CHICAGO PUBLIC LIBRARY
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
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 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:
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.
CURRENT WEBSITE AUDIT
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
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.
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
ITERATION AND PROTOTYPING
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.
USER GOALS AND BUSINESS GOALS
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:
FOR OUR USER:
A place to get books
FOR THE LIBRARY:
An attraction and destination a valuable place for learning, comparable to a museum or other cultural institution
REFRAMING AND ADDITIONAL COMPETITIVE ANALYSIS
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
REDESIGNING A NEW ITERATION
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.
© 2017 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. RON ROWLAND