Langsdale Mobile: a user centered approach


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A look at the University of Baltimore Langsdale Library user driven mobile development project. Focus on an iterative design process, using mobile to solve our users unique access problems, and the digital divide many of them face.

Delivered to the Society for Scholarly Publication 2011 Fall Seminar on mobile applications.

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  • Today I will be talking to you a little bit about the user centered mobile development project we are working on at the University of Baltimore.
  • - College of Arts & Science - College of Public Affairs - Business School - Plus the Law School, served by a separate law library - 3,000 Undergrads - 2,000 Grad students - 1,000 Law students - Average age of 26
  • When I was first asked to develop a mobile presence for Langsdale I went out and downloaded as many University and library apps I could for my phone. I quickly noticed that they all seemed to pretty much offer the same sorts of things. -Catalog search -Hours -Contact Information Some had chat & sms-text reference. I got to thinking, do they offer these because that's what students want, or because that's what's easy?
  • And more importantly what would the students at the University of Baltimore want?   After all, our users are unique snowflakes.  Or, at least they are very different from students at many other schools. - Urban Campus - Non-traditional students - Online students - There is a very real economic digital divide.  Our faculty, and many gradstudents, have smart phones and tablets, but many undergrads do not. A telling reply that my GA, Margo, got when she was trying to user test an app for one of her classes: "I don't have a smartphone, just a dumb one."
  • This is why a User Centered Design approach is so important! We want to create a mobile presence that address the unique needs of our users, and specifically our undergrads.   Not what we think those needs are. Not what other schools think those needs might be. And we want a solution that works for the reality our students are working in. Through a generous grant from the Office of the Provost I have been able to fund a two semester long project, and hire  an extra GA to help run it. We are in our Assesment phase now 1) Asking students what they want  in a mobile app 2) Asking staff what kinds of questions do they get that could be answered by an app 3) Making our own first hand observations.
  • An iterative approach to design is at the heart of our strategy.  We have completed an initial paper-based survey. And a "flip chart" survey set up by the reference desk. Are conducting a gamestorming event tomorrow. And will be following up with another flip chart and several questions posted to our social media channels. Our production phase will begin in earnest in the Spring. - Initial prototype features finalized by end of this semester. - We are planning  on testing at least two prototypes before we complete our beta product by the end of Spring. - Further testing, and adjustment will continue for the life of the product.
  • One thing we have decided so far: we are not developing a native app.   Instead we will be taking a web-app approach.  Two reasons: 1)  Easier for rapid prototyping, and turn around. 2)  Based on feedback from an initial technology survey, a majority of our users interact with the library through laptops and desktop computers. We may be talking about mobile, but we want something that can potentially be useful to the users who rely on laptops they borrow from us.   And can be easily repurposed for our main website and e-learning site.  That said, we are also keeping an eye on vendors, like PhoneGap, who will translate your html5, javascript and CSS3 web-app into the major native apps.
  • One need that we have observed: The physical layout of the building, and arrangement of the stacks, has become a significant barrier to access. So are focusing on what will become an interactive map of the library. Our initial prototype, which is almost done, will be a series of paper handouts and poster sized maps. Once we've figured out the best way to represent the building, we'll translate those maps to a mobile web format. Taking the maps off paper will allow us to provide users with greater context and value added features. Some ideas include: - Search for specific LC ranges - Highlight LC subject areas - Draw attention to hidden areas in the library (like the bathrooms). The map will then act as a center piece, from which we can build.  Adding in the other features students have requested.
  • Langsdale Mobile: a user centered approach

    1. 1. Langsdale Mobile a user centered approach SSP Fall Semniar. 8 November, 2011 Bill Helman, University of Baltimore Langsdale Library
    2. 2. An urban campus, in the heart of Baltimore, that prides itself in its "non-traditional" students. Made up of 3 colleges,  plus the law school,  serving  a total of 6,442 Students. Roughly half our students are pursuing an advanced degree, and their average age is 26.
    3. 3. photo by flickr user horiavarlan What to put on a mobile web site? A lot of libraries seem to pick pretty much the kinds of things.
    4. 4. photo by flickr user oddharmonic Our users are  a unique snowflake!
    5. 5. What problems are our users facing in the stacks? Ask about the ones they know they have... and observe the ones they don't. photo by flickr user photojonny
    6. 6. photo by flickr user  statelibraryofnsw Iterative design:  ask, build, ask, build, ask, build...
    7. 7. A web application is best for our needs.
    8. 8. Map making, from paper to digital. Can you help me find this?
    9. 9. Bill Helman, University of Baltimore, Langsdale Library [email_address] Please carry on the conversation:
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