Libraries for Life

annusia balan
Jul 3, 2016 · 4 min read

Working in a team of 3 to redesign National Library Board’s (NLB) mobile app in 10 days!

Libraries in Singapore are loved by many, far more than one would imagine (or hear about when working at one). Its offerings spans programmes, research, archives and reading of course. People of various demographics journey to libraries for all sorts of reasons — to borrow a book, meet an author, browse for inspiration or even take respite from our tropical heat.

Though all seems rosy on the polished front, the number of visitors and readers have been dwindling over the last few years. Libraries have had to battle other sources of information and grapple with higher expectations of services.

So where does one begin when redesigning the library’s mobile app?

That would have been a tough question to pose to anyone but a user experience designer. The answer: research!

People of differing age, race and background were deliberately picked to minimise the risk of ending up with skewed results that many small-scale projects suffer from. The series-loving pre-teen, the disgruntled working adult and the nostalgic senior flooded our research with insights and meaningful anecdotes.

Thorough evaluation of other library apps and NLB products added more meat to the research, and therefore more pressure to the team. There were a lot of considerations and not many days left.

So how does one make sense of the mess?

Post-its, of course!

Analogous colours help.

It also helps when you have the spirit of 2 other dogged team members, who tirelessly committed every insight to a post-it each. Rounds of quiet contribution and raucous disagreements triumphed in a decent affinity map that was barely the start of regaining order in this project.

My team members are part-robot. :)

Personas and customer journey maps were built upon existing research, giving us at that very instant, an aaha moment! Though disagreements continued over how something should be presented nobody raised any issue over what should be designed for — bless the personas and their journey maps for taking care of that.

Ben Tan, the otaku
Andrea Ng, the analyst
Ah Soh, the tiger mum

So what did the personas actually do for the project?

Everything, they did everything.

They informed the ideation process that went from unreal to costly. Though we eventually gave in to the whims of imaginary developers and businessowners, we never compromised the experience of our personas.

They were with us from sketches, wireframes and the final prototype.

However, we were a decidedly sensible lot. We had to test our prototype to ensure it did indeed meet the needs of our personas.

So did our personas test the prototype?

Unfortunately, time did not allow us the hunt for our Ben, Andrea and Ah Soh. Instead these lovely people examined the prototype and gave us much work and little sleep.

So let me just end off with happened in the end.

We resolved the issues identified in our problem statement, delivered a 15 minute presentation and are now excited about turning this UX project into a service design one.

And all of the above would not have been possible without the tenacity of Eugene Low and Evonne Ong.

annusia balan

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