Rocket Surgery Made Easy by Steve Krug

April 5, 2013

rocket surgery made easyWe are redesigning our website at the library where I work.  While the site is not fully finished yet, it is finished to the point that we need to start doing usability testing.  I had read Steve Krug’s other book Don’t Make Me Think early on in the design process and have heard him speak.  He has stressed the importance of usability testing again and again.  While his other book had a chapter on the subject of usability testing, this entire book is about it.  For people who are planning to do their own usability testing, this book is an excellent resource on how to do it.

His “maxims” for doing usability testing are:

  • A morning a month, that’s all we ask.
  • Start earlier than you think makes sense.
  • Recruit loosely and grade on a curve.
  • Make it a spectator sport.
  • Focus ruthlessly on a small number of the most important problems.
  • When fixing problems, always do the least you can do.

While these might not make a lot of sense without reading the book, they are actually very clear guidelines on how to conduct usability testing on your own, which we plan to do.  The book is a quick read, written in his usual semi-humorous tone.  It includes many examples to illustrate his points and even includes a sample script.  It is definitely worth reading if you want to keep your website up-to-date and avoid those total redesigns in the future.


Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug

March 20, 2013

don't make me thinkLast October a my co-webmaster and I attended the Internet Librarian Conference in Monterrey, California.  Many of the sessions on website design referenced Steve Krug’s book Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability.  We ordered copies of the book for ourselves right there during one of the sessions, and both read it when we got back.  We are currently in the process of redesigning our library’ s website and have turned to the book again and again over the past few months.  As I began work on our website’s style guide and went looking for a quote I wanted to use from the book, I realized that I had never written a review of it, so here goes.

Steve Krug has written a book that everyone who is designing or redesigning a website should read.  It is a fairly quick read that is clear and to the point, all things that Krug recommends for writing for your website.  He has designed “Krug’s Laws of Usability” that act as guiding principles for website design.

  •  1st Law – “Don’t make me think!”
  • 2nd Law – “It doesn’t matter how many times I have to click, as long as each click is a mindless, unambiguous choice.”
  • 3rd Law – “Get rid of half the words on each page, then get rid of half of what’s left.”

That last one is the quote I was looking for to insert in my style guide; it  illustrates how important it is to be brief and to the point when it comes to writing for the web.  His book is arranged in sections: Guiding Principles, Things You Need to Get Right, Making Sure You Got Them Right, and Larger Concerns and Outside Influences.  He touches on topics such as how users scan for information on a webpage, why users need mindless, obvious choices, how to design navigation, designing your home page, and usability testing.  Overall this book is a very worthwhile read and definitely worth keeping on your professional bookshelf.  It also led me to get his other book, Rocket Surgery Made Easy, which is all about usability testing.  I’m in the process of reading that one now and will write the review once I finish it.

Bite-Sized Marketing by Dowd, Evangeliste & Silberman

November 8, 2012


I have had this book sitting on my shelf at work for a few weeks now. With a subtitle of “realistic solutions for the overworked librarian”, I had thought that it sounded like an interesting resource. I recently found out that I would be hearing one of the authors, Nancy Dowd, speaking at a professional development session next Friday so I thought It was time for me to read it. I read the book from cover to cover in less than a week, but it is split up by topics and could be read in sections as needed (I guess in case you are an overworked librarian too busy to read the whole thing at one time!)

The book touches on many aspects of library marketing in a straightforward manner easily understandable even to someone without a marketing degree. Topics include: word-of-mouth marketing, collecting and telling your libraries stories, marketing electronic resources, public relations, redesigning websites, branding, and some best practices. Some of what I read reaffirmed things we are currently implementing at my library, but there were quite a few useful tips that we intend to put into practice. A library such as ours that has a marketing department will find the book useful, but so will libraries who have staff members (possibly those overworked librarians) doing their own marketing as one part of all their other duties.

I am looking forward to hearing the author speak next week and will update this posting with any additional tips that I get.

Designing the Digital Experience by David Lee King

November 8, 2012


I recently got back from the Internet Librarian Conference in Monterey, California. It was an enlightening experience in a wonderful setting; I hope to be going back there again next year. We are even considering writing a proposal to present there next year as we are currently in the process of re-designing our website.

Since we are in the re-design process, we have been doing a lot of research on the subject; the tracks of presentations that we followed for the most of the time at the conference were about website design and user experiences. Before going to the conference we sat through a webinar called “Building the Digital Branch: Designing Effective Library Websites” which was presented by the author of this book. We also saw him speak at one of the conference presentations called “Websites at the Next Level”. After hearing him speak on these occasions, I felt that he was very knowledgeable about the subject, and I bought this book and even had him sign it at the author event at the conference.

I read a good portion of the book on the long flight home; it is really a pretty quick read. The book is all about designing websites with the user’s experience in mind. It’s not what we as librarians think should be on our websites, it’s what our customer needs to have there. We need to think about website design in terms of what the user is trying to accomplish – what they are trying to research or find needs to be immediately accessible in three clicks or less. Our user needs to come away from the experience of using our website feeling good about what they were able to accomplish and consequently about our library. Too many times websites are designed around the information that we want to present instead of what our users need and this book will help in the design of websites that give our users a good experience in their online interaction with us. If your library or other business is considering redesigning your website, this book is a must-read.

Making the Case for Your Library by Sally Gardner Reed

September 7, 2012

While this book would be best for libraries trying to get  a referendum passed or stop the closure of a facility, there are valid points to consider in it for all library marketers.  This book is about developing a strong message, for example what your library’s mission is and why that mission is important to the community.  It points out what makes an effective message; that it should be politically powerful, focused on the desired outcome, simple and repeatable, and adaptable to different audiences.  It talks about using your library board and friends group, who are often your most vocal and visible advocates for the library.  Possible avenues for getting your message out are also discussed: newsletters, letters to the editor and op-ed pieces, television coverage, public service announcements, general promotional materials, annual reports, endorsements, and presentations.  The point of all this is to let the public and your library’s community know why what the library has to offer matters, and to show how critical libraries are to the success of our larger communities.  The book contains a lot of good examples of newsletter articles, giveaways, and other things that have a strong message.  Library marketers can use these as inspiration for getting their own message out.  I already have used one or two of them in creating marketing items for our library.

Inside, Outside & Online: Building Your Library Community by Chrystie Hill

September 6, 2012

Community is a big buzzword at our library right now as we plan our40th anniversary for next year centered around a theme of community.  This book talks tells us that libraries are essential to a community and that libraries help to build communities.  That this community building is especially necessary now when many people are questioning the value of libraries in a world where so much information is seemingly available online.  We all need to remember that one of the most important aspects of the service that we provide is human interaction along with the information.  We need to work with the social capital that we have.  According to the book, the library is the “third place” in many people’s lives, after home and work.  For the people for whom this is true, we need to get these people to become advocates for the library.  They are often active in their communities, and are good resources for “getting the word out” about the service and value we provide.  A quote in the book contends “libraries are about service, or they are about nothing” and this is something all libraries need to keep in mind as they interact with their community members.  As marketers we need to highlight the services we provide to the community and also recognize how important building community partnerships is.  This book is a good resource on community building, an essential need for all public libraries.

Doing Social Media So It Matters: A Librarian’s Guide by Laura Solomon

August 2, 2012

This book, as the title states, is about social media programs in libraries.  It seems to be aimed at libraries that are considering starting a social media program more so that those who already have one in place.  The book can easily be skimmed by reading the “Bottom Line” statements in every section such as “Interact with people in social media, or risk becoming irrelevant” which act as little summaries.  The book covers some important considerations such as setting a goal for your social media program before starting one, employee guidelines, and evaluation.  The section I found most interesting was entitle “Status Update Makeovers” where she took dry, robotic sounding status updates and made them better by using expressive language that showed a real person was behind them.  A great tip from her was to use magazine headlines as a role model for status updates: you want them to be short, sweet and eye-catching.

Bottom line: worth reading if your library does not currently have a social media programming and probably worth skimming even if you already have one in place.