Friday, February 10, 2012

If You Build it, Will They Come? Building a Mobile Library App

Curious about building a library mobile app so you can reach your users where they are? (Especially if they're teens.) Well, it's certainly worth a shot, especially if it's free or really reasonably priced.  So, where to begin? There are many ways to build an app, with some being more complicated than others. Here are a few options for you:

The first way is using LibGuides Mobile Site builder. Since there are so many librarians using LibGuides, it might be the easiest way to get into the mobile market. It's how I built mine.  It's super easy to configure, and you can add 10 main menus on the page, with an option for many sub-menus. You can also customize the color and you can insert whatever icons you want to make it visually appealing.

I also like it because of the seamless integration with LibGuides. The LibGuides site already displays in a mobile format, so the mobile site and the LG site are seamlessly integrated.

You have a choice of inserting a redirect in your main library website that directs to your mobile site. Or you can simply advertise the mobile website URL in a QR code or a link on your main website. So, if you aren't the webmaster of your school or library, then you can still use this option.

WEBMOBI is another choice. It has a free option and several upgraded pay versions. You have complete control over the design and it works well with pictures and videos. It's looks a little more involved than the LG option, but that also gives you more freedom on the design.

If you've downloaded the ALA Conference app, you'll be familiar with BOOPSIE. Public and Academic libraries are using Boopsie because of its seamless integration with Overdrive and library catalogs. You can read more about it here. It's not free, but it looks to have all the options you could want in a mobile app builder. This is a "proper" mobile app where you go to the app store and download it, not simply a redirect.

Finally, our world wouldn't be complete if Google didn't also have a mobile site option. You don't have to use the Google Sites for your full size website, it's a standalone product. Here's the link to check out all it can do. I'm not sure how savvy it is for libraries, so I'm curious to see if anyone implements a mobile site via Google. Although, from my experience with Google Sites, it will be pretty easy to build.

After doing a cursory search, you'll notice that there are a ton of options our there for building your mobile site. Your first question should be, "What will my users want to do on the go?"

  • Will they be browsing the catalog or reserving books online? 
  • Will they be doing research on the go? 
  • Should you have your database mobile apps in a super easy place to find? 
Since we have some mobile ebook options coming up in the near future, I'll be thinking about how to make that tool front and center on our mobile app.

Will they come?
I'll be asking my students for feedback. We'll be surveying them in the next few weeks to see if we're missing something or if the design is faulty in some way. They'll be sure and let us know. So, will they use the mobile app? To be continued...

If you build a mobile site, share it with me. I'm curious how other libraries and patrons will be using today's new "on the go" services.