Thursday, November 24, 2011

Mobile Website Traffic

I recently wrote a mobile website for my library using jQuery Mobile. While building the site was simple thanks to the straightforward framework, I'm taking much more time to contemplate how we will push mobile traffic onto the mobile site. As I see it, there are three options:

A link on the main site, no redirect

Essentially the "do nothing" solution, because obviously I'll put up a link no matter what, but users will have to opt-in to the mobile site. Savvy users might know enough to append "mobile" to their search terms when they're looking for the library site, or to "save to home page" the site for repeated use.

Example: the University of Illinois


  • Doesn't force users onto a particular site
  • Takes a second to do, zero maintenance (this is huge!)


  • Least effective in terms of driving traffic to the site
  • Users might never notice the mobile site exists
  • Slow experience because desktop page still has to load
  • Especially hard to see & select single line of text when using a mobile device on our desktop site, frustrating intial experience

Redirect Mobile Devices to Mobile Site

using a script such as Detect Mobile Browsers, push users over to the mobile site without any prompting.

Example: North Caronlina State University


  • Best in terms of increasing traffic on the mobile site
  • Most efficient, least resources downloaded to user's device
  • Fills in gaps in marketing, users who don't know about the site still end up using it
  • Seamless experience; users can search for our regular site & still end up on the optimized verison


  • Maintenance: the user agent list of mobile devices is only growing & would need constant updating
  • Relies on user agent sniffing, flawed approach for many reasons
  • Mobile site doesn't recreate all functionality of the full site so users lose out
  • Need a hard link back to the full site somehow without being redirected back to mobile version. I actually had trouble implementing something like this on my resume website using PHP's $_SERVER['HTTP_REFERER'] value but it's probably not too hard to figure out.
  • Could a user permanently opt out of the redirect if they so desired?

Pop-up Prompt

A compromise between the two above, a script detects a mobile device user agent & then offers a prompt (either a JavaScript dialog or an HTML element placed on top of the regular site) telling users about the mobile site. Ideally, users could close out the dialog such that the script would remember their choice & not repeat the prompt during subsequent visits.

Example: ??? I don't know of any library examples but I'd love to see one, so let me know if you find a site that does the above.


  • Pushes users towards the mobile site without forcing them onto it
  • Users who want to access to desktop site on their mobile device wouldn't face any additional hassle
  • No need to bookmark the mobile site or search specifically for it


  • Same maintenance & user agent sniffing concerns as a hard redirect
  • Some devices might slip through the cracks & users would still be unaware of the mobile site
  • While not as obnoxious as a redirect, users seeking the full site would still be annoyed
  • Slow experience because desktop page still has to load

What do you prefer on your mobile device? Do you like the convenience of being automatically redirected, or is it more often a nuisance? Another option, of course, would be & see how effective they are. Traffic figures could easily show which methods work the best, while feedback can speak to the UX.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Open Letter re: Library Hiring

tl;dr – applying for library jobs straight out of LIS school is bleak & libraries/librarians could do a better job of supporting applicants as opposed to crushing their spirits.

I'm among the lucky few that landed their dream job straight out of library school. But a number of my peers–every bit as competent as I am–have struggled mightily. This post is for them, because they obviously cannot express these concerns in a public forum.

You're Being Rude

I meticulously tracked my own job applications & while the sample size is small (I was a math major in college...can you tell?) the results are discouraging: precisely half responded in any manner. That percentage is higher than I thought it would be, but there is little reason why it couldn't be 100%. Furthermore, for several applications I am certain I was notified after the position had been filled & not after I was removed from consideration. One friend of mine took a day off work for an hour-long phone interview only to be informed at the end that the library had already filled the position. Here is why that is unacceptable practice: we are human beings. We are about to graduate, we are trying to figure out where in the country we will be moving, we are making plans. It would be immensely useful to know ASAP after we are out of consideration, so we can move on.

Another friend of mine said it best: “Part of the disconnect in job searching is applying and never hearing back, when as a librarian I was taught to not be dismissive to people.”

Your Requirements are Inane

Here's a tip: try filling out your own job application. Does it make sense? Or is it horrendously vague? Does your web form work or does it crash in every browser except Internet Explorer 6? Better yet, does the web form require repeating every single item listed on my resume? Does the position truly require "2-3 years of experience in a [insert your specific type of] library"? That last one is the killer. There are apparently no entry level jobs in librarianship, who would have guessed? As a new librarian, I beg you to consider what is more important to your institution: do you want someone with a nominal amount of experience? Or someone new to the profession, eager to learn, & devoid of assumptions? Many positions demand experience: it is impossible to be prepared for systems librarianship in LIS school, or for major management roles. But the vast majority could use a bright recent graduate as much as a bright greenhorn with two years of experience. Give us a chance to prove that to you.

Your Advice is Condescending

I read a lot of application advice on library blogs when I was a free agent. And the most common tips were always along the lines of: use spellcheck, address the position requirements, read the job ad, don't just cut & paste, make sure you're qualified. This is not advice, it's whining from people who read poorly written applications. I don't doubt that libraries get lots of crummy cover letters; I do doubt that the people who submit these flawed applications are scouring the Internet for advice that they're clearly not following. So my point is: as a competent young job searcher wracked by fear of homelessness, repeatedly seeing appeals to use spellcheck while simultaneously being silently rejected is awful.

Here's the paragraph, over at Attempting Elegance, that inspired me to write this post:
"Fourth, seriously, just stop with the cut-and-paste jobs, already.  We can tell. We’re more experienced at this than you are, we’ve just read 75 cover letters, and you’re not fooling us.  We know that you’re tired of applying for jobs and eating ramen and suffering under your terrible current boss, but the fact that your cover letter is a cut-and-paste job from the fourteen jobs you applied for last month shows. And we hate you. If you can’t be bothered to match your fonts, get the name of our institution right, list our job position title correctly, and write something that indicates you read the ad… Just no. You just wasted our time, and you’re out of the running."

Do you have any idea how insulting & discouraging that is to me as an applicant? I am eating ramen, applying to dozens of jobs, & suffering. It's not some funny, rhetorical flourish, it's my reality. I'm doing the right things & have nothing to show for it.

OK, this may be the first post I regret writing. It's a bitter reaction to bitterness. I'm sure search committees are frustrated with the quality of applications, but I struggle to see how that frustration could even come close to the anxiety of someone job searching. Please think of that while you write your job ad, reply to applicants, & write contemptuous blog posts.