Download project deliverables -
I am very happy to announce that the final project deliverables are now ready and can be accessed freely by clicking on the link above. Have fun diving in!
Very happy to announce that we did our prize draw today morning, and we have our winners. The draw was done at CARET, and witnessed by our lovely administrator Stephanie Saunders.
Here are the winners:
Personal Reading and Book Diaries:
1st prize (choice of Amazon Kindle or same value book tokens)
2nd prizes (£30 Amazon vouchers)
1st prize (choice of Amazon Kindle or same value book tokens)
Congratulations to all of you and thanks very much for participating in the project - you are all awesome.
Yes - well, almost. Last Friday I presented the initial findings and ideas to Anne Jarvis (UL Librarian), John Naughton (Arcadia project director), John Norman (Head of IT at UL and CARET), and Patricia Killiard (Head fo Electronic Services at UL). The initial response and feedback was very positive, so I am hyper excited by the prospect of setting things into motion and start actually creating some awesome things.
At the moment I am working on creating the final artefacts, to publish them here and share all findings and ideas. Tomorrow I will also arrange the drawing of the prizes, so stay tuned and watch this space!
After coming back from the Christmas break, I started the design phase of the project. Actually most of the times I think, there is a bit of a mystery and magic around transforming user research data into usable designs. My hand wanted to grab a pen a draw boxes on paper, thinking of zillions of ideas and features which would help people do things better. But again, my brain disagreed and luckily managed to hold this back, as I felt that I am jumping ahead too quickly, cutting corners.
The first thing I needed to do was to get all the things which I have learnt out of my head. The great people at Head London design agency helped me a lot in this, and together we found an easy and understandable process to start shaping understanding into useful solutions. As a first step we wrote up all of the key findings on post-its and prioritised them on a huge wall. An example of such a post-it would be: “The large group of students have problems accessing required readings”. This was an extremely useful activity, which forced me to spell out findings and making sure that I can communicate those to people outside of the project. The next step wast to formulate design goals, based on the prioritised findings. This is actually a hard task to do, since a lot of the times, people would naturally formulate “pseudo” design goals which are actually not design goals at all, but rather an attribute of the system we are trying to create. Very useful to understand the difference, and being able to formulate unique and relevant design problems is crucial. We ended up with 5-6 very good design goals like “How do we help avoid book shortages?”, which served as a basis for the next activity: ideation.
The reason behind clear design problems is not only being able to articulate and communicate. They serve as starting points and triggers for ideas, which tries to solve a given design problem. The way we approached was to have a large number of ideas solving each of the design problems, in the form of user journeys, which had to contain an actor, an object and a goal. Expressing ideas this way, almost like simple cartoon strips, encourages designers to think of user flows rather than individual features or functionality. Features are assembled by disseminating, combining and evaluating all these flows. Once features are there, through a prioritisation activity we can start drawing a bird’s eye view of the system, and mapping out how different features connect, to best support the design goals and the user journeys. This is when my brain is comfortable with drawing, and this is where finally sketching of individula screens can begin.
Another interesting thing which I managed to get a better understanding in with the help of Head, is the ability to communicate design findings. They showed me a number of different ways to visualise complex relations and complex data. Very useful. I realise that without pictures this is dry and unimpressive, but please bear with me, I will make all this more visual once the design phase is completed and the final artefacts are made which is very close now.
Since the last post was in December before breaking for Christmas I will try to briefly summarise what happened since I conducted the hangout sessions and the library visits.
I have spent most of the time before the Christmas break on analysing all the data which came in through the interviews, diaries, the focus focus group and the hangouts. This was no easy task, since I have a lot of data. I listened to all of the interviews again, and made notes off all what the students said, following my usual “Life”, “Actions”, “Discovery”, “Organisation”, “Social” and “Technology” themes and sorting all the information according to these. Then I looked at all of the diaries, and created a cleaner digital version of each, visually drawing out all of the reading activities, categorising them and counting all of the durations. This also enabled me to create easy to read accounts of reading activities for each diary, with some basic quantifiable data. Since I did 4 hangout sessions, 8 interviews, numerous library visits, and armed with all what I experienced working at a library, I already understood quite a lot about reader behaviour and motivations, but the diary study data addd some depth and quantifiable validation to those assumptions. As a final validation step I organised an online survey which actually just started a couple of days ago, with the view to validate my overall assumptions and reach a wider audience with my questions. Thanks to Google Forms, the data from this can be easily disseminated and I am receiving a good number of free text inputs, describing real life problems and experiences around reading. By the time I went away for Christmas, my head was already full of experiences and understanding and a warm fuzzy feeling of assurance, since I knew all this stuff comes from actual people doing things in real life.
Last week (-2 days holiday) and this week I spent organising and conducting “hangout” sessions. A hangout session is spending time with a student, shadowing his/her activities for about half a day and observing how people read and do related activities such as note taking, searching etc… These sessions proved to be one of the most data rich experiences, and I feel I have learnt a tremendous amount, even though I only had 4 sessions so far. The ability to observe in context and have the opportunity to clarify things soon after an action proved to be very valuable and brought up many issues which I am starting to try to consolidate in my head and on paper. I did a bit less interviews and hangout sessions than initially planned, but now I am actually glad that I still have a few incentives available: I can use those at design stage to get some feedback on prototypes and sketches.
As the data from the diaries comes in (which has started now) and as I process all the incoming information so far, I would like to start organising for the validation survey. This is tricky for various reasons: students are mainly at home at this time of the year (although they can participate online) and the analysis phase of the project is closing in shortly next week. My aim is to have a preliminary online survey set up by the end of this week, and with luck publish it next week when I started to make sense of the available data. This way the survey will not be a standalone probe, but would build organically on the top of all the data gathered so far, validating assumptions which are already formulating in my head. The survey probably will run in parallel with the design stage to allow wider student participation.
This week I also plan to visit some departmental libraries to get a sense of variety and understand some of the issues around physical spaces. Another thing which is in progress is organising 2 days in the design phase at a commercial design company, allowing me to bounce off ideas with other user experience and information architecture professionals, which I think will be very valuable - he ability to creatively challenge a piece of work like this is very important I think.
I realise that I haven’t been doing very well on keeping up with my weekly whacky posts, the reason is that I simply had no time to think about things like that in the past few weeks. I am hoping now that the observation period is coming to an end this will change.
Last week was very busy, but extremely productive. My head is full of fresh experiences, and a LOT of data which I am trying to let sink in. I am consciously making an effort not to get bogged down with details at the moment, and keep a fairly high level eye on everything. Here is a short account on what I have been through the last week, adding some thoughts along the way.
Last week I finished all the planned interviews, managing to speak to 8 students. Luckily I had access to a diverse crowd and the amount of things I managed to uncover is pretty good. My approach here was to have semi-structured discussions, meaning the conversation touched on a number of base topics such as Discovery, Organisation, Actions, Daily life, Technology, Emotions and Social interactions, but was not pre-scripted allowing to organically explore the topics with the participants. Each interview was recorded, so that I will be able to spend more time making notes of them during the analysis phase of the project, and allowing me to spend only a little time after each interview gathering my thoughts and impressions.
The first things which struck me as I went ahead with the interviews is that students are extremely helpful and accommodating when they see how a piece of research can impact their daily life. For me this yet again proves that the student community is more than willing to engage with activities like this, we just simply don’t tend to take advantage of this incredible resource often enough. However I made a mistake when planning the project: the amount of time needed to organise the interviews and the physical location of the interviews meant that my library observation had to be constantly interrupted. I vastly underestimated the lead in and out time around the interviews and the amount of time needed just to maintain email correspondence with students. Next time I know that these two activities can not be done in parallel.
Last Thursday (Dec 1) we held a 2 hour long focus group with 5 students. I had 7 students signed up, but 2 had to drop out due to university commitments. Again this proved to be an excellent way of finding out more about experiences, desires and values. The first part of the focus group was spent on moderated discussion around the base topics mentioned above. Then we split into 2 groups and embarked on a mission to construct a robot and fairy which would serve in a library. The activity was really fun, and the general feedback was very positive. We concluded the session with a short discussion on technology and the students sent messages in a bottle for future students on reading. For this activity I asked my colleague Anne-Sophie to help me out with note taking. She used the wall of the room to take notes on post-it notes and organise them in real-time according to the base topics, and differentiating between who said what. We ended up with an almost full wall (5m) of organised notes, and the standard voice recording of the whole session.
On Friday I had my first “hangout” session with a Philosophy/Psychology student at the Trinity library. This was one of the most “data rich” experiences in the project so far, the amount of detail you can capture just spending informal time with a student is astonishing. She gave me a tour of the library and then she went on to do what she would normally do in the library, with me shadowing her in the background and peeking over her shoulder to her screen. During the session she was very helpful and offered clear explanations on why she is doing certain activities. Definitely one of the highlights so far, and one of the best use of the £30 Amazon vouchers so far.
Besides all the above, I worked at the English Faculty Library when I had time, and observed what’s going on. This was quite fragmented, but still managed to make quite a bit of notes and now I can see some patterns/regulars which wouldn’t have seen otherwise. As I said earlier, next time I will not plan observation and other major activities on the same week as it is impossible to do them well, however I was somewhat forced considering how close the end of term is (was).
This week I will continue with hangouts, and gradually switch over to focusing more on visiting more libraries and doing more observations. At some point I will also need to start thinking about the things I learnt and start to construct an online validation survey for my assumptions. Luckily there are still students here and the library is still not empty…
Personal Reading Diary -
Personal reading diaries are now available to download.
Click here to download it
The aim of a personal reading diary is to capture a student’s reading, and reading related activities with some context. The diary should be kept for 7 days, then sent back before 19th of December 2011. Each line in the diary should be ﬁlled with one reading event. A reading event is any activity you do, which involves academic reading, or related activities such as time at the library, searching for books, reading online journals, constructing a reading list with a supervisor regardless of its place or whether it is online or ofﬂine.
Everybody who keeps and returns a personal reading diary will be entered into a draw for an Amazon Kindle e-reader or the same value in book tokens. As an additional prize, 5 £30 Amazon voucher will also be drawn out among participants.
Book diary -
The downloadable book diary form is now available.
Click here to download it
Book diaries follow the life of a book whilst out on loan. The idea is that a borrower who borrows a book from a library would record the activities in this diary related to a specific book, even if the book gets passed on to another person, who would need to continue the diary. The aim is to capture contextual information on when, how, why, and who uses the book - so the diary should be kept alongside the book as much as possible. The ideal time for this would be on 2 day to 2 week loans, and the diaries should be returned by 19 of December, 2011.
Everybody who keeps and returns a book diary will be entered into a draw for an Amazon Kindle e-reader or the same value in book tokens. As an additional prize, 5 £30 Amazon voucher will also be drawn out among participants.