June 27, 2017

UXLibsIII: impressions of a novice

By Vanya Gallimore, Academic Liaison Team Manager

First time attending the UXLibs conference and it was, quite simply, phenomenal! I've heard so much about the previous conferences (everyone seems to come away completed exhausted and inspired) but I've never been able to attend myself until this summer. Turns out, it really is exhausting and inspiring...and so much more.

We've been busy doing UX activities at York for the last two years and have written various blog posts about our work. We've tried a range of techniques including love-break up letters, cognitive mapping and semi-structured interviews, but what struck me at the conference was how much more there is to learn and put into practice. People came to the conference with lots of new ideas and their experiences of what works (and sometimes what doesn't work, which is always interesting to hear too). The conference is hugely international, with the Scandinavians leading the way on a lot of UX innovation, and it was fascinating to learn more about the reach of UX in libraries across the globe.

There were some key take-home messages:
  • The importance of being able to articulate what UX actually is in a succinct and meaningful way to get engagement from your institution: rich and deeper knowledge of user experience (Andy Priestner).
  • UX works well when you get everyone involved, not just one or two individuals in an organisation. How can we democratise UX and truly empower teams?
  • We need to understand that the services we offer in our libraries reflect our core values. When we build things, we want them to be expressions of US, of our values. Our expertise, our service ethic and our values remain our greatest strength.
  • Ethical design matters hugely: how will the objects that you design affect your users? When we create products and services, we need to really care about who is actually going to be using those products and services.
  • Never make assumptions about how your customers use your services!
And some things that we would definitely like to consider taking forward at York:
  • UX meets information literacy: getting students to use capture technology to record themselves using the library catalogue to find resources for a specific assignment. They don't use the catalogue in the way that you expect them to - at all!
  • Idea originally from Manchester: "If students did libraries..." what changes would they make to improve the library experience?
  • Visitor and resident mapping exercise to understand use of, and engagement with, digital tools.
  • Design Think: how can we introduce new design thinking methodologies into our planning processes and practices?
  • Creating effective personas that take the data about our users, humanise it and communicate patterns of behaviour to other people, while still reflecting the complexity of users.
So, there is a lot to think about and trial out over the coming year, and I'm really excited about the ongoing opportunities that UX presents to really understand and improve the user experience for all our users at York.

For my part, I gave a presentation about the Understanding Academics project that we have been doing over the past eighteen months, focussing on how we managed all the data associated with such a large-scale project. We're nearing the end of that project and will be posting our final conclusions and next steps shortly. It's just one of many, many UX projects taking place globally and I'm grateful to UXLibs for bringing some of these together and allowing us all to learn from each other. Here's to UXLibs IV...

May 29, 2017

Sharing UX findings: a strategic approach

By Ned Potter, Academic Liaison Librarian 

This is the 30th post in Lib-Innovation, to it seems appropriate to celebrate the milestone by talking about dissemination of our UX work at York. Although this blog covers lots of other things too, the topic of UX was the main reason we created it in the first place.

We've tried to take a strategic approach to dissemination, proactively looking to share what we're doing with as many different types of audience as possible rather than just hoping it will happen. We're excited by what we're learning both from and about the ethnography, and the design, that we're undertaking, so we want people to know about it. In the ideal scenario, we'd spark ideas off that others take on and apply in their own contexts. And we want feedback and ideas to improve our own work. So we're telling people about the work across multiple platforms, and in this post we'll explore some of the ways we're doing it, and why.

Internal audiences

Our rule of thumb is that anyone who gives their time to take part in our ethnographic fieldwork should be the first to hear what we've done with the information. So for the last major UX project we did, the 100 or so participants go an interim report (along with library managers), and they will be the first to see the final report, before it is more widely circulated within the University. 

The Library industry in general

The blog is open and anyone can read it, but it is aimed primarily at those in the library industry. (There's a separate blog which we aim at staff and students who use the library.) We hope to reach as many people as possible this way. Not everyone will end up caring too much about UX but hopefully for some it will stick. We put pretty much everything on here - the idea is you don't have to be at a certain event or to speak to any of us in person to learn everything there is to learn about what we're doing.

I tweet about it, we ask the people in the University's Central Marketing who deal with the library to tweet about it, and I sometimes reblog UX articles on my own website.

We've been pleasantly surprised by how much people have read the posts: the most popular article on this site (Vanya Gallimore's overview of our Understanding Academics UX project) has been viewed over 1800 times at the time of writing, which is more than the readership of the majority of subscription journals. What we've not had, however, is comments! I love blog comments. There was a period around 2011 or so when everyone left comments on each other's blogs, and as an author of a post it was so gratifying to be able to interact with people reading. That doesn't seem to happen any more (or maybe that's just our blog!), which is a shame.

We've also presented at a couple of non-UX related library events, for example at the Libraries, Archives and Museums Marketing Awards organised by the Welsh Government.

The Library UX community in particular

An obvious avenue for sharing our UX findings is conferences aimed wholly at libraries interested in UX. With that in mind I presented an overview of our UX activities so far at the Northern Collaboration Library UX event earlier in the year, and Vanya will be presenting at UXLibs III, the biggest conference in this area, in June. My colleague Martin Philip will also be soliciting feedback on our work so far during the UXLabs part of that conference, where delegates share work in progress.

UX Specialists from outside the world of libraries 

We've only done one talk in this category so far but it's been incredibly beneficial. I presented to the Human Computer Interaction research cluster in York's Computer Science Department. There is a huge amount of knowledge and experience in the area of UX there, not just in terms of academic research but a lot the academics spend time in industry too.

They have a regular seminar series so we asked if we could take a slot in it. We approach this opportunity a bit like we'd approach a UX project: we didn't have a specific agenda or goal in mind but we were pretty sure we would learn something useful. My talk was very much 'here's what we've done, what would you advise we do next?' and it turns out they had a lot of extremely useful advice. I ended up writing pages of notes from the discussions that happened during the talk and afterwards.

A slide from the Computer Sciences presentation

Among many positive outcomes, that particular day ended up shifting our future approach to UX to a less generative and more evaluative research process, to us changing the way we deal with customer profiles and personas entirely, to us putting together a bid (still in progress) for an intensive design workshop, and to the Department kindly offering to allows us use of their eye-tracking software for future projects. We hope to speak to more non-library audiences in the future. Talking of which...

Audiences outside HE and libraries entirely

I was invited by the Good Things Foundation, a charitable organisation who do a lot of work around digital inclusion and with public libraries, to talk to their staff at their Sheffield HQ. It was a great opportunity to exchange views and experiences with a completely different group of people, facing different challenges. 

And finally: Slideshare 

I used to love Slideshare as a dissemination method. Recently however it's gone from being brilliantly useful to rather more hit and miss. It's always great for uploading your slides for others to find, and that can lead to all sorts of opportunities. But until recently Slideshare would 'feature' around 10 slidedecks each day on its homepage - if your slides got selected for this it would boost the views by 20,000 or so. Because of this it has a reach that we can't hope to match by any other channel. We have a lot of methods listed above which are about reaching quite specific audiences; Slideshare was our way just to reach far and wide and hope some relevant people were among the inflated audience.

In the last year or so Slideshare have stopped regularly updating their homepage, so the chance to get featured has reduced almost to zero. The overview of our UX activities so far hich I presented at Northern Collaboration has not been featured, but nevertheless 3,200 people have viewed it at the time of writing. My slides from the LAM Awards event mentioned above DID get featured however, and in fact as still there on the homepage of Slideshare, three months later. As such they've now been viewed just over 285,000 times, which is ridiculous. Clearly only a small fraction of those people are relevant to us at York.

Slideshare stats

However, 1,751 people have downloaded the slides, suggesting they want to study what we've done a little closer. And these slides led directly to the invitation from the Good Things Foundation, as well as a visit to York from librarians overseas to discuss our UX work - so although Slideshare's reach is unfocused, it's still been relevant and useful for us.

April 26, 2017

“They retweeted me once - it was quite exciting!”

Using Twitter in Information Services

By Joanne Casey, Senior Content Producer

In September 2009, I was leading a small communications team for IT Services, and I'd had my own Twitter account for 9 months. As a team we were reviewing our approach to communication and saw that other university services were starting to use Twitter, so we decided to create an account for IT Services. We saw it as a new way to keep people informed of new services, alert them to any downtime, and raise awareness of security issues - phishing attacks and the like. We seethed inwardly when an occasional colleague gleefully dismissed Twitter to our customers, even as we tried to promote it (“I'd never use that”), and eventually we seethed outwardly too, which seemed to put a stop to it…

Managing Twitter

In 2011, the Library, Archives, and IT Services converged to become Information Services, and my communications team gained an extra member and became the Communications and Marketing team for all three services. The Library also had a Twitter feed, which had been operating since September 2010. At this point the Library had limited resource available for marketing activities, so the account was run by a group of interested people from different teams. This didn't always work well - with no defined responsibility for the account, some queries went unanswered, and the posting rates on the account varied hugely from day to day. As part of a review of relationship management activities, responsibility for the Library twitter feed was passed to us in the Communications and Marketing team, leaving us with two Twitter feeds to play with.

(As an aside, it's worth noting that this semi-outsourced style of working may not have been the best choice for our Twitter feed, but can be very effective in other contexts, so shouldn't be dismissed; our Instagram account is populated by eager photographers from different Library groups, and as such offers a broader picture - pun intended - of our resources.)

Fairly naturally, we fell into different voices for the two accounts; what we had to say on the IT account (downtimes, phishing alerts, new services) wasn't as easy to have fun with as the more varied topics on the Library account. Inevitably, we often retweeted from the 'other' account, and yes, we started talking to ourselves…

In the early days, we took a fairly concerted approach to building followers; we announced the Twitter feeds in newsletters, news items on our websites, and via the student union newsletter - the latter was especially successful. We added our Twitter name to printed materials, and included it in our email signatures, and colleagues were encouraged to do the same. Nowadays, people expect us to have Twitter so we don't have to work so hard at promoting it. Our focus is very much on user engagement, and we try to respond to all tweets, including negative ones; it's an opportunity to improve someone's experience, and turn around their perception of our service. When we engage with our users, whether it's with a well-chosen gif, a light-hearted reply, or supplying exactly the right information, we get more interaction which in turn helps to build our following. Any tweets with a feedback element are favourited and pulled into our monthly feedback report.

In 2014, the Library Twitter feed was nominated for an award from our Student Union, and were awarded Highly Commended in the Unsung Heroes of Non-Academic Staff category. Nominations were made by two of our student followers, who commented on the speed and humour of our responses, with one of them adding “they retweeted me once and it was quite exciting”. It was a very proud moment, with the added joy of champagne at the award ceremony.

Just an extension of the help desk? 

We were clear from the offset, that we wouldn't be the digital wing of the IT Support Office or the Library help Desk. Our Twitter bios explain that we offer 'news and updates'. However, while it's easy to set your own parameters and guidelines for how the Twitter account will be used, but not so easy to persuade your followers to work within them. And that's understandable - if my supermarket make an error with my delivery, then tweeting them is quick and easy, and the same is true for anyone with a question or comment for us. In addition, Twitter acts as an early warning system; this is easiest to see with the IT feed where users alerting us to issues with wifi can be as quick as our own alerts, but it's there on the Library account too, letting us gauge the thermostat, both actual (“It's too hot in Fairhurst”) and metaphorical (“Why are there so many A level students in the Library? We need seats!”).

Knowing its value

One way and another, we spend quite a bit of time working on our social media, and it's a key part of our communication approach, so it's important to evaluate its success. We use Twitter analytics, to assess engagements and impressions, and we use Google analytics to examine the traffic to our websites. But on a day to day basis, just getting a feel for it works pretty well too.

Learning from others

We didn't know when we set up these accounts how they would develop.Twitter is all about sharing and learning; we've learnt from those around us, and grown in response to our followers. We follow and retweet other accounts in the University and the city, and we also follow lots of library accounts - they're often funny and interesting (and we can steal their good ideas). Particular favourites are Liverpool Uni Library and Warwick Uni Library and, like everyone else, we have just a hint of a crush on the Orkney Library Twitter account.

April 19, 2017

Northern Collaboration User Experience (UX) Learning Exchange 2017

 By Robynne Eller, Assistant Librarian

“What people say, what people do, 
and what they say they do are entirely different things”

- Margaret Mead

The Northern Collaboration UX Exchange took place at the University of Huddersfield's state-of-the-art archive facility at the Heritage Quay. The choice of venue offered the perfect setting for a creative day of discussion and the chance to showcase a selection of what some Northern universities have been up to in terms of their approach to UX in their libraries.

#NCLXUX - Review of the day:

A wide range of UX topics were covered during the Learning Exchange, presentations given by speakers from institutions across the north of England. The day was introduced by UX expert, Andy Priestner, who reiterated the benefits of UX in university libraries, as well as breaking down the barriers of users who believe they are “Not good at libraries".

Some of the topics from other speakers surrounded usability issues of library websites, UX for distance learners, to the use of ethnographic studies used to observe user behaviour and use of space in academic libraries. Some of the talks given on the day can be found on Slideshare, which offers a snapshot of some of the themes and projects discussed. Storify was also used to show all Twitter feeds during the event, which were buzzing throughout the day!
Using social media to keep the UX conversations going!

A major theme that ran through the talks, was how ethnographic survey methods, specifically attitudinal surveys and behavioural mapping was used, in order to help understand users at a deeper level. For instance, at Teesside University, behavioural and cognitive mapping (as well as a Twitter photo competition!) helped inform how library furniture was used, showing furniture was being used in somewhat different ways by users than originally envisaged!

Communicating with users using social media: Teesside’s photo competition

It was also great to see that most of the universities were communicating with users through means of a “graffiti” or “feedback” wall, which have proved to be very responsive and positive in all cases where it has been utilised. Insights from the Open University were also quite useful in terms of their outreach to users who would access their services remotely, rather than visiting their library in person. From all the presentations given, it was clear that even smallest of UX changes held a significant impact for users and one of the key messages in achieving such changes is to not fear failure.