Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Site Design and the Negative Ninny

A sad truth in any service industry is that you'll hear mostly (and most loudly) from people who are unhappy with what you're doing. This is just something we have to deal with. People who have no problems with our services; who find what they need from our libraries, rarely tell us about it, even when we go out of our way to solicit that kind of feedback. This imbalance is probably why there is so much burnout in the service industries. 

via Flickr CC, by Shtikl
A real problem with this is when it comes to making changes or improvements in your services or processes. The biggest example many librarians have probably encountered is when redesigning the library web site. I believe this negative feedback then often has a very real chilling effect on the redesign process. It probably prevents lots of innovation. It makes us timid in our decision-making. It's perhaps why so many library homepages try to shoehorn everything but the kitchen sink right on the front page. Why is "About the Library" so prominent on so many sites? Who the hell reads that stuff?

The result is all too often a redesign process rooted in fear of pissing off those overly loud negative voices. Most libraries have these kinds of often power-user "negative ninnies." I'm not saying we should ignore the feedback from these important users. What I am saying is that we need to recognize and counter our sometimes unconscious deference to those voices. Have you encountered this kind of redesign process? How do you fight this, especially when dealing with multiple stakeholders and a large design team? I wish I knew...