Libraries and their websites are becoming more user-centred. From wayfinding, to subject guides, to online services, a focus on user experience will help to make all library services more integrated and intuitive. When it comes to designing new services, such as those built upon the Semantic Web, it is more important than ever to ensure that the user is at the forefront of development. So often in the past amazing new technologies and services have been launched, but been frustrating to use. In addition to technical standards, there should be more consideration of user standards and needs when when considering “does anyone want this?” but more importantly “does anyone need this?’

What is user experience all about, anyway? Valeda Dent writing on ”The Total User Experience” at Designing Better Libraries has a good description -

Think about how many different help screens and directions we need for users to find and use resources on our websites. Think about all the maps and directions they need to find resources in our buildings. Then think about shifting that burden of understanding how to use something or find something away from the user. That’s the power of UX.

There are many components to user experience (often abbreviated to UX) including audience research, heuristic analysis, HCI, but the key is “make it easy”.

At this stage, the Semantic Web is in its infancy. It could be the next big thing or it could disappear into obscurity, remembered only by standards and start ups. Making the Semantic Web seamless, integrated, and intuitive for both authors of content and users of content has to be a priority. Matt Hartley writing on “Semantic Web And Overall User Experience” warns -

I believe finding a balance between machine-processable info andthe general user experience has begun to create something of a paradox of sorts. So much so as a matter of fact, that I see the user experience being swallowed up in we are not careful.

Right now, a lot of the early tools and plugins for using semantically-marked up content are less than ideal. Many are clunky or unintuitive. That said, for a long time the same could be said of early web pages. Unnecessary links, images, badly worded navigation and frames abounded. It is too early to tell where user experience fits in the development of the Semantic Web, but as recognition of the importance of UX increases and expertise grows, it seems the only logical way forward is with UX leading the way.

Originally published on the semanticlibrary.net blog