editorial

Socitm: Libraries could win bigger support with a spot of digital tweaking

Small changes to wording, links and the hierarchy of information could significantly improve the user experience of libraries online, says the IT leadership group

Posted 17 January 2018 by

Poor wording and the wrong hierarchy of information can make a huge difference to user’s ability to complete search tasks with online local library access – while lack of attention to detail will lead users to give up or phone for further information.

But “small changes” would make a “big difference for users” of these sites, says Socitm, the society for IT practitioners in the public sector.

The suggestion comes out of the group’s latest ‘Better Connected’ study – its ongoing look at the usability of council websites, and which has just carried out an extensive Scottish and Welsh probe into online library usability that covered 32 Scottish and 22 Welsh councils.

It found that 46% of Scottish councils and 32% of Welsh councils provide a good or very good service for website visitors looking to sign up for e-resources, including ebooks, emagazines and other digital resources, from their library service. (For comparison, when the same survey was carried out last year for English county councils, 44% were rated as good or very good.)

Its Better Connected specialists found some good examples of comprehensive but easy to read introductions to ebooks – but fewer than half the sites surveyed told users what kind of devices and e-readers can be used  to access library e-books and only 55% provided clear instructions on how to access and use these resources.

“Those responsible for creating library pages need to recognise that processes for borrowing e-books, magazines and audio resources are different and more complicated than traditional book borrowing, and that readers will often need to download software or apps to do so,” says the group.

For example, they will usually need to sign up for accounts with third party providers in addition to having a library account with the council, while occasionally needing to be signed in with both accounts at the same time in order to access resources.

In this context, Socitm is warning, poor wording and the wrong hierarchy of information can make a huge difference to the user’s ability to find the information they want.

As a result, councils should not just rely on the ebooks/magazine supplier’s help pages. because like much IT-provided ‘help’ information, they are not always easy for everyone to understand.

Better Connected is owned and was originally developed by Socitm, but since May 2015 it has been run in partnership with Boilerhouse Communications.