Speaking My Language

Search Help.I loved this quote from Dave Young when I first found it, and I love it more now:

Talk to the customer in the language of the customer about what matters to the customer. Bad advertising is about you, your company, your product or your service. Good advertising is about the customer, and how your product or service will change their world.

Read that again, but replace the relevant bits with “user” or “patron” and “your library” or “your databases.”

The point of all this in a post from Jessamyn about understanding what users understand.

Part of the problem is that the information landscape and our behaviors — well, our users’ behaviors anyway — have changed faster than our systems and services. That is, the value of the library is distributed among our catalogs, institutional repositories, digital archives, many dozens of databases, and thousands of ejournals. We struggle for ways to differentiate between them when all our patrons really want is “information.”

My friend Joe wrote:

Younger people, naturally, find all of this equivocating silly. They know where they are going to look for information, and it sure as heck isn’t the library — at least not the library as it currently exists. In a healthy way, perhaps, they don’t make distinctions about information. They use it, then move on.

I doubt there are many who praise the complexity, the dis-integration of our online services. Yet because of limitations of our technology and, perhaps, just the enormity of the task, these problems persist.

That’s why I like John Kupersmith’s pages of “library terms that users understand,” where you’ll find a quick guide to usability tested terms and other goodies. Because, yes, one of the biggest problems we face has nothing to do with the technology.