Updates on IUB Libraries website: Duck – it’s coming!

Ducks flying

preparing for launch!

You’ve been hearing about the Libraries’ website migration for quite a while now – and things are starting to happen fast! If you are on the CM Users list (and if you contribute content to the Libraries’ website, you should be), you have already started to hear about the process.

What’s happened so far:

  • By now you should have put any outdated, unused, unfinished, or “test” pages into “Pending” status in the CM – and maybe you’ve even gotten bold and deleted some of them (if so, you get a gold star). If you still have pages you intend to delete, that’s OK too; it will be easy to delete them in the new site.
  • We have migrated the content of all pages (except for class pages, pending pages, and the old collection pages) from the old CM into the new Drupal site.

What you need to do (or not do) now:

  • Any edits or changes made after December 3 will need to be recreated in the new site. Therefore, please continue to make only necessary, urgent changes to your CM pages and hold off on any major new development until the new site is available.
  • Very soon, we will “freeze” the old Content Manager so that most users will no longer be able to access it. We have identified a few users who have urgent updates to make on a regular basis – e.g. front page news items, staff directory updates, job postings, newly acquired or changed resources – and those users will be given special access to make those updates.
  • If you have other emergency changes that need to be made, such as updates to library services or policies, please email comments@indiana.edu and we will assist you.
  • Watch the CM Users list (soon to be the Drupal users list) for more information and updates!

The new Drupal site will not be available to our website users (students, faculty, etc.) until we (and you!) have had a chance to clean it up and make sure everything is working properly; see the timeline below for details on this process. Through the end of Spring semester 2014, everyone (patrons and library staff) will still use the old website, www.libraries.iub.edu.

Here’s the timeline:

  • Soon – Content Manager is “frozen” for all but identified urgent updates
  • December through early January: DRS works on content and structural cleanup in the new site
  • Early January – Spring Break: staff logins available on new site; Drupal training for librarians & library staff; staff begins cleaning up content on new site and may begin creating new content on new site as needed.
  • Spring Break: New (“beta”) site made publicly available via the old site. Students & faculty may access and use either new or old site.
  • End of spring semester: cut-over. Old site is taken down and the new site becomes the Libraries’ official website.   

Ways that DRS can help you:

  • We have several temporary employees (ILS students) who will be available into the spring semester to help with cleanup and editing work on your pages.
  • In consultation with Becky Wood, Anne will be publishing a Web Style Guide to help you make your web content work better, and to outline guidelines for specific content types.
  • We will continue to stay in touch via this listserv. If any of your colleagues or student workers have web responsibilities, please check with them to make sure they are subscribed to the CM Users list!

 

If you have questions about this process, please talk to anyone in DRS. You can also email comments@indiana.edu or use the “Contact Us” link on this blog to send us a message. We know this is a huge job for everyone and we hope to make it as easy as possible!

 

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The Aesthetic Usability Effect

Surely, you’ve utilized a web search engine, saw a relevant result and clicked the link to what seemed like a good, relevant website based on its title, only to gasp in horror and immediately hit the back button to escape a hideous sight (pun totally intended). I’m not referring to explicit content, but instead seemingly ugly websites that have egregious amounts of content, 13 different font styles, and color palettes from 1996, where it just

Professor Cat Likes Your Golden Ratio

Professor Cat Likes Your Golden Ratio

didn’t seem like you could find what you’re looking for. You know, something like Electrifying Times for all your needs on the latest news about electric cars.

Conversely, take a look at Green Car Reports. Sure, it’s not perfect by any means (for instance, I’m not one who likes to scroll below the fold…), but at least I didn’t fear for epileptic shock when I first landed on the homepage. This is because the site follows some basic design principles, such as consistency (what a concept!) in terms of alignment and fonts, contrast to direct the eyes and assist with navigation, and organization. Functionally, it has some issues, but because it’s (mostly) easier on the eyes, users are more likely to continue perusing this site than Electrifying Times.

When a website is ugly, we often assume that its inherent usability is lacking. In other words, strictly functionally speaking, a website might be completely user-friendly with user-centric architecture, but if its interface overwhelms users with unorganized content or antiquated aesthetics, it can override the sense of navigability. Ultimately, poor visual design of a website negatively affects both usability and discovery.

This concept is called aesthetic usability effect. When websites appear attractive, users make unintentional concessions and ignore usability deficiencies. Aesthetically pleasing sites also appear to be higher quality, which improves users’ perceived discoverability of information and authority of that information. What makes a website aesthetic? This can vary, but it’s important to keep in mind that users generally quickly scan websites, keeping their eyes above the fold, are attracted to and directed by areas of contrast, and prefer symmetry and alignment that reflect “the golden ratio” of divine proportions.

This is all not to say that it’s okay for your website to be absolutely difficult to use but still the coolest looking site ever known to man. As the saying goes, “You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig” (thanks for this one, Anne H.!). Instead, know that looks do matter, and first impressions most certainly count when it comes to user experience and information discovery.

To learn more about good visual design, check out User Focus’ guidelines.

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New databases for October

The following list represents new subscription databases added to the Resource Gateway from October 1-31 (and some for which the vendor has changed). You may wish to add one or more of these to your subject pages. If you have questions about a particular resource, please consult its “About” file to find contact information for the resource advocate. New databases will be posted to reDUX at the end of each month.

Cross-National Time Series Data Archive
http://www.libraries.iub.edu/scripts/countResources.php?resourceId=37658163

Making of Modern Law: Foreign, Comparative and International Law (1600-1926)
http://www.libraries.iub.edu/scripts/countResources.php?resourceId=37411296

Making of Modern Law: Foreign Primary Sources (1600-1970)
http://www.libraries.iub.edu/scripts/countResources.php?resourceId=37411295

World Higher Education Database
http://www.libraries.iub.edu/scripts/countResources.php?resourceId=37164503

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New databases for September

The following list represents new subscription databases added to the Resource Gateway from September 2-30 (and some for which the vendor has changed). You may wish to add one or more of these to your subject pages. If you have questions about a particular resource, please consult its “About” file to find contact information for the resource advocate. New databases will be posted to reDUX at the end of each month.

Films on Demand
http://www.libraries.iub.edu/scripts/countResources.php?resourceId=36684706

PsychiatryOnline
http://www.libraries.iub.edu/scripts/countResources.php?resourceId=36485469

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Image-ine That: Writing good “alt text” for images on the web

As the Libraries prepare to move into our new Drupal-powered website, we are also preparing to think differently about how we use images. The new site, in keeping with current trends on the Web, will be somewhat more image-heavy than the old one. Working with our colleagues in the Advancement Office, we plan to offer guidance to help content creators find and select images that will convey the tone and “brand” our website needs to communicate while being both pleasing and informative for people using the site.

Once you’ve chosen an image, you will want to consider providing “alt text” – a text alternative to the image, stored in a metadata field along with the image (any content management system, including our new Drupal system, provides for this to be entered when the image is uploaded or edited). This text is used by people who use a screen reader to “see” the site for them, and may also be useful for people on a low-bandwidth connection (perhaps in a rural area or a developing country) or even people who are browsing via mobile device who may have images turned off to save on data charges or speed up the time it takes to load web pages. Like most design techniques that can be implemented to improve web accessibility, adding alt text benefits more users than just those with disabilities!

At first glance it may seem like a simple thing to input a few words describing your image. But like all web content (and yes, alt text is content!), it’s worth taking a moment to think about how to create this text so that it will be as useful as possible. Think first about what you are trying to convey with your image. What information does a sighted person gain from it? What is the image’s purpose? As WebAIM explains in an excellent article about appropriate use of alt text, context is super-important here. What purpose does the image serve in the context of the rest of your page? A picture of cute kittens may be simply decorative, or it may be used to describe the stages of kitten development. In the former case, you may not need to provide alt text since the image is not contributing to the intellectual content of the page. In the latter, your alt text may read something like “Two-week-old kittens whose ears have not quite begun to stand up.”

Three kittens illustrate the point about using kitten pictures.

In this case, a kitten is just a kitten.
Credit: Mathias Erhart/flickr

There are some special cases when you may change your alt text depending on context, and 4 Syllables has outlined several of them. For example, what if your image has a caption? And what do you do differently if your image is actually a map?

4 Syllables has also created a great decision tree for use in developing alt text:

decision tree - see 4 Syllables article linked above for full description

credit: 4 Syllables

Like all things related to user experience, a little thoughtfulness goes a long way when creating alt text. Take a moment to consider who’s using your content and what they’re trying to gain from it, and the effort will pay off in web content that is more accessible, more usable, more useful – in short, better for everyone!

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New databases for July

The following list represents new subscription databases added to the Resource Gateway from July 1-31 (and some for which the vendor has changed). You may wish to add one or more of these to your subject pages. If you have questions about a particular resource, please consult its “About” file to find contact information for the resource advocate. New databases will be posted to reDUX at the end of each month.

Brockelmann Online
http://www.libraries.iub.edu/scripts/countResources.php?resourceId=35671647

Daily Mail Historical Archive: 1896-2004
http://www.libraries.iub.edu/scripts/countResources.php?resourceId=34652573

Datenbank-Paket Duden
http://www.libraries.iub.edu/scripts/countResources.php?resourceId=35060085

Encyclopedia of Arabic Language and Linguistics Online
http://www.libraries.iub.edu/scripts/countResources.php?resourceId=35875759

Health and society in video
http://www.libraries.iub.edu/scripts/countResources.php?resourceId=34856316

Palgrave’s International Historical Statistics
http://www.libraries.iub.edu/scripts/countResources.php?resourceId=35467520

RILM Retrospective Abstracts of Music Literature
http://www.libraries.iub.edu/scripts/countResources.php?resourceId=36082980

Sports medicine and exercise science in video
http://www.libraries.iub.edu/scripts/countResources.php?resourceId=34856317

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This Cubicle Goes To Eleven*

Here in the newly rechristened Discovery & Research Services Department, we spend much of our day (when we’re not in meetings or helping patrons at the reference desk) working in what we affectionately call the Land of Beige. Now, we’re not complaining about our cubicles – they’re actually quite nice, and pretty spacious to boot – but as in any office environment, we sometimes encounter challenges that make it more difficult to get work done. Sometimes, it’s just too quiet up here. You start to wonder whether the outside world still exists, and before you know it, you’re wandering around the Internet trying to feel a little less isolated. And sometimes it’s noisy; sometimes our neighbors have to make phone calls, or have impromptu meetings in their cubes, or bang about with the printer trying to unjam it yet again.

group of cubicles with a man looking down at them

Cubeville is weird.

In either case, too noisy or too quiet, it can be hard to focus on work. Here in DRS, our work can take a lot of different shapes; sometimes we’re composing emails, or writing a web style guide (that’s me!), or troubleshooting an e-resource access problem, or tinkering away at some code in the process of trying to clean up a problematic web page. We all have different ways of trying to get ourselves to focus on our work. I find that, much of the time, I work best with headphones on – sometimes with music playing, sometimes not – just to muffle the distractions around me a bit. But that can be problematic too, and if you ever catch me fist-pumping and singing along with “Born to Run,” please feel free to tap me on the shoulder and remind me that other people can hear me. :)

So when I came across an article about the effect of ambient noise on creative work, my ears perked up (figuratively speaking). According to researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, people doing creative work performed significantly better when their environment included ambient noise at about a 70-decibel level. Very interesting! The article offers links to several websites that provide different sorts of music and ambient noise you can use to create the aural environment that works best for you. I’m especially intrigued by Coffeetivity, which provides the sounds of a moderately busy coffee shop along with the ability to control the volume of that background noise separately from the volume of your own music – replicating the “headphones in a coffee shop” experience. Pretty nifty, actually. Although now I really want a latté…

Cat with headphones around its neck, next to a computer monitor

Headphones Cat isn’t entirely certain about this.

If you work in cubeville, what is your favorite strategy for focusing? Does your strategy vary depending on the type of project you are working on? (And don’t forget to get up and walk around every so often, no matter how focused you get – your life may depend on it!)

I found the link to the ambient-noise article in OCLC‘s weekly “Above the Fold” newsletter, incidentally; they compile a few news items of interest to folks working in libraries, archives, and museums, and it’s usually interesting stuff. You can subscribe if you want.

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*For anyone who might not recognize the reference in the title of this post: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0088258/quotes?item=qt0261726

 

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New databases for June

The following list represents new subscription databases added to the Resource Gateway from June 3-28 (and some for which the vendor has changed). You may wish to add one or more of these to your subject pages. If you have questions about a particular resource, please consult its “About” file to find contact information for the resource advocate. New databases will be posted to reDUX at the end of each month.

American Founding Era Collection
http://www.libraries.iub.edu/scripts/countResources.php?resourceId=33492246

Black Studies in Video
http://www.libraries.iub.edu/scripts/countResources.php?resourceId=33678775

Children’s Leisure Activities in Russia
http://www.libraries.iub.edu/scripts/countResources.php?resourceId=33865280

Chinese Periodical Full-Text Database (1911-1949)
http://www.libraries.iub.edu/scripts/countResources.php?resourceId=33865279

Harper’s Weekly: 1857-1912
http://www.libraries.iub.edu/scripts/countResources.php?resourceId=33678771

National Geographic Magazine Digital Archive
http://www.libraries.iub.edu/scripts/countResources.php?resourceId=34450342

NewspaperARCHIVE
http://www.libraries.iub.edu/scripts/countResources.php?resourceId=34051941

Oxford bibliographies online.  African Studies
http://www.libraries.iub.edu/scripts/countResources.php?resourceId=34248103

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A Duck by Any Other Name …

Well, friends, we have some big news. Our department has a new name: Discovery and Research Services.

What does it mean for you? On a day to day level, probably not a lot. You can call us DRS (pronounced “doctors”) and we will be happy to prescribe tonics for what ails your websites just as we always have. Our bedside desk-side manner will be just as caring as ever as we (figuratively) bathe your (metaphorically) fevered brow while you bravely edit your content. We will crusade against ROT as we always have, in the noble spirit of “Do No Harm … To Your Patrons’ Brains.” Only now we can have truly illegible handwriting and maybe, if we get lucky, even manage to start going to conferences in warm places in the dead of winter. Wait a minute, we’re still librarians – we go to places like Philly and Boston and Chicago in January! Nevermind about that last thing then.

They* say that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, so we here in the Department Formerly Known as DUX hope the same thing is true for, well, the Department Formerly Known as DUX. Unfortunately the announcement of this change came just a few days too late to be exactly twenty years after Prince changed his name to the Artist Formerly Known as Prince on June 7, 1993 – before he changed it back to Prince again, that is – so we decided not to bother with all that symbol-only awkwardness.

We did take a new department picture though:

Bat duck, grad duck and Doc duck

Bat duck, grad duck and Doc duck | SheepPurple/flickr

We’ll leave it to you to decide which is me, which is Mary and which Anne.**

Our name may have changed, but as you can see from this slightly coo-coo post, we are still the same word nerds we ever have been, and we are still here to help you Make Things Better one web page and catalog record at a time. Only now we will not only be working with all of you but also with the help of our colleagues in the newly formed User Experience & Digital Media Services department to achieve our main goal – to put users first.

*By they, I mean the possible multiple Shakespeares as purported by the Anti-Stratfordians – and naturally the best and only place to refer you for more information on a literary conspiracy theory is Wikipedia.

** That might vary on a day-to-day basis.

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Confab 2013: Outside the Comfort Zone and Loving It

panorama of Confab room pre-keynote

I recently had the opportunity to attend Confab, a conference devoted to learning about content strategy. Since this wasn’t a library conference, or even a higher ed conference, I knew I’d be outside my comfort zone a bit – and indeed I was. Among the 611 attendees there were a few librarians/library folks and a small contingent of higher ed people but the fellow attendees I spoke with came from all over the map, representing everything from government and non-profit agencies to companies like Whirlpool and Wal-Mart, as well as quite a few independent consultants and contractors. Compared to the demographic at a library conference, the crowd was somewhat younger and slightly (but only slightly) geekier, with a gender balance not too different from the library world – decidedly more women than men.

Trays of cake pops at the Confab reception

I am not kidding about the cake.

I may have been outside my comfort zone, but I was quickly made to feel right at home. Now in its third year, Confab has developed a reputation for being well-run and for great food, particularly cake - Betty Crocker is one of the conference sponsors! – and it exceeded my expectations on both counts. (Let’s just say that if someone talks about the “Confab Four” they are probably referring to the weight they gained, not a mop-topped quartet of Liverpudlian content strategists. Nobody will ever go hungry at Confab, that’s for SURE.) This is a conference organized by user experience professionals, and they have clearly given careful thought to the user experience of the conference itself – from the beautifully-designed program booklet to the reliable Wi-Fi bandwidth, from clear (and even witty) signage to helpful and friendly volunteers, the organizers obviously wanted us to be able to use our mental and emotional energy for learning and connecting rather than for dealing with confusion or frustration.

Sign reading "Don't Freak Out - Additional Bathrooms Upstairs"

Helpful and witty signage.

The Confab program included lots of interesting-sounding sessions, and at times I found it difficult to choose – but all the sessions I attended turned out to be quite good and gave me something to think about. Not only that, but over the two full days, not one presenter stood there and just read me their slides, and they were quality slides too - in two days I spotted only one typo on one slide. That’s pretty amazing.

While it wasn’t necessarily a new-agey, touchy-feely conference, neither was Confab a technical conference. Like the field of content strategy itself, its focus was on that slightly-nebulous intersection of communication and technology. As such, there were some assumptions made about attendees’ technical knowledge – for example that we understood the basics of web publishing and using a content management system, and were somewhat familiar with social media (the Twitter stream for Confab was quite active and provided a useful backchannel throughout the conference) and current online culture. It was also assumed, correctly, that most attendees were word-nerds and that wordplay would be an effective way to get one’s point across. Probably the best (worst) (no, best) example of this wordplay was when closing keynoter Paul Ford used the example of an apple pie contest, with complex and extensive rules for what constitutes “apple pie” (can it include bacon?) and the specific roles of everyone and everything involved (apple farmers, bakers, judges, ice cream), as a metaphor for web content governance – and foisted upon us the term “pierarchy.” Yeah. It was that kind of a thing.

Kristina Halvorson delivering the opening keynote

Kristina Halvorson drops some content strategy learning on us. Yes, that’s a giant CONFAB of light on the stage.

Early the first morning, Confab mastermind Kristina Halvorson‘s opening keynote set the tone by running down the top ten things content strategists always hear from clients; the murmurs of recognition throughout the room demonstrated that even though we may work in very different organizations with very different projects and clients, we all face many of the same issues – for example, “we have too much content.” This is equally terrifying (I was hoping maybe somebody somewhere had the answers to everything? Sigh) and reassuring.

Jared Spool’s Day 2 keynote, “Experiencing Delightful Content,” was – if I had to choose – the highlight of the conference for me. (I say this with some reluctance, as there were multiple highlights and really the conference was more than the sum of its parts – it’s almost impossible to single out any one presentation without the context it gained from the other talks and the zeitgeist of the conference as a whole.) Spool talked about what it takes to make your web content go beyond “usable” to providing an experience of delight for your users. You can make your content “not suck,” he pointed out, but simply removing frustrations isn’t enough.

Making content delightful requires dancing at the convergence of a number of different aspects of user experience, as seen in this slide:

"Delightful Content Design" surrounded by its components

slide from Jared Spool’s keynote; photo by @editoriaLife

Many of the sessions I attended – including Corey Vilhauer’s “Empathy: Content Strategy’s Hidden Deliverable,” Amanda Costello’s “I Don’t Have Your Ph.D.: Creating Content with Experts and Specialists,” and Jonathan Kahn’s “Digital Governance Fails Because We’re Afraid of Cultural Change” – focused strongly on the “soft skills” of communication with users and content creators, project management, and change management. As Vilhauer noted, “content strategy is made of people!” Since a significant part of my job involves herding cats working with content creators throughout the Libraries, these sessions were tremendously helpful to me. Working with people is a huge part of the “strategy” in content strategy! In many ways these themes were what set the tone for the entire conference, as we were encouraged to listen, to become change agents, and to ask “why” at every turn. Katie Del Angel sums it up nicely in her blog post, “The Touchy-Feely Side of Content Strategy: #ConfabFeelings.”

Every session I attended, in fact, was helpful to me – but I was grateful for the Twitter backchannel, which allowed me to peek into some of the sessions I did not attend. Sometimes I got great nuggets though I probably missed out on some of the context within which they were presented, like this one re: the importance of structured content:

Watch this blog for future posts with more specifics about some of the sessions I attended, as I have time to write them up. (And feel free to fire up the official Confab Minneapolis 2013 playlist on Rdio as you read. It’s pretty cool.)

You can find slides from many of the Confab presentations on Slideshare.

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