Library Instruction Tutorials: Bottom-Up Design Structures for Maintenance and Scalability (take one)

Sean Cordes from Iowa State University

Sean opens by talking about Pong, the Atari game that many of us grew up with, and makes the point that even though it is simple; it is still engaging.

When we first started building web sites, we could envision the entire site in our heads, but now the complexity of the web and our sites are overwhelming (attributed to Peter Morville). I think this is sometimes the reason why our websites get out of our control and we end up with web sites, or tutorials, that do not make sense.

Though we have to divide the labor because of the size of our sites, we also need to make sure that we do not become so specialized that we lose sight of the mission of the web site and organization. The mission has to be balanced within the structure of the library or even the tools themselves. Sean gave the perfect example of the iPod which basically uses a technology we have had for years, downloading files from a computer, and creates something “new,” portable music.

“Users don’t know what an index is. Even when they are looking at it.” Developers have to pick structures that make sense and can function within the structure. Tutorial systems should be meaningful and they should be tested.

There are questions that we should ask (based on Ranganathan’s PMEST) What are trying to teach people? What is it made from? What activities take place around the tutorial? Where will users do the tutorials? How will things change over time?

Tips for designing:

    Our users should always know what to do and they should not have to guess
    There is a diversity in our users and we should recognize that
    Avoid jargon
    There should be a place for feedback

Tutorials are often similar to web sites, but they stand alone from most web sites. They are complex, require other tasks or tools, often require interaction from users, they have to be accessible, require frequent revision, use a digital tool to describe a digital tool, and coordination from many sources.


    Using effective file structures/structures that make sense
    Use style sheets
    Design with expansion in mind
    Use relative font sizes and scalable graphics (this makes it easier to make changes later on and will allow different browsers to view things correctly)
    Use fluid layouts


    Make it easy and make it vanilla. In order for a tutorial to be portable it must be simple.
    Reduce HTML tags
    Reduce image file sizes
    Is it printable?

Sean makes a good point here because to reach our users, which are often undergraduates in Academia, we need to think about what kind of devices they might be using to view the tutorials. Will they be on a desktop in the library or in their dorm room? Will they view it on their phone or blue tooth device? Could they listen to it on their iPod?

The future of tutorials includes RSS, podcasts, wikis, blogs, and CMS tools.

Sean’s main theme: design for use, test, design for the future, test, keep the mission in mind, and test