10 Ideas to Improve your Web Presence and Help Your Users Find You

by Jonathan Jacobsen Tuesday, September 25, 2018 8:40 AM

As the air gets crisper and precipitation drives us indoors, Fall is a great time to reflect and to find energy for new projects and adventures.

Have you thought about the web presence your museum, archive or library collection has? Are you providing users with modern tools to help them research your records and share them with others. Here are 10 ideas to read on a blustery Fall day, and that could add some sparkle to your website and online collections.

  1. Upgrade to a more modern search engine, such as our Andornot Discovery Interface, with features users expect when searching. For example, see how we helped Forestry Innovation Investment with their ThinkWood Research Library.
  2. Add ever more historic content to attract users interested in local history and genealogy, like the Arnprior & McNab/Braeside Archives did with back issues of the Arnprior Chronicle newspaper.
  3. Add a map interface so users can browse geographically, like the one we built for the Ontario Jewish Archives.
  4. Have lots of documents? Why not index the full text of them, then when a user searches for keywords, take them directly to the most relevant page in the PDF. No more downloading and repeating the search within the PDF to find the right page. Learn more.
  5. Get out in front of Community Engagement by adding the Disqus commenting system to your search results, so users can more easily discuss items in your collection, help identify people and places, and provide feedback to you.
  6. Make sure your website or search engine is mobile friendly. Google and other search engines now place mobile-friendly results higher in their rankings. And make sure you have a sitemap and permalinks so your collection can be easily indexed by Google and Bing.
  7. Planning to digitize large works, such as maps, paintings, or architectural drawings? Will users be able to see the fine detail in the resulting images on your website or in your search engine? Our Image Zoomer can help, by allowing users to easily zoom in on specific areas of a large image, without having to download that very large file.
  8. Is your website looking dated? Maybe it has the digital equivalent of large shoulder pads or flared pants? Time for a refresh? Let us help with a Content Management System and new graphic design, like we did recently for PRCVI (the BC Provincial Resource Centre for the Visually Impaired).
  9. Can't attract the attention of your own IT staff to help with your website or software? Why not have Andornot host it?
  10. On a tight budget? Consider our low-cost Digital History Hub platform for putting collections online and making virtual exhibits.

Contact us to discuss any of these ideas, and ones of your own.

PRCVI Launches New Website, powered by Umbraco

by Jonathan Jacobsen Thursday, September 20, 2018 11:13 AM

The Provincial Resource Centre for the Visually Impaired (PRCVI) is a long-time Andornot client and has just upgraded their website to a new one powered by the popular Umbraco Content Management System.

https://www.prcvi.org

Hosted by Andonot, this new website was specifically designed to meet accessibility guidelines and provide a positive experience for visually impaired users. The primary function of PRCVI is to provide British Columbia School Districts and Group I or II Independent Schools with alternate formats of provincially recommended learning resources and with specialized equipment to support the educational needs of students with visual impairments.

Rather than come up with an entire design from scratch for the new site, PRCVI chose a theme from uSkinned.net, a provider of designs and starter kits for Umbraco. This package provided both a visual design and all the pre-built components - HTML, CSS, JS, Templates, Document Types, etc. - that an Umbraco site needs. It was easy to install and allowed PRCVI staff to immediately focus on migrating content to the new site.

PRCVI’s website includes two instances of our Andornot Discovery Interface, for searching the PRCVI Library Catalogue, and a database of Vision Teachers located throughout British Columbia. Both of these were upgraded to match the template of the main site, for a seamless transition. Users can search the entire new website as well as the library catalogue separately, from search boxes in the site header.

Andornot hosts Umbraco-powered sites for a number of clients, and continues to recommend it as a solid Content Management System for any website. Contact us to discuss your needs for self-managed online content.

To Print or Not to Print URLs in the Twitter Bootstrap Framework

by Jonathan Jacobsen Tuesday, October 11, 2016 11:32 AM

Andornot uses the Twitter Bootstrap framework for almost all our web application development these days. This framework saves considerable development time, with so much pre-built, and allows a single site to adapt to the viewing device, meaning a search engine such as the Andornot Discovery Interface, works just as well on a tablet or phone as in a desktop browser.

One of the "features" of this framework is the display of URLs in print views. By default, the print stylesheet appends the URL of a hyperlink to the hyperlink text in print view. For example, a link to the Andornot website with the text “Learn more about Andornot” would appear in a printout as

Learn more about Andornot. http://www.andornot.com

This is a very helpful automatic feature, as without it, you’d have a print view without the URLs needed to get to the sites mentioned. It's great when the URLs are short, but when they are long, such as a pre-created search for a set of results, or anything with lots of parameters in it, they tend to make for a print view cluttered with not very useful HTML.

For example, a link whose text is “View information about Fish and Fisheries” might have a URL such as http://www.someserver.org/Search/Results?lookfor=Fishes+OR+Fisheries+OR+Fishing+OR+%22Juvenile+fish%22+OR+%22Resident+fish%22+
OR+%22Sport+fish%22+OR+Sportfish+OR+Eulachon+OR+Anadromous+OR+Trout+
OR+Salmon+OR+Coho+OR+Chinook+OR+Sockeye+OR+Fishway*&type=AllFields
&limit=20&sort=relevance

This is too long a URL for anyone to retype, so it’s not useful to have in the print view. It just makes the plain text hard to read.

(As an aside, see our recent blog post about URL shortening for tips on using short URLs in blog posts, Tweets, Facebook posts, etc.).

A very simple adjustment you can make to Bootstrap is to add this bit of CSS to your stylesheet, overriding the Bootstrap default:

@media print {

  a[href]:after {

    content: none;

  }

}

This will suppress the display of URLs after links in all cases. You might want to be more sophisticated and only suppress them for certain types of links, ones you know will be long, while leaving the behaviour as-is for shorter ones. Easily done by adding a class to certain links and adjusting the above style addition to reflect that class.

Contact Andornot for assistance with this and any similar web development tweaks.

It’s not about you! Designing for your end users.

by Kathy Bryce Wednesday, October 21, 2015 4:54 PM

When we are working with clients to design new search interfaces, we always stress the importance of defining who will be using the system, and then trying to meet the specific needs and expectations of these end users.

It’s Not About You
We often have to remind clients that “It’s not about you!” Archivists and librarians in particular often ask us for search pages with lots of options as they personally are used to constructing complex queries. However the trend with most search interfaces is to keep these simple with a single Google style search box. 

We suggest that you think about other websites your end users search, whether that be a university or public library catalog, or Amazon or other shopping sites.  Nearly all of these now use a discovery style interface that is geared to letting users put words or terms into a search box, and then narrowing their searches down from the search results page through facets or filters.

Like most other search interfaces, we do usually include some Advanced Search options but the website usage statistics we’ve collected for our hosted client sites over the years indicate that most are rarely accessed.  Pre-selecting search limiters removes the possibility of serendipitous discovery of unexpected resources, and the expectation now is that the results will be displayed by relevance so that the closest matches appear first.  We therefore discourage clients from specifying a traditional title sort, as if the user is looking for a known item and searches on words in the title, it will appear at or near the top of a relevance ranked display.

Use Cases and Personas
One of the ways we suggest you try to relate to your end user needs is through the creation of personas or user profiles.   For each of these personas we then suggest you think about factors that might impact their searching behaviour.   First and foremost - what are they looking for and why?  What will they want to do next when they’ve found something of interest?   So for a publicly accessible archives site, you might create personas for the following types of users.

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Carol is looking for pictures of her grandparents and the house where they lived

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Lucy wants a picture of an old farm implement for a school project

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George is compiling a history of a local church.

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John works at City Hall & wants to find maps or plans of an area slated for redevelopment.

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Kevin is interested in a local railway line that runs through the area.

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Daphne is writing her thesis on a local political movement.

Make the process a fun exercise by incorporating graphical representations using images from a stock photo site such as billionphotos.com– search for avatar to find these examples, or contact us to help you. We find images make it easier to visualize how a person might behave, rather than just assigning an abstract name. The usability.govwebsite has an excellent overview article.

Avoid Jargon and Acronyms
You will also need to consider your personas familiarity with the subject area. Again “It’s not about you”, unless you are designing for a very limited audience, jargon and acronyms should be avoided.  Most government websites have guidelines on writing in “plain language” to convey information easily and unambiguously.  However we still see archival sites that include references to the GMD or to the General Material Designation.  Think about walking up to someone in the street and asking them if they understand what this term means! 

Spelling Matters
Spelling is a huge issue.  Too many times we’ve looked through search logs and seen searches that result in zero hits as the search terms were spelt incorrectly.  Think for example about medical terms and how to cater to the public that might be looking for Lou Gehrig’s disease.  Lots of potential to spell this wrong, but worse, you might have indexed relevant items under the medical term of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or the abbreviation ALS or A.L.S.!   Many modern search interfaces now feature Did You Mean spell checking, but maybe you also need to seed the indexes with lists of synonyms or common misspellings of proper names found in the collection. 

It’s all too easy to make assumptions about your end users abilities and their knowledge of web searching techniques. Let us guide you through the process of designing your new search interface based on our knowledge of best practices. We’ll try to tactfully remind you that “it’s not about you”! Contact us to discuss the possibilities today.

McGill Universities Health Centre Libraries Catalogue Now Using Responsive Layout

by Jonathan Jacobsen Thursday, November 14, 2013 1:22 PM

Earlier this year, the McGill Universities Health Centre Libraries launched a new website with a fresh, modern design. At the time, Andornot updated the library catalogue we host with a matching design.

As is often the case with a new website launch, after 6 months of real-world usage and feedback from users, a modest tune-up is often needed. With changes occurring to the main MUHC Libraries website often, rather than recreate them each time in the hosted catalogue, we took this opportunity to rebrand it with a simpler design, but to use a responsive web framework. With this, the site is as accessible on a smartphone or tablet as on a full-size desktop web browser. 

The library’s book catalogue is available directly at http://muhclibraries.andornot.com/Books/Default.aspx or though the MUCH Libraries website at http://www.muhclibraries.ca  As before, it’s available in both English and French, shows Google Book covers when available, and offers users a selection list to save or email records as they search. The site now also includes up-to-date loan information, pulled directly from the underlying Inmagic Genie system. The entire interface is built from the Andornot Starter Kit.

Contact us to update your search interface to a responsive one, accessible from any device.

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