Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Taking a look at the New USPTO Website: The "How do I?" menu

There's an argument among librarians about whether it is best to identify information sources on websites and in physical spaces by their proper names or to identify them based on the type of questions that might bring a person to that source. Should we put a sign on the reference desk that says "reference desk" or should the sign say "ask?" On the website, should the link say "databases" or should it say "find articles here?" The concern we're trying to address is that jargon, of which there is much in libraries, is a barrier to navigating the library.

The correct answer is probably a combination of the two, based on the situation. (For instance, catalog could be considered low-grade jargon, but it seems to be the best noun to describe what it is, so why not call it the catalog but use the verb search or something along those lines. I'm sure you're all fascinated with this hot debate.)

The new USPTO employs the FAQ-style technique to great effect in the new "How do I..." menu at the right-hand corner of the webpage header. They've taken a list of the most common tasks that people accessing the site wish to complete and linked information about how to complete those tasks. It aids navigation through an enormous site, addresses common information needs, and includes a link to a list of PTDL libraries. Perfect!

No comments: