I was lucky enough to attend my work’s User Experience (UX) Research & Design training with UK’s UX trainer and consultant, Andy Priestner. It was a 4-day workshop and during that time, Andy introduced and showed us how we could apply UX research and design techniques in libraries.
I’ve always thought that the term ‘UX’ had something to do with websites, web usability or online experience. However, as Andy explained in the training the term UX now has a broader definition – it can now mean the experience that users have in any services and physical spaces.
The Research Method
We had a mixture of theory and practical activities. It was the practical tasks that I found quite interesting. Here are a few UX research techniques that I tried out when we went out in the field (ie. the library space and surroundings) to find out what our library users actually experience within our library space and online:
- Behavioural Mapping – this is an observational UX research technique where I had to watch and record where people went. I sat in one area of the library and this was what I observed in 20 minutes. My mapping looks like an artwork doesn’t it?
- Photo Diary – here I gave one of our library users a camera to take photos on a series of tasks while using the library. Here’s a photo of the most important thing she found in the library:
- Usability Testing – I’ve also asked one of our users to navigate through our website. As with every website, there are always usability issues that could be improved and ours is not an exception. Andy mentioned that there is a school of thought that says website designs should easily be navigated by a drunken person. Watch the following video:
On the second half of our fieldwork, we recruited some of our library users and conducted a short workshop whereby we asked them to write a break-up letter to the library. What amazing letters we received – they revealed a lot of insight on how our users see the library. Fascinating!
Some of my colleagues conducted other UX research techniques including:
- Guerilla Interview – users were interviewed briefly about the use of the library at various points and spaces around the library
- Touchstone Tour – here library users were invited to give the researcher a tour of the library space
- Cognitive Mapping – here library users were asked to draw a doodle that depicts ‘their understanding of what services the library offers’.
Coding the results
We gathered and coded all the data from our research using a variety of techniques and plenty of post-it notes (!) to uncover user priorities and preferences. Some of the techniques we used were:
- Card sorting – using post-it or sticky notes to write research responses
- Affinity Mapping – Categorising research data into different coloured post-it notes
- 685 (Idea Generation) – coming up with 6-8 ideas in 5 minutes in response to affinity mapped sticky notes
Prototyping and Piloting
It was fascinating to see the many ideas that our group came up with. But we needed to see if our ideas had ‘legs’. One way to find out was to test the ideas on our users using ‘prototypes’ or ‘pilots’. We did this on days 3 and 4 and yes there were more post-it notes and the humble butcher paper made an appearance. The main thing that Andy reminded us to remember when progressing through prototyping and piloting services and products was that IT’S ONLY A PILOT. It can be done now, cheaply and there’s no need for a committee to be formed.
Overall, I believe this was the most valuable professional training I’ve had so far this year. UX research and design should be an integral part of every organisational’s business activities. I hope this short article has helped you in any way to at least think about using UX research methods to improve your library services and products.
I’ve also tweeted a lot during the workshop. My twitter handle is @Karina_Tumon. I posted plenty of photos so feel free to rummage through my tweets to find other useful information from the workshop. Our trainer’s twitter handle is @andytraining. There are plenty of resources out there online and in books but here are some of Andy’s reading suggestions:
- The UX in Libraries Yearbook 2017: stories, techniques, insights (2017), edited by Andy Priestner.
- Published by UX in Libraries. http://uxlib.org/uxlibs-the-books/
User Experience in Libraries: applying ethnography and human-centred design (2016), edited by Andy Priestner and Matt Borg. Published by Routledge. http://uxlib.org/uxlibs-the-books/
- The UX in Libraries website: information on the book and the annual conference, plus links. http://www.uxlib.org
- Your Library Needs You! (UX recruitment tips) (2017), by Andy Priestner.
- Useful, Usable, Desirable: applying user experience design to your library, by Aaron Schmidt and Amanda Etches, ALA. http://www.alastore.ala.org
- The Weave Journal of User Experience is an open-access, peer-reviewed journal for Library User Experience professionals. http://weaveux.org/
- Interviewing Users by Steve Portigal. https://www.portigal.com/Books/interviewing-users/
- Just Enough Research by Erika Hall. https://abookapart.com/products/just-enough-research
- ERIAL Project and the resulting book College Libraries and Student Culture.
- Don’t Make Me Think Revisited: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability by Steve Krug. Published by New Riders.
- Studying Students: Nancy Fried Foster’s and Susan Gibbons’s seminal library ethnography publication. http://bit.ly/1RK930V