One brick at a time

2006. The year I made my first online purchase.  I was not an an early adopter of Web-based services.  It’s not that I’m a technophobe; it was simply the case that until then, the World Wide Web had not offered me a significant reason to invest the time and effort in learning how to use a computer. Purchasing that V-Wing Fighter Lego set was the beginning of my realisation that future innovations (as discussed in my favourite 1980s TV science programme “Tomorrow’s World”), were in fact a current reality.  I had taken my first step into joining the digital world and by 2010 I was occasionally leaving the fug of child-rearing to undertake some basic IT training.

My previous roles as a primary school teacher and as a volunteer working with stroke survivors have been influential in my desire to support people in finding, accessing and using information.  Thus, my personal aim for this module is to develop a foundation of theoretical understanding and some technical skills to support the delivery of a user-centred information service.

To date, this course has given me a good grounding in the organisation of information within a library context.   However, I am also aware of the work being undertaken by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) in exploring the potential of Linked Open Data in the Web of the future – the Semantic Web, whereby all formats of an object on the Web will become linked and more easily identified.  I am not sure what the implications of this will be for websites and their users.  I will try and consider this issue over the course of the project.

The group project: Initial Ideas

We explored websites that were familiar to us and which have caused us frustration as users.  Interestingly, this included websites for well known organisations, such as the Science Museum, British Library and CILIP .  However, it became clear that setting a scope for the redesign of these sites would be problematic for the purpose of this project.  For example there was too much content in the British Library site and our attempts to focus on one section of the CILIP jobs section proved to be limited in content and potential for a redesign.  We therefore took the lecturer’s advice about criteria for selecting a website (at least 10 pages, opportunities to search  content and find locations) and decided to consider using an event-based website.  This should provide some focussed content and avoid “scope creep” which was a potential issue for some of the other organisation-based sites we had initially looked at.  A search on Google revealed that folk events are not always best represented on the Web.  We quickly found a suitable site for the project.

Our initial observations were quickly translated into features which we thought could improve the site.  However, Wodtke and Govella (2009) suggest that this approach can contribute rather than solve problems, as features are frequently bolted-on and do not serve the overall needs of the business or its users.  So we are going to focus our efforts on defining the key objectives for the website via a systematic analysis of the organisation, the site, its users and competitors prior to making any changes to the existing site.

The reality is that I have no idea how to actually build a website but I am heartened by the fact that Krug (2006), Wodtke (2009) and Garrett (2002) agree that user experience is the ultimate measure of success.  And I have certainly done a lot of online shopping since 2006 so that must make me an expert in user experience…

I’m approaching this project in the same way that I build Lego. One brick at a time.

REFERENCES

Garrett, J. J. 2003. The elements of user experience : user-centered design for the web. 2nd ed.Berkeley, CA: New Riders

Krug, S. 2006. Don’t make me think! : a common sense approach to web usability. 2nd ed.Berkeley, CA: New Riders.

Wodtke, C. & Govella, A. 2009. Information architecture : blueprints for the Web. 2nd ed. Berkeley, CA: New Riders.

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