Many libraries have implemented a mobile interface to their library, but quite a number have not yet done so.
Here are 8 considerations drawn from those who have already developed their own mobile sites, or who have developed or engaged in library mobile good practice networks such as MACON. This information has been combined with standard good practice in IT project management.
- Define the goal and objective in providing optimised mobile access to your Library.
- Know your mobile users’ habits and needs
Who do you want to serve with your new mobile interface? Is it mainly for your students, your academics such as PhDs, or your library staff who will increasingly use smartphones and iPads in the future?
What do you know about your users’ mobile habits? Who has a smart phone? What do your users do on their smartphones? What would they like to do related to finding things at the library? You can start by asking what 5 things your typical walk-in user does and asks? What 5 places does your user go to most on your website?
Look at your web analytics to see what platforms you users are using.
Ask your users and cover your demographics: ask them when they come into the library, on twitter, or at face-to-face focus groups.
Combining this info with what you have extracted from talking to your users about offering a new Library mobile service will outline the type of content you need to provide.
For more on how to get those user requirements, see MACON’s User Requirements page
- Know your constraints
Defining the elements that will restrict or support you in the development of your mobile library service at the beginning will help you make the right choices for your mobile project.
What resources do you have for your mobile project? Identify the in-house IT expertise (library or cross-institutional), and the time you have to provide the mobile service.
Are you dependent on a university-wide web strategy? Will this be part of a university-wide mobile service or will you develop a stand-alone one or one that can be integrated into a larger one at a later date?
How does it relate to the Library’s web strategy?
How does your CMS support you? Does your CMS have a mobile-friendly theme? What effect does this have on your choices?
Does your discovery system have a mobile interface?
What technical constraints are you under? Does you library offer Wi-Fi, and what limitations do you have? Is Wi-Fi widespread and affordable to most of your users?
- Define your functional requirements
Based on collecting your user requirements, develop your functional requirements with your digital design strategists and IT staff or consultants.
Recording and stipulating your functional requirements will help ensure you get what you want from your developers. These requirements would include for example:
Describe the mobile system qualities, e.g. usability standards, performance, look and feel.
What system constraints do you need to work within, e.g. platforms, language.
What system compliance do you need to work with, e.g. licensing or copyright?
Describe use cases including flows of events, scenarios.
It is also in this stage where you will decide on whether you will develop 1) an app or 2) a mobile-optimised website.
This image comes from Keren Mills who provides an informative comparison of the options in her slides on SlideShare: Resource Discovery on Mobile Devices
- Define the best sustainable content strategy
To develop your content strategy you need to start with knowing who specifically you are going to provide the service to meet what needs. After collecting user requirements, you know what key questions need to be answered.
What content is going to answer those key user questions? After talking to your users, match their questions and needs with 1) the content you have available and 2) what you still need to create and reduce that content to the absolute essentials due to your limited space.
Consider how you are going to maintain your content. For example, you could pull in dynamic content via APIs and RSS to provide real-time information.
- Know what has already been done
6.1 Online info resources
There are many projects, articles and joint online knowledge resources available to inform you more. Here is not even a handful.
Jisc’s MACON (Mobilising Academic Content Online) Project that includes recommendations for content formats, user requirements and usability.
Educause’s 7 things you should know about app development
See M-Libraries for many resources from across the world on how and what to develop that’s mobile for libraries.
6.2 Know what your peers are doing
Click here to go to 5 examples of different approaches to library mobile access.
- Make informed choices on who should implement it for you
After defining your requirements, ideally an interaction designer, user interface designer and developer work together with you to deliver the optimal user mobile experience.
Which of these skills do you have available internally, and what budget? If you don’t have the skills in-house, and I mean in the institution as a whole, outsource the development by hiring a developer or using a vendor.
Some things you can you do yourself without too much IT expertise, for example, develop a mobile CSS or use a mobile friendly CMS theme. Google also has advice on how to make your site work across devices. http://www.google.com/think/multiscreen/
Some vendors can do more and help make it happen quickly for you. For a list of a selection of Vendors see M-Libraries’ list
- Get user endorsement
Last but not least, once you’ve developed your app or mobile-optimised website, carry out usability testing with a range of your users to get it right early on. Get a couple of champions who will spread the word. Show your future users paper prototypes or wireframes and get their reactions to help you detect and adjust flaws early on. Demo them the real thing at the end for a last round of evaluation/s. See MACON’s usability testing page/ for more on this topic.
What is your aim in implementing an app or mobile-optimised website? Define your goal and set a specific SMART objective to enable you to measure your success. E.g. X downloads of the library app in 2014.
Have you developed a library app that you’d like to share? What tips do you have? Share it in the comments field below.
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