SCOPE: Interactive Mid-Fidelity Prototype

DURATION: 2 weeks

OBJECTIVE: Redesign website and mobile app

ROLES: Research, User Interviews, Ideation, Sketching, Information Architecture, Prototyping, Usability Testing

TOOLS: Sketch, InVision

CONTEXT: Mock client, group project

PROTOTYPES: Website  | Mobile App


Chicago Public Library’s goal is: “…to inform, educate, inspire and surprise visitors online, on site and on tour, and its vision is to transform the library into a cultural destination for all.”


Our assignment was to design a new feature to assist the library in this goal.


Chicago Public Library  currently enjoys amazing scope and community reach:

  • With 80 locations and a vast physical catalog throughout the city as well as digital assets online, CPL serves approximately 9 million patrons, with over 1 million people having library cards
  • With 2,000 free public access computers (making them the largest provider in Chicago) CPL provided 2.5 million free public access computer sessions and over 3 million free Wi-Fi sessions

With a client with such vast community and cultural impact, we were excited by the challenge, but our team knew we’d need some really solid research. So where does one do research? Oh right, the library. See what I did there?



In developing the plan, we wanted to determine:

  •   How people are using the library?
  •   How people feel about the physical space?
  •   Do people currently use the website and how they feel about it?
  •   Do they attend events/programs?


We began by conducting a series of user interviews on-site at the Harold Washington Library Center (HWLC), by phone and also developed a survey to begin formulating user profiles. Surprisingly, despite the library’s aspirations to serve as a cultural destination, that is not what users experience when they encounter the physical library space.

We discovered that users typically consider the Harold Washington Library Center to be cold, overwhelming, and out of proportion. Lacking in human scale with a stark interior, its gray walls and books arranged in large metal shelves, the library does not inspire a sense of comfort or connection.

The majority of our users saw HWLC as a place to check out a book and usually place it on hold so they don’t have to stay. If they wanted to spend hours studying, they look for other cozy places like a bookstore. People preferred their local branch because it is familiar and is more manageable.


In this portion of our research, users we interviewed found the current structure to be visually appealing but cluttered and hard to extract information. It does not draw the user in to visit the library. Multiple users mentioned navigation and that finding what they needed was cumbersome. They like the information they find, it just takes effort to find it.


“I look on the website for books before the library” “Found out about story time online”

“Download e-books, audio books, etc. from other websites, NOT CPL”

“The website is more welcoming than the space.”

“Tasks I didn’t do often were confusing”

“Hard to figure out at first”


Initial competitive analysis focused on other major metropolitan libraries in New York, Boston and Los Angeles. We wanted to see how other comparable institutions were addressing the modern library user. Research revealed that online, these libraries were placing a larger focus on in-library events and programming, with less of a focus on books.


  • Users avoid going to HWLC because they feel it is cold, depressing, uninviting
  • Users feel the HWLC is too large and avoid going there because they can get lost and that it’d be too time consuming to check out books in such a large space
  • The main reason people go to a library to is to check out books
  • Parents are more likely to attend the programs and events at their local branch
  • Users prefer their local library because it’s simpler to get to, more manageable and it feels familiar
  • Users feel a particular ownership, bordering on passion about their local branch
  • Users like the overall look of the website, would use the website, but feel it can be confusing
  • A site redesign is not a priority, rather, the priority is updated IA that better reflects what the library offers


How might we: Make the “Get a Book” process as simple as possible

How might we: Introduce the user to the library as a cultural destination over time

How might we: Equip the user with tools to find information they need (books/events/resources)

How might we: Create a stronger sense of community between library and user

How might we: Create FREE ACCESS FOR ALL


After exploring a number of iterations in sketch format, we developed a desktop solution that simplified the search process making that element the most dominant visual feature. A single search bar was tabbed for specialized searches in the areas of Books/Media, Events, and Community Resources. This was done with an avid reader persona in mind. Based on our research, we considered this to be our primary user.



However, after testing this solution that this was still not serving the institutional goal of positioning the library as a “cultural destination” by failing to showcase or “invite” the user into an experience at the library. Though the programs existed, our solution did not adequately address this problem.

Ultimately, we had to execute a design that reflected both the user goals and business goals:

A place to get books

An attraction and destination a valuable place for learning, comparable to a museum or other cultural institution


We rethought our user wants/needs and what their entry point looks like on the website side to bring them into the physical space and make the library a place for knowledge as well as exploration. What do they need to make the library a cultural destination, and how can we create easy user pathways for users

In addition we reframed our competitive analysis on other local cultural destinations, focusing on The Field Museum, MSI and Lincoln Park Zoo. We noted that Lincoln Park Zoo far out drew the other two venues. One major difference is that LPZ does not charge admission and in fact provides FREE ACCESS. But each of these cultural attractions uses their website to bring what they offer to the front of people’s minds. It’s clearly presented to the user in a way that’s easy to see and engage with. Not so with the CPL website.

Click here to link to the desktop prototype


Our updated iteration included three main features to address our user needs, as represented by our user research as well as the institutional goals:


QUICK SEARCH: Every user is entering the library site from a unique access point. Some seeking books, others for events and books, or solely seeking events, while others are looking for job resources, Wi-Fi access etc. We position all of these prominently, with equal importance, so that no matter your user path, there is a clear path for each user.

Click here to link to the mobile prototype

VISUAL INTERFACE: Draws our user in and compels them to explore what they can experience in the physical space


USER PROFILE: Creates a bridge between a user’s book habits with their event habits, creating a tight feedback loop which continually informs on both sides to strengthens a user’s tie to the library in person and online.