Sunday, April 17, 2005

Listening to Your Users Isn't Stupid!

Don't miss Todd Miller's column in the March 15 issue of Library Journal. In the column, "In Defense of Stupid Users," Miller questions librarians' general disregard of federated searching.

Google gives its users a pitiful solo search box. How can it compete? The answer from the old guard is that it's dumbed down. The reality is that Google gives its customers what they want: simple searching, powerful results.

As Miller explains best, listening to users and giving them a single search box is good marketing. It means your finding out what users want and then giving it to them.

This is not lowest common denominator; it is listening to the market and giving it precisely what it wants.

Users just want to find the answers, right? Most of them don't want to know the intricate ways to do an advanced search in every single database that's available. You don't have to have a computer science degree to use a computer. You don't need to be a nutritionist to figure out the basics of eating healthy. Should users really be expected to know expert search skills just to get information to write a paper or research to complete a work project? Miller would answer this question with a resounding no.

The job of information professionals is not to make all users into information professionals. Our job is either to give them the right tools for the job or do the job for them.

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