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User Experience Is More Than A Trend

While I was pleased to see that user experience was one of the topics discussed at the regular Top Tech Trends program that is conducted at each American Library Association conference and sponsored by the Library and Information Technology Association (LITA), I have to ask if this is the right sort of forum for a conversation about user experience. Now admittedly I was unable to attend this session, but I did obtain some information from a report that appeared in Library Journal. According to the news, in the segment in which UX was mentioned, Amanda Etches-Johnson:

urged the audience to consider the concept of “user experience” (UX) as new technology-driven services are designed. “In the library world, it’s still pretty fresh to our ears,” she said of UX design talk, but stressed the importance of considering the entirety of a user’s interactions with a library, whether online or in person.

I agree, that despite two years of discussing design thinking and user experience here at DBL, plus two articles in American Libraries covering each topic and multiple conference presentations, many librarians still equate design talk and UX with the external and internal physical design of the library facility. So it’s great whenever librarians are given an opportunity to expand their understanding of design and user experience concepts. All that said, my concern is that the librarians who are getting their first exposure to UX through the program or the LJ news item, will come away with the impression that UX is just a trend. Consider some of the other topics covered at the Top Tech Trends forum. Texting. That’s hot right now but like any technology it will likely be replaced by something better. Discovery systems. Yep. Hot right now but sure to be replaced by something more advanced. Apps. Even the speaker who spoke about it said this is the year that apps die. So much for that trend. But what about UX? Does it fall into the same category as texting, discovery technology and apps?

No, I don’t think so. I’d like to think that as more librarians learn about user experience and come to value what it has to offer they will add the importance of designing and delivering a great library UX to their set of core values – those statements that define what we believe and how we behave as an organization. Core values are or should be timeless; they are not trendy. None of this is to suggest that Etches-Johnson believes that user experience is just a trend. I’m sure she shares my belief that user experience should be at the foundation of what drives the library to deliver memorable and unique experiences, and that it must become a core guiding strategy for the present and future.

If you attended the top tech trends event or read about it, take a few minutes to think about user experience, how it was described, the context in which it was discussed and what that meant to you and your library. If you are new to the concept of UX, take some time to read past posts about it here at DBL; commit to learning more. If we want to design better libraries, user experience must be more than a trend.

Comments

Comment from Andy Burkhardt
Posted: January 28, 2010 at 7:01 pm

Hey Steven, I attended both Top Tech Trends at ALA as well as your Fish Market UX session at ACRL. I agree that UX probably isn’t a top tech trend since it doesn’t deal simply with technology (though that can be part of it), and because it should, as you said be more than a passing trend.

Since I saw your presentation and read one of the American Libraries articles first it was not new to me, but I thought that it might be a good thing that it was discussed there. I’m sure there are a number of librarians who have never heard of UX. Top Tech Trends is itself pretty trendy and a popular session. Discussing UX in this venue might help expose more people to UX and get folks more curious about it.

Comment from amanda
Posted: January 28, 2010 at 7:56 pm

Hi Steven — I completely agree that UX isn’t a “trend” (I said as much during the panel and in my blog post about the session). Really, all that talk about UX was just to frame some honest-to-goodness trends I was/am seeing in UX design. Specifically: the impact mobile devices is having on the way we design for other formats.

I couldn’t agree more that UX needs to become part of how we *all* (not just UX folks) think about delivering resources/services/whatever to our users. I appreciate all your posts & articles on the topic — keep fighting the good fight!

Comment from StevenB
Posted: January 28, 2010 at 10:28 pm

Thanks Andy and Amanda for your comments. We are in agreement that UX is more than a trend – but that it makes sense to share the ideas in a wide array of venues – and I’m glad to hear from Amanda that at the TTT event – she did emphasize that UX is more than a trend. Thanks for reading DBL.

Comment from walt crawford
Posted: January 29, 2010 at 3:56 pm

I’ll second what Amanda said (and how she presented it)–and note, from my years on Top Tech Trends, that some of us always thought of “trends” as “things that are important and deserve attention this year (and quite possibly in the future and past as well)”–not as “trendy fads.” That was certainly always the case with Clifford Lynch and Joan Frye Williams, and I tried to use that implicit definition.

On the other hand, the existence of “UX” is an indication that we’re dealing with a slightly faddish trend–it has its own initialism that makes no sense to outsiders until it’s explained. Not sure that’s entirely a good thing.

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