Our class assignment was to strengthen the library's role in its local community, with a focus on career assistance.
We first set out to verify this problem and found data showing that many libraries struggled to stay relevant, due to a lack of awareness for their services. We interviewed both patrons and librarians to contextualize our research. Our solution addressed key problems introduced in these interviews such as finding career resources, search optimization, and modernization of library websites.
This was presented to three different instructors, all of which gave very positive feedback. (Unfortunately, this project ended shortly before COVID-19 started spreading in the US, so we were not able to follow up with the librarians or patrons to see what they thought of the final product)
See more info about the team, tools, and timeline in the next slide.
Local libraries replete with career services
The pre-assigned project brief scenario evolved around data that showed how library usage increased across the US over the past 10 years by 20%, and as much as 50% for library programs. Local libraries seemed to be the cornerstone for people who needed help keeping up with an increasingly digital world, from housing resources to skills training to entrepreneurial research and more.
We did a competitive analysis, contextual inquiries, and user interviews with subject matter experts as well as library patrons to establish a better understanding of the problem. These are the key issues we uncovered:
There is a large number of career development software and events already available at libraries that were underutilized and difficult to find.
The biggest issue for librarians was a lack of awareness for all the services they offered (skills-training events, statewide library network, bill-pay assistance, etc)
Many patrons used the library to learn new skills, but did not often find what they wanted at their local library.
User Research Insights
A lack of awareness for available resources
We needed to understand more about how library patrons went about using library resources. My group created personas, customer journey maps, and user stories to visualize the disconnect between the library providing resources, and the patrons unable to find those resources.
We pulled out some critical pain points:
Interview participants often got lost trying to navigate local library websites.
All the people we interviewed had a hard time with technology, but roughly half would persist despite how frustrated they were, while the other half would seek help.
Some of the most in-demand resources were for gaining technical skills, yet those were some of the most difficult resources to find or afford.
Dewey more with your local library
With all this data, we realized that the simplest yet most effective solution was to make it incredibly easy to find everything the local library offered. We could do this by applying modern gestalt principles to our designs and strategically building out the information architecture.
We used several iterations of task flows, site maps, paper prototypes, and conducted a card sorting exercise with library patrons to inform our site architecture.
I was responsible for building out the Technical Books flow, Career Development section, Navigation, and final homepage. I also took on the task to animate the prototype in Principle.
We decided to use a card-based design to ensure simplicity, as well as to have a responsive design that can be used on mobile.
I insisted on Technical Books being an expansive, standalone section because our research data showed that people searched for these types of books the most, but had difficulties finding them.
We only had the opportunity to test the final design with 4 library patrons, but they each easily accomplished tasks that often failed using library sites.
All 4 test participants were successfully able to find events, specific books, and career development resources like Lynda.com through direct paths (3-5 clicks).
All 4 patrons thought the design was more enjoyable and easier to use than the library and government sites they usually experience.
We presented our design concept and final deliverables to 3 other instructors who critiqued our design decisions and strategy. They also responded very positively to our solution.
In the future, we would spend more time with the accessibility settings to ensure they were easy to find. Additionally, we would build and test out the mobile design as well.