Friday, February 29, 2008

Further Inquiry into the Elements of Exemplary Virtual School Libraries - DESIGN

Amongst the research and professional literature, there exist a few commonly mentioned elements of design and content when it comes to the creation of successful school library web sites. Some of the experts in the field of web site design, such as Baumbach, Braxton, Clyde, Jurowski, Minkel, Valenza, and Warlick have identified certain elements (although they may refer to these as quality indicators, principles, or commandments), for good web site design. The following is a synthesis and brief explanation of what the experts deem significant in good school web site creation:

DESIGN features:

1. target audience
Understanding the target audience of the school library web site relates to how well the needs of the users will be met, which is best reflected in a mission statement.

2. content and format
The information that is provided on the web site should empower the behaviours that you wish to see in the users.

3. visual appeal
This encompasses a number of factors which contribute to the overall appearance: standard templates; consistent layout; appropriate fonts; appealing colours; and visual magnets.

4. organization of information
Brief and concisely organized information should be a goal, so that pages are easily scannable by the user. Key words and small manageable pages lend themselves to the patience of the users.

5. no distracting features
The use of icons or graphics should enhance the web site, not distract the user. Generic looking images should not be used, so as to lend credibility to the site. Digital photos are desirable, because they can feature the resources of the library.

6. user-friendly/easy to navigate
Some navigational features that make a web site user-friendly are: home page links on each page; navigational bars on each page; the purpose for a search tool is clearly stated; information can be retrieved in a consistent manner; hyperlinks; a minimal number of clicks for common research tasks; and help information is available on each page.

7. regular updates or changes
The web site should not remain static; rather it should have a changeable feature that occurs daily, weekly, or monthly.

8. accessible to all users
Users with visual or hearing impairments should have access to all information presented on the web site, including images. Images should include a text description that can be used with a screen reader. Any video or audio elements on a page should also include captions or a text transcript of the file.

9. unique features
Interesting features make the web site stand apart from other school library web sites. “Inviting returns” are created when a web site offers something new when a user logs on. This could include: fun links to cool sites; book clubs; local event links; or weather information.

10. credibility
The school library web site should be designed to be regarded as a credible source of information. This means that aside from ensuring the relevance of the information available on the site, there should also be provided the name and contact information of the webmaster, and when the site was last updated.

1 comment:

Jennifer said...

I encouraged Linda to write something for Teacher-Librarian Today but I also encourage you to put something together on this topic including these summaries that would be so helpful. Maybe the two of you could write something together and also create a wiki that TLs and teachers could access.

I used to be on the team that selected the IASL/Concord School Library Website award. Fun stuff.