Speaking of Digital Preservation

Digital Preservation is the conversation of the day for institutions responsible for collection development. It’s not a new thing. It’s been around awhile. However, the way we look at it and handle it has changed. Once upon a time scanning and uploading photos was just a simple processing keeping copies of items for storage usually after it becomes in danger of being damaged or preventing further damage. The concern was mostly to get it done more so than how it was to be done. The digitalizing of the items were not done with little consideration of description or format and with minimal organization. Now, along with the actual storage, there is the software, hardware, imaging, layout, description, and access techniques that must be taking into the equation. Now preservation before damage occurs, along with providing the most availability with internet access is just as important. Essentially, taking care to preserve is the initial thought instead of a latter one as well as making sure whoever views it in whatever process gets a great image.

When looking at the readings and the discussion posts for this topic I was intrigued by the mention of the site HistoryPin (https://www.historypin.org/en/) that accesses various collections and allows visitors to attach pins to images to make their own collection. I thought this was a pretty neat concept. This site has given access to these historical images to people all over the world. What all did they have to encounter to bring this together? There are copyright issues to manage, image choices to be made, layout and description selections, and the list goes on and on. It is not a simple process by any means. But the work put into this site is significantly appreciated, I would think, to many who can bring together and create their own collections thru it.

Where would we be if the various repositories and museums didn’t digitally preserve their collections? Even the gavel of justice has been affected by digital preservation. It has made a major change in the face of evidence. The images from cell phones and dash cameras have made a significant impact on the mountain of injustice from lack of evidence. Its importance goes without saying. The massive number of items that are conveniently at hand can come at a huge price, not only dollars but in a variety of challenges and conflicts.

In addition to what was previously mentioned, there is a conflict with technology and the lack of permanent storage. Every library, museum, and archive has to deal with the continuous issue of updating and keeping current technology. The ever-present challenge of having to keep files secure, readable, viewable, undamaged, and locatable is constant and continuous. Having the staff members that are able to be technical visionaries and more than just competent, who can withstand the currents of constant change in this area, is vital. It is not an easy feat to accomplish, but a necessary one. It requires those who work in this field to keep their skill levels up to date and impeccable.

Digital Preservation certainly has its challenges and issues, but it is so important to our society in so many ways. It opens doors to more knowledge and information that we can even imagine and provides in by various methods and avenues, like HistoryPin and the infamous Google. Professionals in this area are confronted continuously to stay on top of the skills and technically advanced. There are many considerations to be made but they are certainly worth every effort to provide access to everyone. Digital preservation once upon a time meant just getting it copied when it could be and however it could be done. Not anymore.

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Giving More Than A Look

It is always interesting to me to see how people, businesses or organizations plan how to approach a project. I have worked for companies that decided that something need to be created or fixed and just proceeded to do it from only that viewpoint and with little information to support it. The problem also included how they chose to do what needed to be done. Many times, just like making the decision of what needed to be created or changed was only as they saw the issue or need to be, it was all about how they wanted to fix it. Sometimes there wasn’t a problem until they started making changes. They seldom made inquiries as to how the clients felt.

In the articles regarding the user experience, it was great to see how much work went into these projects. In the article on the California Digital Library, a lot of thought, effort, and ideas were used to approach a positive and useful website design. There were different techniques used to collect various kinds of data to enhance usability. Each technique had a purpose and brought its own specific type of information. CDL didn’t just have a thought on what needed to be done and chose a way to do it that seemed appropriate then just went with it. It was important to them to get it right and make a truly usable website.

Users must battle so often with attractive sites that prove to be inadequate in providing an experience that may or may not elicit the appropriate information and completely stresses the user out in the process. When techniques are implored like the use of focus groups, interviews, questionnaires, and the all-important usability testing many of the challenges are done away with and a user positive website design is created. As stated previously, each of these tools gathers diverse types of information that are important to getting a user-friendly site and provide a quality user experience. To see this much effort put into a design is fantastic. It shows the importance of the user to this organization.

You cannot undervalue the voice of the user. To not hear the concerns brought forth by the user, I believe, becomes a loss for the website owner. When users are frustrated, stressed out, or just unable to successfully navigate a website, they are going to move on or be a constant source of complaints, and bad publicity. It’s not worth it to ignore their needs.

Usability in website design is a critical area that is often overlooked. I believe this is a significant error. The website created may be a beautiful work of art, but the user wants more than an attractive space to admire. The user needs for the site to be easy to navigate and understand or it is basically useless. It is best to just use the available tools to get the best and diverse data and then test it out. The time is not a loss but an investment. But don’t leave it at that. Hear the voice of the user and try to incorporate the ideas received and correct the areas of complaints. This is how you keep users coming to your site repeatedly.

Although to be fair, I did come across a study that considers the impact by the aesthetics of a website on the user. In 2016, Jiang, Wang, Tan, and Yu conducted a study that revealed that aesthetics had a larger effect on the user than did the usefulness of the website. While this may be true, I would not put all my eggs in that basket. In a time where so many things are digital the competition for users is increasing steadily it seems. The user experience can no longer be ignored in the planning and implementation of website design. More and more reluctant or inexperienced, along with expert computer users of online resources are making choices as to where they will spend their time and money. It is time for the online experience to become as seamless as possible and bring about a positive and productive encounter.

 

References

Hearst, M. “The Design of Search User Interfaces.”

Jiang, Z. (Jack), Wang, W., Tan, B. C. Y., & Yu, J. (2016). The Determinants and Impacts of Aesthetics in      Users’ First Interaction with Websites. Journal of Management Information Systems, 33(1), 229-259. https://doi-org.libdata.lib.ua.edu/10.1080/07421222.2016.1172443

Lack, R. (2006). The Importance of User-Centered Design: Exploring Findings and Methods. Journal of       Archival Organization, 4(1), 69–86. Retrieved from  http://libdata.lib.ua.edu/login?url=https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&htdb=eric&AN=EJ885104&site=eds-live&scope=site