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Boost User Engagement on Your Website

Shari Thurow

Shari Thurow

Shari Thurow, Founder and SEO Director, Omni Marketing Interactive, and author, When Search Meets Web Usability (New Riders, 2009) is a great lover of libraries; her mother used to punish her by taking away her library card!

She noted that most library sites are bad. Ways to boost user engagement include Persuasion, Emotion, Trust (PET). Trust comes first in persuading people; they must trust a site in a split second, otherwise they will hit the Back button. Here are 16 trust markers:

Trust Markers

User engagement tips.

  1. The most important is validating user mental models. If people don’t see a link or the labels are not helpful, they won’t click on it.  A mental model is an explanation of a person’s thought process about how something works, faithfully representing that person’s root motivations and their matching behaviors. Google’s 404 page  is not helpful.
    Google's 404 page
  2. Learn and validate user mental models for labeling, placement, and content format.
  3. Use the user’s language. Group related items–learning links first, action links last. Don’t put vague or confusing labels within navigation and main content. Determine the best labels for the site. When you use an icon, have a label with it. Over 80% of search failures are because of navigation problems.
  4. Place formal navigational elements where users expect to see them. Always communicate visited/unvisited link status. Put a link to the Home page on the site (but not on the Home page!). If you want people to do things on your site, align the text at the left. When you are designing for mobile engagement, design for a finger.
  5. Library websites should have linkworthy and shareworthy content assets. People follow the lead of credible, knowledgeable experts. Types of digital content assets:
    Digital Content AssetsLearn how to do slideshows. Find out what schools are teaching. Link assets must be shareable and desirable (i.e. linkable)
    URLs shareable and linkableYou don’t have to use every social media platform; stay away from new ones or those you do not have resources to participate in. If a site supports user mental models, user confidence and satisfaction are increased. People are more likely to engage in a given behavior the less effort it requires.
  6. Use a brand perception usability test to learn what your users prefer every time you redesign your site. You can’t administer the test because you might ask leading questions, but you can observe it. Strike a balance between user expectations and business goals. Users love giving advice.  Here are some useful legibility tools:
    Legibility tools
  7. Use color psychology and color palette tools to help you determine a website’s formal color scheme. A good resource is https://color.adobe.com. For a desktop page, make sure hovering makes a link stand out. Communicate prioritized calls to action–what do you want users to do on your site? If you cannot immediately say what you want users to do, then the calls to action (CTAs) are not obvious to users.
  8. Clearly define preferred calls to action per page type or template. Get users to do something quickly by using words like never, over, quick, rapidly, etc.

Key Takeaways:

  • Trust comes first.
  • Validate user mental models.
  • Use the user’s language.
  • Place navigation elements where users expect to see them. Always communicate visited/unvisited link status.
  • Encourage linking and sharing.
  • Use brand perception tests.
  • Use color wisely.
  • Clearly communicate and prioritize CTAs.

Day 2 Keynote: Optimizing the Digital Sharing Economy: Closing the Divide

Nicol Turner-Lee

Nicol Turner-Lee

Nicol Turner-Lee, Fellow, Brooking’s Center for Technology Innovation and Author of a forthcoming book, Digitally Invisible: How the Internet is Creating the New Underclass, gave an inspiring keynote address to open the second day of CIL2019. She believes in the power of libraries. When we think about our seamless activity and online engagement, it is easy because we have the devices, which are the tools to be digitally proficient and engaged. But if we go to some rural areas, we will see a very different situation. Life was different when we grew up: we went outside and played ball!  Our engagement was different: our activities then did not determine if we got a job or not.

What does the digital divide look like and what is the role of libraries? 13% of Americans are not adopters. They cannot afford to go online or they live where broadband is not available. There are also people who do not see the relevance of going online. Some of them are affected by the “homework gap” where young people do not have the resources to finish their homework.  The people who are disconnected are under banked and not able to save money. How do we take the technology designed to solve social problems and apply it to people on the wrong side of the digital divide? When you live on the wrong side, you lose your right to make choices, save money, or drive. In a disruptive economy, there is a cost to exclusion.  Digital access is not ubiquitous. In some places, there is a digital desert. Most of our conversations today are done online so many people do not know what is happening around them.

With AI and machine learning, computers will become smarter than us. We are the product of these new innovations. Our information is fueling technology. Your information is being shared to develop bigger and better applications. A static internet has become more transactional. What does that say about people that are not connected? One thing they have is a local library with computers. Libraries can bring access to America and are part of the conversation. A library is a better alternative than McDonalds for getting your homework done. (You don’t have to buy anything in a library!)  Over 20 years ago, we partnered with libraries to build computer facilities. Libraries are a community institution; they create the infrastructure for people to get access. Now you can check out a wi-fi hotspot. Technology makes sense when we move to an online economy, which is why people come to libraries. Libraries have showed us what it means to evolve in a disruptive economy. They have evolved as technology has evolved and are the model for how technology can coexist in a disruptive economy.

Libraries allow us to engage with one another. When we were children, we went to them because they are a safe haven. Kids still come to them. A community suffers when a library closes. Some people sit in libraries to figure out what comes next in their lives, such as where they will get food and shelter, find a job, etc.

We must find ways to bring more resources to libraries so they can accommodate all the people that are coming to them. Libraries need more private-public partnerships. They are not just marginal players in the digital economy, but are representative of America’s democracy. They must continue to be the authentic voice of the people. They are the voice of the voiceless, so speak up! Get the word to policymakers that libraries matter in closing the digital divide. What is a community without a library?

Images, Apps, and More

(L-R) David Lee King, Jeff Rey, Rob Bruno

(L-R) David Lee King, Jeff Rey, Rob Bruno

Jeff Rey described the process of launching the new NOAA Photo Library (it has not actually been launched because of the government shutdown).

The NOAA Library is the steward of weather data, etc. from the edge of space to the bottom of the ocean. The Photo Library highlights work by the NOAA staff. It has 20 collections with a total of over 80,000 images. All images are in the public domain. Submitters must provide metadata with their images. Here are some migration challenges and solutions.

  • The previous site owner did not create any policy or documentation so the current managers had no information on how to continue the site. Migration was therefore a triage.
  • Uploading images and metadata was done using web scraping and scripts.
  • New site’s CMS has limited capabilities.

Processing workflow can be done for single images and batch submission of metadata with multiple images. Then submissions are evaluated for processing. File type (either JPG or TIFF) and resolution  are checked. Lists of invalid files are generated. Image directories are generated from valid CSV files and metadata. Exif metadata is written to images using a template, and images are moved to image directories. Once everything is complete, the images are moved to the public site.

Rob Bruno from the Levy Library of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital  described the development of their mobile app. It potentially could be used by 39K employees. Reasons for building it:

  • Get the Levy Library on users’ home screens,
  • Quickly view upcoming classes and events,
  • Put the most popular database links in one place,
  • Use smartphone features such as GPS, and
  • Integrate with WorldCat Discovery.

Demco software was used. Demco is an established software developer. Submission of their configurations was done using a template. A version of the app was also built for iOS and Android. (If you want to investigate other developers, clutch.co is recommended.) Kickoff was set for April 2018. The first build (Sept 2018) was just a shell. Needed to put pressure on developers to make progress.

Beta testing and feedback occurred in January 2019. Internal review and launch will happen momentarily.

Lessons learned:

Lessons learned

David Lee King discussed best practices for images. Using an image gives much more engagement than just describing your social media channel. The goal is to have people quickly “get” your message.

  • Edit your photos, Crop them, adjust brightness levels, contrast, etc.
  • Follow normal photography rules: rule of thirds, use space to your advantage and leading lines.
  • Interact with people–share on Facebook, ask them to do something. If they respond, reply.
  • Be consistent with postings: schedule postings, assign dates, make sure it’s part of someone’s workload.
  • Use stories to get interaction and draw people into the library.
  • Focus on your followers by sharing their content by reposting photos of what people are making (ask permission first).
  • Use hashtags.Have a goal for the photo and decide what you want people to do next.
  • Have fun!