Thursday, September 23, 2004

All Worth Reading

A cornucopia of interesting things this morning.

I was going to note a bunch of fascinating items from Rafat Ali's great site PaidContent.org (sign up for the daily newsletter) about Audible going wireless, MLB offering 99 cent music downloads, using IM to get music, and a report of a conference "The State of Online Journalism" hosted by the Online News Association....but why don't you just hop over to PaidContent and read all this and more thought-provoking items yourself? It's one of the sites I read regularly as one of the best sources of content information from outside libraryland.

I will note that one thing in the ONA summary piqued my interest because it relates to the next item. Rafat commented: "CNET News.com is currently working on restructuring its inner story pages because they are the first point of entry for so many visits due to linking and RSS feeds. Smart...something every news site should be thinking about. "

When I do scanny presentations, I suggest the heretical: that libraries are spending too much time building elaborate portal sites and too little time making the information behind these portals easier to locate and use.

I say too much time because I suspect that just about no one in our community knows a lot about user behaviours and preferences with regard to web portals, and if we do have a gut feeling that people bypass much of the structure to get to the content, we're ignoring that in favour of indulging "ediface complexes". And, so I note the next item, an article published in this issue of FirstMonday, and listed in the September 23 issue of RLG's useful newsletter, Shelflife. Here's the RLG synposis.


THAT WEB SITE'S PRETTY, YES, BUT DOES IT WORK?
Many -- perhaps most -- museums nowadays boast full, sometimes elaborate and usually costly Web sites to augment their physical presence. But few conduct usability tests to see how effective and helpful those sites are, say library science
professors Paul F. Marty and Michael Twidale. To illustrate the importance of such testing, the two conceived their own "scenario-based evaluations" of 36 museum Web sites, then devised a framework that points out common usability flaws they hope museums will use to fashion ever-more useful Web sites and to conduct their own studies. They found, for example, that museum Web sites have large amounts of rich content. Eager to share their tremendous resources, museum professionals often offer thousands of database records and many pages with interactive features. But too much of a good thing can confuse and frustrate users, who find themselves unable to use the museums Web site to complete simple tasks. They also found that museum Web sites often have artistically designed graphical user interfaces. But beauty doesn't always go hand in hand with usability. Artistically designed interfaces may bring only confusion to the user who simply wants to know "what do I do now?"

(First Monday Sep 2004)
<http://www.firstmonday.org/issues/issue9_9/marty/index.html>


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