Insights from practitioners in Information Management

Issue 92 – Creating a Good User Experience

Creating a good user experience:

User experienceis more than customer service. It’s not that customer service isn’timportant, it is. User experience is “everything” and getting one aspectwrong can potentially sound the death knell for your business.But whathas this got to do with Library and Records Management?

I would simply respond – it has everything to do with everything regardless of the business you are in.

Let me explain.

Weall have one simple desire, and that desire is to be taken seriously(Hugh Mackay: What makes us tick: The 10 desires that drive us). As Iwrite this I am hoping that you take me seriously enough to read thewords, consider them and hopefully take action. Every time you interactwith a client, you hope to be taken seriously enough that they too willact upon your suggestions. Just as every time “we” are the client, wehope the person on the other side of the counter takes us seriously and”serves” us.

But let me go back to my earlier statement

[User experience] “has everything to do with everything”

Userexperience is created by:- the design of the building, the layout ofthe interior, the colours and seating chosen. And yes this includes thedesign, colour and texture of the chairs – are they hard or soft? Canyou reach the table / workstation without causing an OSH injury? Theymay look great, but the seat isn’t wide enough, or the back slopes sothat sitting in them makes your lower back ache. It is the colour of thewalls, the quality of the lighting, the sound system and ambient noiselevel to what the floor is covered with. It is everything from whethergoing to the bathroom is a delight or an exercise in contortion tosimply get into the cubicle. It is the quality of the tracing (sorrytoilet) paper, to the signs telling you where you can go to relieveyourself or find a cup of coffee let alone the books / records you aretrying to locate, or the location of the business you are going to bevisiting. And of course if you have an online presence it is”everything” to do with that as well.

Of course, (IMO) the user experience culminates when you are taken seriously by the person designated to greet and serve you.

Howmany of your regular customers do you know by name? Are you politer tothose than the ones you don’t know? Do you take the time to inquire (ifit is a first time user) whether they know where to go and what to donext? Do you offer them an incentive to return? Or are you so caught upwith talking to your colleagues about last night’s cooking show that youbarely recognize that someone would like attention?

I was in abookstore in Studio City recently (that’s California BTW); the buildingdidn’t start off as a bookstore, but was a converted art deco theatrehouse. The building itself was fantastic. But the bookstore blew meaway; normally I am left feeling a little disappointed with bookstoresin general as I feel there is something missing. Not this one. Theaisles were wide, the space between the stacks of bookshelves made iteasy for me to get to the section I wanted. But the lighting – thelighting was superb. The way the designer had used the strip lightingmeant I did not have to bend down to read the book titles on the lowestshelves. For someone with a dodgy back and creaky knees I can only say”THANK YOU” you made my life so much easier.

Did they doeverything right? No of course not, they could have put in a couple ofchairs / seats for those wanting to take their time choosing their nextoffline reading device. But on the whole, I would give them a 9 ½

Theowner and the staff he had chosen to provide this user experience were adelight and I am glad to say I don’t live near Studio City because Iwould be tempted to buy even more books than I do already.
As alibrarian I love wandering into libraries, assuming I can find theentrance that is. Once there, I spend some time getting a feel for theplace. Is it a place I would feel comfortable returning to – or not?

Iused to be a regular at the State Library here in Western Australia. Infact the last time I was there, was to listen to the talk given byHugh. But since the major change to the ground floor I have had to findan alternative place of quietude and a place where I could catch up onmy reading.

I live in a “City” that boasts 4 public libraries. 3are equidistant from my home, the 4th I have yet to visit because Idon’t travel that way very often and probably shan’t get to. Of the 3,one needs a complete refurbishment. It looks old and tired, and hadlittle stock that satisfied my business / professional needs I am sorryto say. Interestingly though, one of the staff members remembered me! Iwas really impressed, given that I had not been in the building since mychildren grew out of the need to read young fiction, preferring theirschool library instead.

The second one I discovered by accidentafter wandering into a community centre looking for a loo! It was small,but an absolute delight (the library that is, not the loo – which letme say “served” its purpose adequately). There were good study areaswith lots of natural light, and they were being used. An enclosed areawith glass doors designed to keep the game system users entertainedwithout annoying those trying to work. And a reading nook for teenagers,which was diagonally opposite the younger children’s area which wascovered in play mats and infants. Given that it was a Saturday afternoonI was impressed with the number of patrons. Again, the collectionwasn’t suitable for my needs, but I may yet find a use for the physicalspace when my home office gets invaded by my noisy teens.

Thefinal library within my area is the one where I struggled to find theentrance – it was within another building and down a corridor. What can Isay the signage could use some work. However, I would hesitate thatisn’t the library’s fault per se. The interior design was good, makinguse of the large windows which provided natural light for those wanting acomfortable chair to sit and read their latest finds. It also had arange of material that I could use – so I rejoined the library. Does itcreate a perfect user experience? In my opinion no, while the designerhas made good use of the space, I have no desire to listen to children’stantrums or listening to the staff talk about whatever it was they weregossiping about while I am trying to read the latest business journals.But given I am not there very long it is a compromise I am willing tomake for the chance to borrow the books I need.

Take the time towalk through your business. Try the public restrooms if you’ve neverdone it before. Become a people watcher and see if they know where to goand what to do next. Watch “Undercover Boss” and Mary Portas’ “Secretshopper” – go undercover yourself if you have to, but please take yourcustomers seriously (no matter what business you are in).

While we are talking about our desire to be taken seriously:

Howmany times have you sent in a job application and never received aresponse from the company doing the hiring? As one person stated “it’sas if you don’t exist”. How many times have you been guilty of notletting people know? 


  • How many times have you tried to complete a transaction on a website and been unable to?
  • Walked into the foyer of a building and had to ask where something was;
  • Tried to get service at a place that looked great, but no-one wanted to take your money?

Ina time when money is tight and businesses are crying out for custom,you would think creating the right kind of user experience would be highon their list of must-do’s wouldn’t you.

Does your place of workoffer a great user experience? If you do take time to walk through theother side of your business so you can see for yourself what kind ofexperience your “users” are receiving, then ask yourself one finalquestion

“am I happy with that?”

With many thoughts