InfoApp: Behind the News on the Library Website
When the library launched a new website in August 2005, we decided to make library news and the graphic features (often showcasing research databases) on the website more prominent and easier to publish. We also decided to create a new FAQs section of the website to answer those many questions we are asked over and over. All three of these areas are now published with a new tool which we call InfoApp.
With InfoApp, more than a dozen staff members throughout the library now create news, features and FAQs for the website. They do so by logging into a secure website and simply filling in blanks in a form. The staff members then publish the items by assigning them to categories, and providing a start date and end date. Scripts on the public webpages dictate what types and categories of items show up where.
Timely News, and More of It
In the process of looking at library website statistics for July 2004 to June 2005, we uncovered a surprise about our users. You love news and announcements! Visitors to the library website during that time period visited our news and announcements pages more often than they visited all of the research databases pages. For all that popularity, though, typically only a small handful of library staff members created news, and those news items were all funneled through an even smaller number of web managers through emails and handwritten notes. In practice, we didn’t publish much news on our website, even though we had plenty to share and, as we learned from the statistics, you were interested in reading our announcements.
With InfoApp, news and features are easier to publish so our users get to see more of it. Staff members can contribute items without help from a web manager, so we have more news, features and FAQs than ever before. Items are published in appropriate places throughout the website, so you are more likely to see the news that is of interest to you. And, the news items and features are easy to update, so you get more accurate information. You can also find all the news and features on the site in a central spot—helpful for when you know you saw a feature promoting a database, but it is no longer on the front page.
Answers to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Before the redesign and the introduction of InfoApp, the library website offered FAQs randomly throughout the site. The FAQs were fairly static and were mostly department or tool-specific. For instance, FAQs about Interlibrary Loan lived on the Interlibrary Loan pages. FAQs about JMU Library Catalog lived on the LEO pages. There was no central spot for our users to browse all the FAQs.
With InfoApp, we are gradually moving those FAQs from those separate homes to a central location. In that FAQ area, the FAQs viewed most often percolate to the top of the list. You can now quickly find the answers to common questions like “What is my username and password?”
We also use that same area to publish some of the less common FAQs:
These FAQs did not have a natural home on the website before, so they simply weren’t published.
In the new FAQ area, you can browse by categories like Interlibrary Loan or JMU Library Catalog in addition to seeing all of the questions by popularity and by modified date. You can search through all our FAQs in both the FAQ area as well as with our site search. You can also tell us and other users how useful an item is by rating it on a scale of 1 to 5. And, the FAQs can now be published throughout our website so you are more likely to find the answers you need, when you need them.
Starting in February 2006, you can now also subscribe to news, features and FAQs with your favorite RSS news reader. RSS (Really Simple Syndication) is a simple way to get news from the library as well as your other favorite sources. Rather than visiting the library website to check for new information, you "subscribe" so that information is delivered to you as it is published. Our RSS news feeds include news headlines as well as the graphic features and FAQs. Look for RSS buttons appearing throughout our site or create your own on our new RSS News Feeds page.
Library Network Administrator, Bill Hartman created InfoApp using the C# programming language on the ASP.NET Framework. The application stores news, features and FAQs in a single SQL Server database. Bill continues to improve the staff-side of InfoApp with a second version introduced in December 2005 and a third version scheduled for the summer. The library plans to convert even more content over to InfoApp with a redesign of the Research Guides and Research Databases area, already underway.
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