On the importance of Play!

Reading David King's posted thoughts to Ryan Deschamps discussion on Facebook and libraries got me thinking about the importance of entertainment value in creating library services.

I think Ryan makes some excellent points about making sure new services and products that we develop have an element that customers can identify with. But in looking at popular Facebook apps (as well as other successful web apps), it occurs to me that what makes these applications attractive to users is that a) they're useful b) easy to use and c) have an element of fun!

Entertainment value or "play" often seems to be an important element that is often overlooked in the development of library services. In developing our products and services, we tend to only focus on the first two, ease of use and utility. Seldom do we build in "experiences" to our products that allow our users to "play" -- unless, of course we're aiming to attract only the under 4 foot crowd.

Experience is the key word here -- and I know this topic is close to David's heart as well -- and it seems to me that this is an element of online development that most libraries really don't have a good handle on yet.

Ryan points out that in developing online apps "we need to give something with which the user will identify" and provides an example of how this translate in a library-like Facebook application:

"Off the top of my head, how about an application that provides a cartoony-like character that identifies the user as a certain kind of geek, according to a specific discipline? Then, the cartoon offers a series of articles, books and websites that display the geeky interest? For instance, an Anthro geek would have a series of citations related to Anthropology. This avenue is cheekier, more likely to be applied to a user’s page, and, in the end, a totally foreign approach to service for librarians."
"Cartoony-like character" & "cheeky"? These attributes of this popular library-like Facebook app seem to scream that entertainment value was (and is) a huge part in the design and appeal of this online application.

There's a lot to pay attention in this area, but I see this element of "play" creeping up everywhere in online development, even on "file not found -404 error" screens.

Entertainment value -- even the smallest elements of fun -- make a world of difference and as we move into new areas of product and service developement, we need to pay closer attention to "play" in order to compete and provide customers with meaningful experiences!

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