David Lee King has, of late, been discussing three questions every webpage should answer:
One technique for designing a website is to put yourself into the patron’s shoes and try to determine what they would do. You see yourself as a different person and see how that person would answer a question. In marketing (and web design) this type of analysis is often called personas. I would propose that this is what David is suggesting. I am suggesting an alternative method to attack the same fundamental questions. I suggest tweaking the questions to the following:
- What are my patrons doing here?
- What are they doing next?
- What do they care about?
I posit answering these questions not with speculation, but with numbers: website analytics. Most website providers today will offer you analytics. If your website does not, sign-up for a free or low-cost service. Inc asked the experts and they recommend Google Analytics or Yahoo! Web Analytics, both of which are free.
Once you have gathered a little bit of data (I would recommend at least a month’s worth), ask yourself the aforementioned questions. In their simplest form, there are three corresponding web statistics to assist you:
(1) What are my patrons doing here?
Truthfully, most of your web statistics answer this question at their most basic level. The one that is the most useful is merely sorting through your Top Content. Your homepage will likely be the most used site (particularly if it is the default page for the library’s computers). What comes after that? Are your patrons using your databases page? What about your eBook instructions? Your book lists? Knowing which websites your patrons are visiting will tell you what they are doing there.
(2) What are they doing next?
Once you know where they are, look at what they’re doing next. Many analytics will show you were a user clicks on your page. It’s great to know that my patrons are going to our library hours, but where do they go after that? This can tell you not only what your patrons value, but also what design elements they are seeing the most (or not seeing at all).
(3) What do they care about?
While analytics can’t answer why a patron should care, they can give you insight into what they do care about. The highest pageviews and where patrons click will give you insight, but my favorite tool to determine this is “Time Spent on the Page”. Websurfers are notoriously deficient in attention span and they rarely spend time on a page. If you can see where your patrons are spending their time, then you’ll see what they care about most.
Some books to help along the way: