Web Forms and the User Experience

Web forms. Ahhh, sweet lovable web forms. So many websites have forms, and there are so many ways to make forms. For a long time, the forms on our own MSU Library website were good—but not great. So recently we went through an extended overhaul of our forms. In this post I’ll highlight one of our web forms, and I’ll walk through some of the challenges we faced in designing a user-centered form.

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Her: Machine-speed vs. Human-speed

Okay. It’s been nearly a year since the release of Her, the Spike Jonze film that launched a thousand reviews about society, technology, dystopia, gender, sexism, and race. Her has proven to be a lightning rod of sorts, attracting a range of commentary on the film and its central ideas. Her is far from perfect (or even good), but after reading a recent book exploring the effects of machine technology on the human experience, I was drawn back to similar views of machine technology present in Her.

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New Library Website Header

A few months ago I wrote a post about streamlining multi-page content into a single page. This design decision encourages the user to scroll through longer single pages rather than click through multiple pages. As our pages have become longer as a result, more content started to move farther away from the header, which contains our branding, global navigation menu, and the “Ask A Librarian” link. Our header contains this important information both for us and for the user, so we set out to design a new header to fit our longer pages.

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Information Architecture Revision – Content Streamlining

Over the last several months we’ve been developing a new Information Architecture map for our library webpages. Our goals for this project involve an overall simplification of structure and navigation, which calls for a reduction in pages and links throughout the site. Today we initiated the first of these organizational changes to our Mission/Vision pages. Previously this content included 4 subpages with a primary landing page.

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Measuring the Value of Social Media Buttons

The zeitgeist of today’s web culture runs something like this: “Social media is more popular than ever, therefore social media buttons should be in more places than ever.”  Pew Internet, among  others, continually confirms the growing tide of social media usage.  As a result social media is now ever-present on the web, and the corresponding ubiquity of social media buttons has generated a fair share of skeptical responses. Oliver Reichenstein, founder of design agency iA, wrote back in May 2012 that we should all “sweep the sleaze” and rid ourselves of social media buttons. Reichenstein criticizes these buttons as unnecessary and unwelcome, saying that social media buttons are in effect desperate pleas to share. He might be right about that. But he predicted that the buttons “will vanish for sure.” So far, he’s definitely wrong about that.

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New Workbook Space

Hi there. I’ve created a new Workbook space to be used for (ir)regular updates to everyday projects from the MSU Library. Intended to operate as an (in)consistent record of initiatives from our User Experience Group and our Informatics and Computing department, this posting category will offer an (un)stable stream of insight from inside our development groups.

Storifying Conferences: DLF Forum 2013

The DLF Forum 2013 was a smashing success. This year’s conference was held in Austin, TX, where more than 350 attendees met to discuss all sorts of digital library things — from nuts-and-bolts projects like structured data markup and hydra implementation to more concept-based sessions involving scholarly communication, digital scholarship, and the very nature of the “digital” library. This year I was happy to present ongoing research developed at the MSU Library with Kenning Arlitsch, Jason Clark, and Patrick O’Brien that explores creating and reusing a web-scale index of digital collections materials.

Here’s a Storify of the conversation that occurred during and after our presentation.

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Storifying Conferences: Access 2013

I recently traveled to St. John’s, Newfoundland to the Access 2013 conference, where I presented a new project with Jason Clark. Our research involves a topic dear to librarians: the book. Jason and I are developing a data model for the “book” that allows traditional book content to benefit from a networked environment. We show how book content can be shareable, analyzable, and reusable in new ways when published on the web.

Here’s a Storify of the conversation that occurred during and after our presentation.

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Storifying Conferences: Social Media and Society 2013

I recently traveled to Halifax, NS for the Social Media and Society 2013 International Conference, where I presented research developed with Doralyn Rossmann that explores online community building with social media. Naturally I then used Storify to capture the Twitter conversation that occurred during and after our presentation.

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Jenny Holzer and Web Development

Jenny Holzer is a remarkable artist. Among her many works is a collection of Truisms, aphoristic statements that capture all manner of life-things. In their paradoxically pointed ambiguity, these truisms naturally apply themselves across the spectrum of human thought and activity, web development included.


The following is a small set of Jenny Holzer truisms that can serve as a helpful guide not only for life in general, but also for web development in particular:


A little knowledge can go a long way.

A sincere effort is all you can ask.

All things are delicately interconnected.

Opacity is an irresistible challenge.

People are nuts if they think they are important.

Potential counts for nothing until it’s realized.

Rechanneling destructive impulses is a sign of maturity.

You must know where you stop and the world begins.

Read more truisms.