NLB | National Library Board

Project 3 Retrospective: Re-designing the National Library Boards mobile application

1. Introduction:

We started out by drawing lots to assemble the project groups. I was grouped with Wendy, Rebecca and Terry, the only four person group and with the extra hands, meant extra responsibilty to go the extra mile for this project. The project objective was clear; to work in a team and identify problems and/or opportunities with an existing mobile application and utilise our knowledge to design a solution — we selected The National Library Board mobile application.

Although not familair with the application or Singapores library system I thought this was an interesting choice as it quickly became apparent that the current application intended to accomplish alot but failed to do so. An interesting challenge optimising the application to enhance the physical library experience while also considering the business needs of the National Library Board of Singapore (NLB).

On your marks….

The team set about establishing a two week programme, splitting up and priortising initial tasks, and deciding on the communication and collaboration channels to be used throughout the project.

2. Research & Evaluation:

We started off by screening external particpants for research interviews and also testing the app out on our fellow students conducting user recordings. Being able to watch the users movements and task responses back after the interview was very interesting because so much detail gets overlooked when having to concentrate on the person, the answer as well as the interviewees actions during the interview. The screener questions were created in Typeform and used to ascertain if participants were a suitable fit for further questioning based on library useage and knowledge of the existing application. At the same time, a content audit, current flow diagram and heuristic evaluation of the existing app was conducted. The pitfalls in the application began to appear…

Initial interviews and user app usage recordings
Current NLB content audit and heuristic evaluation notes
Current NLB flow diagram-compiled by Terry

Initial findings showed that, those that new of the application were not aware of the all the functions within it and many were simply overwelmed and confused with the amount of content on offer from the home screen that further exploration wouldn’t be attempted beyond that point (this can be seen from the flow diagram above). For those that did, would then find many parts of the applications flow ending without a CTA, prompt or offering of any affordance to the user leading to further confusion and the general feeling that…..

“The app doesn’t add any value or benifit to my library experience”

Due to the national Library not having any direct competitors, we looked further afield and conducted a competitive analysis on the New York Library and Audible as their business interests align similarly with NLB. Through comparing their user flow scenarios we determined that their user flows are more direct with there business requirements, with streamlined processes from search to checkout.

While these processes offered invaluable insight it still wasn’t enough and a visit to the Central Library for contextual inquiry and research to speak with active library users and staff was the next step.

Contextual study: using the library catalogue, locating the title and checking out using the NLB app

From ascertaining some initial pain points and then walking through the processes ourselves, gave us greater understanding of the issues users face and presented opportunities on how the user experience could be bettered in the re-design. We decided on making the process more efficient by re-organising and prioritising the catalogue and search functions from the home screen and incorporating beacon navigation technology to cut down on the time taken in locating books within the library.

3. Synthesising the research:

The group busy with the affinity mapping

After many interviews it was time to consolidate, transcribe, summarise and review the data..

Having now recorded and documented many interviews and contextual studies, as a group we started to formulate an affinity map and synthesis the data. The following essense statements evolved:

  1. Locating books within the library is the biggest pain point for the current users
  2. Users are unaware of a more convenient method to check out their books
  3. Users needs to plan their library visit in advance to maximise time and efficiency
  4. Users struggle to discover and locate ongoing events and facilities at the library

And it was from these observations that led to the formation of our two personas, Gavin and Kerri, and their Journey mapping that soon followed.

4. Persona and Customer Journey mapping:

Two personas were created using the results from our interviews, research and affinity diagram. Gavin Loh Jr, a second year student and and Kerri Tan, a Snr accountant.

Creating personas through affinity mapping findings

Gavin Loh

In summary: As a 2nd year university student, Gavin is preparing for his finals and is looking for a quite condusive environment to conduct his studies. He’s had bad experiences studying at home and in cafes either due to poor wifi, noise or disturbance. He always requires books for research and reference materials so plans to go to the library in the hope that his visit will meet all his needs.

Gavin Loh — customer journey mapping

Kerri Tan

In summary: Has always enjoyed visiting the library primarily because she loves to read but also because of the resource and free events on offer. She hopes to instill her love for books into her two young nephews and when looking after them for the day, often plans to take them to a library event for this purpose as well as making the most of her visit by returning/taking out some books of her own. She had a great experience with the kids at the library and during her visit saw an event that is of interest to her and plans to go again the following weekend.

Kerri Tan — customer journey mapping

5. Feature prioritisation & wireframing:

Moving on with the design phase, we decided on the key features to be incorporated in this iteration based on ease of implementation and impact to the business and users needs. This helped to prioritise the main issues to address in our prototype and was revised further due to usability testing of the low-fi prototype.

Feature prioritisation for imapct and ease of implementation

The design solutions we would prioritise are as follows:

  1. Re-organising search function of the catalogue
  2. Implementing Beacon navigation technology
  3. Highlighting facilities within each library
  4. Planning and diarising upcoming NLB events
  5. Consolidating events information


Top left and right: initial sketch wireframing Bottom left and right: Advanced wireframing iterations

We proceeded in implementing our design solutions into sketch form, ascertaining how best to enhance the application and user flow. A more detailed user flow wireframe was created and through paper testing, refined the flow and layout even further based on user feedback, before proceeding into development and further testing of the Low- Fi wireframe prototype.

Initial Low-fi wireframe prototype
Low- fi prototype provided insight into areas where the layout and flow could be improved upon and this was rapidly resolved and tested similtanously. Given the iminent presentation dead line, we would quickly turn to the hi-fi prototype with interactions.

6. Prototype, Flow diagrams & Usability testing

Hi Fi prototype created in Invision for testing. Wendy used Flinto to interact our prototype for the presentation

The Hi-fi prototype was in development as the low hi was being tested. This is where the four person group was beneficial as tasks could be spread and various components worked on at the same time. The Hi-Fi prototype would undergo a series of user testings, the most interesting of which were contextual basis at the library. Once we had conducted 5 usability tests, we met to analyise the findings and determine if any of the points raised should be incorporated into the prototype. The findings were very interesting and validated insights which we had discussed as a group but weren’t sure on how or whether to action them previously. With this in mind, I would want to take the prototype further with additional testing. Our testing prototypes were created in Invision, while Wendy was making the interactions for the presentation version in Flinto. As good a job as she did, the collaboration and team friendliness of the product is not great and wouldn’t be recommended for future projects.

gavin Loh — reworked user flow diagram following testing
Kerri Tan — reworked user flow diagram following testing
Break down of iteration enhancements made to prototype based on user feedback
Hi -Fi usability test report - conducted at Central Library

7. Final thoughts:

Our design set out to meld the pain points of the user with the business needs of the NLB. By utilising technology to reduce the human resource requirement for remedial tasks within the library, that would then free up that resource for important functions, such as marketing of the app and it’s benefits to the user.

This would be the biggest task for the NLB and with the functional redesign, I would propose exploring a rebranding campaign to align the application with demographic of the likely users and bridge the mental stigma of it being “ just a library application”.

By introducing the features to new users with a simple tutorial and making the features more visible within the app on a cleaner interface is another step in encouraging the use of the app and highlighting it’s benefits to the user. All while creating a seamless and holistic library experience at the users finger tips — from searching and borrowing book, to attending events and enjoying library facilities.

Next steps:

There were a number of features that could not have been included in this round of prototyping and I would still keep these in the nice to have column for now and focus on further minimising the steps required for check out, making the interface cleaner and more marketable to users and focus the next iteration towards audiobook playback and facility study space booking.

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