Helping Libraries Focus on Outcomes

Last February, I posted “Market opportunities“, which described an article about making reading work for low-literacy populations. The post is one of several I’ve written this year that try to explore the purposes of publishing.

In a similar vein, I was interested in reading “Library terms that users understand”, a site built by John Kupersmith “to help library web developers decide how to label key resources and services in such a way that most users can understand them well enough to make productive choices.”

Drawing upon the results of 51 different usability studies, Kupersmith outlines seven “best practices” for libraries. These include:

  • Test to see what terms users understand, and avoid terms that users often don’t understand
  • Use natural-language equivalents
  • Explain or enhance potentially confusing terms
  • Provide alternate paths to steer people toward useful answers
  • Be consistent in your use (or non-use) of terms

While these may not seem like breakthrough moments, having a web-page selection that says “Find books” is more accessible than one that reads “Interlibrary loans”. The user wants a result, not a process.

I don’t quite have an end point for these ideas. Publishing itself is changing, probably by the day, and in writing about it I’m hoping to develop a horizon that we collectively might move toward.

About Brian O'Leary

Founder and principal of Magellan Media Consulting, Brian O’Leary helps enterprises with media and publishing components capitalize on the power of content. A veteran of more than 30 years in the publishing industry and a prolific content producer himself, Brian leverages the breadth and depth of his experience to deliver innovative content solutions.