Find out who your users are. Remember that no matter who the target audience is, you always have a diverse user population. Librarians are your users. Students are your users. Faculty & staff are your users. Members of the public are your users. People of many ages, skill levels, degree of ability and background are all your users. Each one searches differently. How does your tool cater to their needs?
Let your users generate & change content. The larger your tool, the more you need this. Your organization’s workers won’t look at every remote record, but your users will. That’s the power of the long tail- -put your users to work, by having them correct and enhance records. A “report this page” link should be on every page of your site. Are you worried about vandalism and authority? Just make it a mediated process, and the technicians who normally would be tasked with fixing records will now approve user-changed/enhanced content. Unpaid volunteer workers–what administrator wouldn’t want that?
Fix it yesterday. Have we become an impatient society? Yes. And yet, users are willing to wait for ILL and other in-person services, but they want web-based tools to work instantaneously. After all, they can get it instantaneously elsewhere. There are always ways to improve turnaround time, and your competitors are already using them. All it takes is one negative experience to lose a user forever (just ask Friendster).
But you didn’t tell me to include profiles, wikis, or any other 2.0 tools?!? You’re right! Because the Web 2.0 and Library 2.0 concepts aren’t about tools–they’re about users, and making the user experience easier and richer. Just like the Internet Bust of the ’90s, many of the tools you see today will disappear or be merged with time. What you should be doing is asking your users what they want, because they will be be the ones to come up with the next “big idea” for your business, based around what they want and need. And it is in making those ideas a reality that will give your business the edge.
Oh yeah, and ask your users. Yup, I’m saying it again. Are you redesigning your interface? Ask the users. Want to introduce a natural language search? Ask your users. Thinking of adding tags? Ask your users. Want to go out for Italian at lunch? Ask your users. The users are your audience–they are who you are writing/building/creating/coding/designing for. To create anything without their input is a waste of time and energy.