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OVERVIEW

The Central Branch of the Seattle Public Library is resource-rich and architecturally stunning; however, finding resources in its physical space is difficult and confusing. 

Through a comprehensive process of research and need-finding, we designed an app that helps the patrons of the Seattle Public Library easily explore and navigate to resources in the library space.

Timeline
Jan 2019 – March 2019

Class
Interface Design I

Team
Cynthia He
Peter Mach

PROBLEM

One of the core goals of libraries is providing access to a wide range of information and services to the general public. However, the visitors of the Seattle Public Library face a major barrier in accessing its abundance of resources: not being able to locate what they need in the library space. There is a lack of connection between the information and the architectural space of the library; as a result, library staff are often answering basic questions about how to access information.

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SOLUTION

Our app helps the patrons of the Seattle Public Library easily navigate through the physical space of the library in relation to its resources, helping visitors create a mental map to easily find what they are looking for, thereby freeing up library staff from basic questions in order to engage in more outreach programs.

CONTRIBUTION

Primary and secondary research
Sitemap and task flows
Ideation and conceptual development

Prototyping
Low and high-fidelity wireframing
User testing

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PRIMARY RESEARCH

COMPETITIVE ANALYSIS

We began our need-finding process by conducting primary research in the form of librarian and patron interviews, and observation at the library. We learned about the main challenges that librarians and patrons have with the library experience, and by exploring and studying the space ourselves, experienced them first-hand.

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SECONDARY RESEARCH

To supplement our primary research, we audited the existing official library website, researched the architectural design of the building, and compared analogous indoor wayfinding experiences.

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SITEMAP & TASK FLOWS

To get a better understanding of the existing resources, how they're organized, and how they might be accessed in different ways, we created a sitemap of the official library website and three task flows representing three different use cases.

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FINDINGS

Through our research, several themes emerged:

1. There's an abundance of valuable resources in the library, but they're scattered and difficult to locate resources in the physical space.

2. Physically navigating around the library space is confusing and challenging, resulting in patrons getting lost and librarians often having to answer navigational questions.

3. The Central Branch library is a closely-linked hub for other libraries, leaving other library branches also unclear about how to navigate the Central Branch system.

How might we design a mobile app to help the SPL’s patrons digitally explore the library’s resources and easily locate them in the physical library space?

IDEATION

After defining our scope, we moved onto ideation. A few specific things we riffed on included different ways resource content could be organized, what a map view could look like and how to interact with it, and ways we could use visual cues during navigation in order to make moving through the space easier and more intuitive.

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PROTOTYPE

Next, we created screens to communicate our ideas.

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USER TESTING

We conducted user testing to see what was working well and how we could improve our design with patrons and librarians of the Central Branch.

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VISUAL DESIGN

The visual style of the app honors the original branding of the Seattle Public Library, reflecting its elegant and classic, yet open and modern persona.

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IMPLEMENTATION

Our proposed solution of an indoor navigation system may introduce additional technological costs for the library. To consider feasibility, we looked into what implementation looked like and found that there is existing, affordable Bluetooth beacon technology for indoor navigation.

FINAL VIDEO

View our final demo video below for a closer look of the final prototype.

REFLECTION 

During this project, I experienced how research methods, when combined, can paint a comprehensive picture of the user story. By conducting primary research and layering it with supplementary secondary research, we were able to unfold interesting insights and draw the connecting thread between them to better understand the problem.

This project also opened my eyes to the societal benefit of libraries. Libraries are more than just book-keeping institutions; they're community centers with an astonishing amount of program and resources for underserved populations, where everyone is welcome and learning is accessible to all.

This project is no longer in progress, but here's what our next steps would have been if we had more time:

  • Additional user testing and improvement
  • Scalability of implementation in other branches
  • Improve accuracy, readability, and visual style of maps
  • Closer consideration of language accessibility for ESL patrons

Thanks for reading!