The ULM Library Web Page Committee
November 29, 2007
lost space found
Karen Cook made a huge discovery this week by figuring out that the reference email has its own server space. I didn't even think about that because we don't use it (although that doesn't mean that it shouldn't have occurred to me at at some point). There are some very old pages there now. I'll move the reference page there soon, and I plan to make some new ones too, as soon as we can be sure of what the "look" of all the new pages will be.
On that subject, although I don't have any examples on my web space yet to show you (the links are a bit of a mess right now; I can show them later), I have made some pages similar to those that I've recently done but with gradient edges. I can do it in a lot of colors and there are many to choose from. They look a bit better.
November 19, 2007
Icons, and a new page
When I started making decorative icons for the site, I forgot that a significant roadblock to such a plan would be my lack of artistic skill: Here are the images I've made so far. Not so hot. I notice that the ones with thinner black lines look much more elegant. I probably should've drawn them all that way.
I've also made a new version of the departments page. It can later be expanded to contain more information on specific departments. I hope that what I've written is accurate. The header is different this time; it has the bell tower logo (which is also a click-able link to ULM home) and the name of the university with no extra icon. I think it looks better than the one I did before.
I tried to make little 40px by 40px icons for each department, but I couldn't think of clever ways to visually represent each one.
By the way, did you know that this "blog" actually is public now? It's link on the library blog.
November 15, 2007
Web design tips, new page, and more
Karen Cook asked me about what plans I have for site design so that hers can match. So maybe it's time I was more specific. I still feel that everyone has the right to make their pages any way they want to, but here are some general guidelines you all can follow if you feel like it:
-- Using ULM's standard colors takes the guesswork out of finding the right shades. The page colors I use the most are:
-- I like the maroon for backgrounds because it is a deep, regal color and it looks a lot nicer than plain white. This is also one of the things that makes http://www.ulmathletics.com/ so strikingly different from most pages at ulm.edu. By the way, Maren's page has been like this for a very long time. You can also use background images that are a similar color (read on...). To make content look right on it, make your text a light color, or create a table for your text and make it a light color instead (I recommend #e5e5cd ).
-- The font I like the most is Trebuchet MS (like on this very page). The size is up to you, but smaller is classier and text sizes can be changed by the user. Don't use Times New Roman if you can avoid it. You can also change the color of your links to #660000 maroon. I haven't done that on this page (in fact, its markup is still bad, but it's serving its purpose). but other pages I've made do have that.
-- Since a maroon banner won't work against a maroon background, I've made a new banner using gold (read on)
-- If you don't want to make a new page, you can take ones I've made and modify them.
A new page design:
The latest update to the subject guides page (to add Maren's guides-- sorry it took so long, again) is a example of what I'm trying to do. I plan to apply it to other pages on the site.
The banner at the top is something I recently created. It works well at resolutions as low as 800x600 (I make everything for at least that). It also displays right in IE (which took a while to accomplish). Here's the code for for the whole banner, if you want it:
You can change some things, like text, the links, and the images (which won't display until you link to the image somehow): Here's a .zip with all the images the banner needs to display. I've made the html code so that it works when they are in the same directory as the the html file you want to put the banner in, but of course you can put them in a folder or link to them anywhere as long as you express that in the code (ex: "FOLDERNAME/wwwx.png"). Also the gradients on the side are made for a maroon background, but it looks fine against other colors. Then again, you can also remove the image tags altogether if you want and it will be a plain gold bar and work just as well.
The drop down link selector menu is also fairly simple to add and subtract links from (I know I'll be adding more later, but not too many). I could even insert it here:
The colors and font can be changed, and formatting it is more difficult, but all you need to do is put the code in the html you want to put it in, if you don't want to use the banner or if you want to use entirely different links. Heres the "form" code for it:
I put "QUICK LINKS" in there to let people know what it is without wasting space in the banner for text. Have that link lead to the same page it's on, so it won't navigate away. (In the code above, it shows first. On the subject guides page, I did it wrong and "QUICK LINKS" doesn't show first. I'll fix that.)
The extra image in the banner ("bookerfly.png." I know, I know... :-P ) is just there for decoration, so you can remove it or make a new one. It needs to have transparent pixels to look right (MS Office Publisher is capable of doing that. Ask me if you need to know more). I plan to make many more decorative icons like it.
This bell tower has a transparent background too, so it can be placed over any color (except maroon).
I also made some sort of ribbed texture background on this page, and you can copy it if you like. It's tiny, but it tiles well.
In other news...
The most-liked version of the reference page has been chosen (thanks Mike) and put in place of the old reference page(s). It's not exactly as it should be yet, but I hope that it will be soon.
I've realized just now that a "site map" page with links to every page we have will be necessary once everything's been decided. I can't believe I almost forgot.
I've also heard a rumor that we have new computers on campus for the front entry area. How many? How long have they been here? Where will the old ones go? I don't know, but I'm eager to find out.
If that doesn't pan out, Linux distros still sound like fun. I have 3 live CDs that load an OS from the CD, but I've never installed it before. I tried them out on one of the instruction laptops, too; one of them worked well. It is very cheap to install and run Linux and it can access the internet fairly easily. They also get along well with others on the same hard drive, so dual booting isn't too much of a challenge. Why is this relevant? Depending on our needs, Linux could be a cheap solution to problems.
November 6, 2007
New reference web page? Maybe.
I've sort of finished the long-promised reference page (sorry it took so long). I've consolidated all the reference pages, removed some pedantic language, and added new elements. If these designs turn out to be any good, I'll use them for other pages I plan to make (the department page, ILL page, etc.) It is mostly html, but has some CSS use.
I've made 3 versions (all of them work in IE now):
#3 151 kb total
#2 188 kb total
#1 198 kb total
I like the first and last ones the most. Let me know which you think is the least ugly!
My reasoning here is:
- it's distinctly different from other ULM web pages
- it looks fairly modern
- websites are marketing tools. Someone who has never been here or doesn't know what Reference is will get first impressions here.
- I wanted it to appear friendly
- The images in the margins break up the extra space at high resolutions, but the middle column is 700px across, so it can be viewed at low resolutions (some blogs like this one do this, and better too)
My dream was to make something that looked like this Biola University page. But I think it's beyond my skill level right now.
October 30, 2007
Various new things...
We now have an interactive map of the library, which has both room numbers and names.
Mike Magee has been doing even more interesting things with the library home page; this time there are .gif buttons, a new picture, and new colors.
Oh, and I can't believe I forgot to post about this-- I figured it out a while ago. The problems I was having with centering tables in IE is apparently an IE-specific problem that can be solved by simply changing the html tags to something IE can understand. To do it, just insert the following code into the "table" tag of the table you want to center:
table align="Center" border="0" width="50%"
The numbers can be changed depending on how you want it to look, of course.
October 29, 2007
Various new things...
As you all know, the library blog is now public and is fairly active. Carita Alexander has expressed some interest in seeing how blogs really can be useful in our library.
I think I understand blogs a bit better now that I've made one with Blogger. My long-standing complaint with them has been that they are doing the same thing that regular web pages did/do. However, the difference with blogger is that there is no mess trying to make it and get someone to host it. It even lets you upload pictures! I used 0catch.com to host a webcomic I made a few years ago, and compared to that, blogging is a piece of cake. So why ever use Geocities again? When you really want to make a web page, I suppose.
Mike Magee has been doing lots of interesting things with the library home page lately, including a new banner and a holiday message.
At the request of a faculty member, I've created a flash presentation on plagiarism. I was unaware, however, that Megan Lowe has already made one.
You know there's something wrong with a library web site when people are asking for things it already has. The faculty member couldn't find it, and even I couldn't find it, so it was really buried. Fixing problems like that is what we should be doing on this committee, I think.
Also, the FAQs page has a section on fines now and more specific information on the computer lab, and I'm very happy to report that charles_m_l has generously allowed us to use his excellent picture of the library so long as he is credited.
October 18, 2007
Oct. 18 Meeting Minutes
The ULM Library Web Page Committee had a meeting at 11:30am and it ended at about 12:45pm (sorry about that, folks). The attendees were:
DW (not a member, so it was nice of her to come)
Much time was spent talking about the library blog :
--the reference email should still be used to submit questions
--comments must be moderated
--Anyone who wishes to be a author on this blog may email to me their gmail accounts.
--Mike hold possession of the other ULM library blog. I don't know if we'll use it or not
--Megan says that Facebook could be useful, and that MySpace is significantly less useful. Some libraries are using them.
Library website stuff:
-- I'm trying to get in contact with charles_m_l, who has taken an excellent picture of the library to ask about usage, but he hasn't contacted me yet.
--Megan wants more images on the the demo front pages
--Chuck says it's possible to remove the word "stacks" from the catalog and to possibly show item locations
--we all agree that using jargon isn't any good and confuses patrons
--we all agree that it would be nice if the library was linked from the ULM home page
--although possible, it's not a good idea to have so many database links on the library homepage. Maybe it would make more sense to have them grouped by subject?
--I showed some examples of other library websites
--Pages look different at different resolutions
--Maren showed us the University of Illinois http://www.library.uiuc.edu/ library page as an example of databases being grouped by subject
--IE has problems displaying web pages that other browsers don't have
--The dept. pages could get their own pages, but there also could be one single page that describes all of them and links to more specific pages
--I will convert the .pdfs to html text on the reference page
--Other web pages in the library site don't necessarily need to all look the same; the only need to look similar
--(Mike has changed a lot of pages in the last year, and deserves credit for that)
I forgot to say much about chat-- I had meant to do that! Mike has started some things with that, as many of you all know: http://www.ulm.edu/~magee I think we could start doing that easily, but it depends on what we're willing to spend. We could try Trillian first, which is free, but that means we'd have to get accounts for every major IM program, and I don't like having lots of accounts floating around. But doing that doesn't really cost anything.
October 15, 2007
Blogger: Good Grief
I got the library blog looking the way it should, but if I told you how long it took to customize the colors, you wouldn't believe me. The image in the header can be very easily changed; I have it there just for now.
October 15, 2007
So we have a blog now!
It would so seem that we now have a library blog. Sort of. Someone giving a presentation about blogs at LUC (Angela Anderson of LSU) wanted a volunteer to demonstrate how to make a blog using Blogger (which is pretty straightforward), so I said I'd do it.
I was really hoping that she would show us how to create a blog from scratch instead of using a blogging website (that's actually why I went there in the first place), but it was about basic blogging.
What I don't like about Blogger is that the pages look the same and it would be nice to have our very own blog on our own webspace. However, I don't think our server capabilities allow for a real blog to work (as that involves allowing users to write to it). So Blogger it is.
Here's the URL: http://ulmlibraryreference.blogspot.com/ The colors aren't much right now; I'll fix them soon.
But guess what? There already is a ULM Library blog! Any idea who created it? I assume that it could be someone associated with Ulm in Germany... or maybe I'm wrong?
As for LUC itself, I thought it was great and I learned a lot of things. In particular, Ralph J Boe in his opening speech said that he felt that librarians tend to talk about things more than actually doing them in regards to committees. Since that's exactly what I've been doing with this committee, I think I'll try to take his advice and be more proactive.
October 9, 2007
More Web Design Experimentation
I messed around with another CSS template and made this page. The picture is from flickr.com, but we can make another one (or ask to use it). I really like how modern and urban the library looks at night.
I also made a LOUIS Member logo PNG with transparent pixels. Now it can be put over any background and it will show behind it.
October 8, 2007
Web Design Experimentation for home page
I've been messing around with CSS trying to get that "modern" look that so many twopointopian websites have. I've found that the fastest way to do that is to use a template and then modify it. I did that, and here is what I have so far. It took longer than you'd think, because the borders of the white text areas are actually .gif images.
What bothers me a lot, though, is that it looks great in Mozilla, Firefox, Seamonkey, and Safari, but Internet Explorer messes it all up. Obviously, I can't get very far until it works right with IE, because that's unfortunately what everyone uses. I managed to make another one that does work in IE, but it has no banner. In some ways, it seems nicer that way.
October 3, 2007
Subject guides page?
Trying to make myself useful, I also did a little work on the subject guides page. Nothing truly major. Here's the preview.
October 3, 2007
The new new new FAQs page
After some advice from Karen Cook, I've changed the FAQs page once again. Mike has kindly already uploaded it to its proper place; you may need to refresh the page if the old one is still cached.
October 2, 2007
Webinar on Usability and How to Gauge It
I "went" to a SirsiDynix webinar today called " At the Elbow: Understanding Users' Perception of Process and Effort." It was fairly informative and you can see the replay here if you like, but I took notes on what I found interesting as it went on:
-- problems like "what is this?" "Where did my thing go?" are apparently common to all library sites
-- You've only got seconds to convince users to stay on your site before moving on to another
-- People don't look at the right-hand side of of the screen. Apparently this is the fault of ads on Google. If you've noticed anything common to all pages I've designed so far it's the left-justification. I didn't even know why I was doing it.
-- Think of things from the users' perspective (but of course)
-- Give users the "search" option and they will RIGHT FOR IT (I know I do)
-- How do you become the user's favorite service?
-- In reading a user response, "I want" statements are sometimes different from real needs
-- How do you get a reliable voice of your users? You can't really ask them, because they tend to be too nice. Watching what gets accessed and what doesn't can work better. Usability testing in groups, too.
-- As sites grow and age, they become less logical
-- Watch what people say. If users ask for things that we actually have already, that's a problem
-- Some customers are, however, squeaky wheels who have their own problems that don't represent the users as a whole
-- If users say they like other sites, try to copycat those sites
-- What does the corporate culture of the institution expect?
-- It's okay to ask users if you can actually watch them as they complete a task. This way you can see how they work (how that is possible I have no idea!) You can set up sessions for this or watch them in their natural habitat
-- Poor design can't be cured by training (I beg to differ)
-- If you observe a user, you can ask them why they did one thing instead of another, etc.
-- Don't make users rely on memory to find anything
-- Don't use unclear terminology
-- You can use search exercises with questions to observe people's problems with searching (Of course, promise some sort of reward)
-- After the search is over, they can't answer questions as accurately as they could while in the process of searching, so you have to watch them as they do it
-- 80% of users don't notice "news" buttons
-- Most users don't realize that the advanced search can be useful
-- If changes to the site involve $$$, you need to make a business argument for it: What gains will be had from the new changes?
-- It's worse to ask students for their help and then not do anything that to not ask them at all
Mike has uploaded the new new FAQs page, and Karen Cook has already mentioned some problems with it that I shall soon fix.
September 28, 2007
The new new FAQS page
Mike has uploaded the new FAQs page, and I'm very flattered by the kind words I've received in response to my FAQs page. I was also given some very useful ideas for improvement from Maren and Karen. I've applied some of those, and made a new new FAQs page. Here's the preview.
There are of course other pages that need attention, for instance, the departmental pages. I am thinking of some ways to change them, but I haven't done anything serious yet.
September 26, 2007
Goodbye MS Word
Since I did compose them in Word in July and August, I remade my subject guides with formatting similar to what I did the new FAQs page in. The files have been cut in size by over half. The gradient backgrounds are also gone. I plan to never use them unless they are subtle. Although everyone else can use gradients as much as they want, I suppose.
Why am I mentioning this? Because in the process, I think I figured out a quicker way to remove nasty MS Word tags without pasting it into notepad and losing all your hyperlinks.
This is how it is in SeaMonkey/Mozilla: Select the dirty text, and paste it into an empty composer window. After it's pasted, select it again and under "format," select "remove all text styles," and under the same menu also select "paragraph" --> "body text." This will remove all the formatting, but preserve the links. That's the important part.
Also, anyone can take the pages I made and input all new text. That's fine with me.
September 24, 2007
The FAQ page is done?
Well, I think I did it. I think it's finally done-- unless I've made some kind of mistake. Here's the preview. Any links to external files in here are made so that they work in the http://www.ulm.edu/library/faqex/ directory, so they won't work until they are moved. But I've shown them on this page before.
I also remade the html markup for the html pages about evaluation and scholarly resources; They look the same but are literally half the size they were before, so cleaner markup does make a big difference.
I wasted this past weekend making backups on my new USB HD, which took hours and hours. After all that, I found that making it a bootable drive is difficult. But I am aware that booting from a USB drive is possible, since I've gotten my 1GB flash drive to be bootable-- but the prompt won't work after it loads. Perhaps I'll get another smaller one in the future and experiment with that.
I also messed around with SimpleMEPIS and KNOPPIX bootable live CDs (which boot Linux on the CD itself) I could not believe how well they worked. They were impressive-- completely useless, but impressive.
Why am I mentioning all this junk? Because removable media makes the difference between one computer and another less defined. If I could find a way to get it to work the way I want it to, such a drive could be moved around and used anywhere. But the BIOS on my own computer can't even detect USB devices at all.
September 20, 2007
Today's meeting "minutes"
The committee had a meeting at 11:30am today; I used neither parliamentary procedure nor proper "minutes" writing (let me know if this should be done), but all the same I do have a list of things that were discussed:
--Mike Magee told everyone about the history of the library web pages: Evidently, Dean (Don) Smith made them for a while, and then that responsibility was moved to Mike. One challenge to efforts to change the pages has been resistance by university IT and faculty. Anything that requires writing script needs university permission, which is why we don't have any forms that can be filled out. Forms that email themselves are also not possible.
--Composing in Word is not recommended unless it is too difficult for the user to use anything else. Most preferred are programs like Go Live, Dreamweaver, SeaMonkey (Mozilla), etc.
--It was mostly agreed that there should be no need for anything particularly fancy in web page design. It just needs to display right.
-- (I think this was Maren's idea) Owing our inability to produce real working blogs (I mean specifically the real ones that involve XML, not this html mess that pretends to be a blog), it has been suggested that the library get a blog account at a blogging site and link to it. Lots of input from different people will make it look more active
--The unnecessary use of .doc or .pdf files is not favored by anyone
--Since I have began it, I'll continue work on the FAQs page. If anyone has any ideas for addition or subtraction, allow me to know.
One addition to be made so far (Maren) is that we should explain why we close on Friday afternoon and Saturday. The answer: because the university does.
--Give some thought to handicapped access when making pages
--Flash is not allowed on the front pages of major ULM web pages. That is fine.
--http://libx.org/ can be used to enhance a library web site (Mike)
--Star office is a great office suite (Mike)
--I have no plans for another meeting until there is something signifigant to report or discuss
Stuff I forgot to mention at the meeting:
--There sort of already is a search option that can be added to any page (but not of the library pages only). The one I have at the bottom of my page actually works. I took it from the ULM 404 Error page. I want to change the headers of my pages, but the footers I want to keep the same, because I find the links and the search handy.
--"Mozilla" on the reference desk computer looks as if it is exactly the same thing as SeaMonkey. Odd.
--There are ways of validating html markup. I am not going to require that of all library web pages.
--I think our library web pages are too few to warrant searchability right now. But if the browsing gets better, it could be unnecessary.
--If you use Firefox, the web developer toolbar is a nice thing to have for testing web pages, among other things.
September 18, 2007
More on the FAQs page
I've figured out how to put links in a sidebar; my messy first attempt to apply it is here. I would prefer it to somehow look like this page from the University of St Andrews Library.
I'm aware, also, that the library web pages might be better off using their own headers (like the one on the FAQ page, which I like just as it is). Using the main header (like the one on this page) might not be appropriate as ULM's web policy points out. I do like some of the links, though.
September 18, 2007
Some changes are underway
Today I've made html versions of the "Understand evaluating web sites?" and "Understand what is the difference between scholarly and popular periodicals?" questions, both of which used to be .doc files. The former is mostly the same as it was before, but the later has been changed more.
Here are the originals:
scholarly and popular
By the way, if you think my use of color gradients is tiresome, gaudy, or just ugly... I can't argue against you.
I wanted to make a ULM clock tower logo with with transparent pixels in it so that can be put on a page that doesn't have a white background. I consulted the policy about that and found that editing the logos is forbidden. I have assumed that this only means changing how the logo itself appears.
I tried to use the logos in the .pdf, but the one I wanted had some artifacts. When I tried to fix it and smooth it out (the clock hands virtually disappear when you make it smaller) it turned into a mess. Maybe I will finish it, maybe I will not. Here's what I have now:
Ugly, right? Notice how the top is so jagged; that's what I'm trying to get rid of in the letters and the face. I hope to do more work on it later.
September 17, 2007
Some changes are underway
I've been developing some plans for the FAQ page. I suppose we could discuss this more on Thurs. (Sept. 20, at 11:30am)
Here (very messy and unformatted) is an example of what I intend for the FAQ page. Here I've consolidated all of the FAQ questions into one document. At the top questions are linked to the answers in the body of the page. I didn't make links for them all because I don't yet know which questions will be removed or what will be added yet. Anything highlighted in yellow are things that perhaps should be edited. Anything highlighted in electric turquoise was added by me.
I have also made new flash versions of the "Find a book?" and "Find a article or magazine on a specific topic?" questions, both of which used to be .doc files with outdated screen shots. The former is mostly the same, but the latter is mostly new.
Here are the links to the originals if you want to see them:
I hope to convert all the .doc files in the FAQ page to friendlier formats as a part of the re-design (that sounds so pretentious, I know).
In other "news," I've fixed the databases tutorial by splitting it into two files (like I should've done to start with).
September 17, 2007
About library web page directories
ULM has said that (in the web policy ):
"Content of personal web pages should be just that – personal. Personal web pages are NOT considered a university publication and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of the university."
I understand that. But I need to update my web pages, and I have never meant to do anything with my web space but work. The web pages we make are our own work, so I reckon using our personal web pace for the library should be all right. Unless someone disagrees with me.
September 14, 2007
Changes likely for the library FAQ...
Apparently, the FAQs page is no very popular. Dinah Williams asked me about changing it last night, and before that Karen Cook had asked me about it, and I was thinking about it ever before that (because I use it at the reference desk).
I think the main solution to the page's problem is to put everything on one page and link to the questions with anchor text. Content and how the questions are posed is another way to make it easier to find answers.
September 12, 2007
A bit about FlashPaper...
I goofed around with FlashPaper a little last night. Macromedia FlashPaper 2 is a product that allows you to view printable items as flash objects that look a lot like .pdfs. Evidently it resulted from Adobe's purchase of Macromedia. Here I've made one of the .pdf files mentioned in the post before last into a .swf file: http://www.ulm.edu/~niemla/uwis.swf As you can see, it looks just like a .pdf, but it is a .swf flash document.
Why is it useful? It has to be if Adobe still makes it, right? I think it's because Flash makes for a better browsing expereince than fumbling around with Acrobat. Maybe.
September 11, 2007
Changes to the database tutorial
I've made some small changes to the database tutorial: removed mention of the Ebsco A to Z list, and put in the new screenshot of the new library home page. But many of the scenes still won't play right. I reckon the movie is simply too large, so I will need to split it up.
September 6, 2007
Useful info from Mike Magee
Mike has informed me of some useful standards already written down. This even has color codes and more:
"We do have to follow guideline standards set by ULM. The latest copy of the policy is located at
We should also be using the US Governments Research-Based Web Design & Usability Guidelines as the standard for any other design factors for the Library Website. http://www.usability.gov/pdfs/foreword.pdf "
I will soon try to abide by the rules myself, although not all ULM pages do that as of yet.
September 6, 2007
I've added a banner to this page, but more importantly, I think that I perhaps may have figured out how to embed flash in a web page so that it works in IE! If you can see the banner, that means that it worked.
September 6, 2007
SeaMonkey is rather helpful...
I downloaded and utilized SeaMonkey last week. It's a tool you can use to create web pages that doesn't cost anything. There probably are better programs available, but this is all right for now. I have Fireworks at home because it came with Studio 8, but I haven't needed to really use it yet.
Word's ability to save "filtered" html pages is still good, though, as older versions of Word could not do that at all and would obliterate any code added in notepad or other applications every time you saved the file. It doesn't do that anymore, so it's much more convenient that it was.
August 31, 2007
Boy is my face RED!
This web page looked AWFUL at most screen resolution except my own. I've hopefully fixed it now that I have a real html editor to use.
August 30, 2007
The ULM Library Web Page Committee
At the behest of Dean Smith, a Committee will soon be created to oversee (or suggest ideas for, more likely) the appearance of pages on the library website. Anyone who feels they would like to contribute may join, (as far as I know).
I’ve finally finished that Flash library tutorial I’ve been talking about. Well, not completely. The last few scenes aren’t working, and it could use some subtitles. I’m not really happy with the way it turned out; I probably should have created separate .swf files for each part. I'll be fixiing it soon, especially since the library home/front page has been changed.
August 30, 2007
Can you imagine…
I whipped this up in Flash just to see how it’s working on my laptop. Can you imagine having banners and library-related ads like this on our webpages? I can’t tell if that’s a nightmare or a dream! Maybe both? It's working very well in Firefox, but not in IE.