As a customer of Helmet libraries, I frequently browse their collection on their website when I need to borrow a book. The website has always been simple and straightforward to use. When I learnt that they have a mobile app, I was excited to try it out.
However, Taskukirjasto has constantly frustrated me. I encountered difficulties and differences when compared to my own experience with their website.
So I decided to put on my UX designer hat and venture into the unknown to see if anyone else shares my problems and if I could make any improvements to the app.
To further understand the user of the app and the problems they experience, I went to its Apple and Play stores to collect reviews from their user.
Based on the feedback from users on both app stores, it appears that the majority of Taskukirjasto users employ the app to:
→ Search for and make reservations for books
→ Check statuses of their reservations and loans
→ Replace their physical library cards with digital ones
As users of Taskukirjasto, they need:
→ A convenient way to look for and borrow books
→ The ability to access their digital library card quickly
→ A good overview of their reservations and loans
Based on the knowledge of the major use cases and user requirements, I conducted usability testing with customers of Helmet libraries. The usability test covered major goals users can achieve when using the app.
After the usability testing, a heuristic evaluation was conducted to examine more contextual use cases that were not covered by the usability test. Heuristics applied for the usability evaluation of this study follows Jakob Nielson's 10 Usability Heuristics.
During the test, users faced problems that were both recoverable and non-recoverable. When confronting those critical issues, frustration emerged and was carefully observed.
Issues found were categorised into:
→ Issues types: critical, non-critical and suggestion
→ Issue points: measure of the level of interference of the issue in the experience
→ Occurrence frequency
Severity of the issues was then determined by combining the value of the issue points and frequency.
Issue point * Issue frequency = Issue severity
The heuristic evaluation facilitated the finding of usability issues that were not covered by the usability test.
Issues found were categoried into heuristic violations and severity points following Jakob Nielson's Severity Ratings:
→ 0 = I do not agree that this is a usability problem at all
→ 1 = Cosmetic problem: can be fixed when there is additional time
→ 2 = Minor usability problem: low priority fixes
→ 3 = Major usability problem: important and high priority fixes
→ 4 = Usability catastrophe: imperative fixes before releasing
Although various usability issues were discovered during the usability test and the heuristic evaluation, some problems drew more attention to themselves than others. Those are the ones that repeated themselves and scored the highest on the severity rating in both evaluations.
The most severe issues are:
→ Mixture of use of English and Finnish language on the interface
→ Absence of suggestive search
→ Absence of indicator of a typo error in search query
→ Absence of indicator suggesting users to log in to proceed with their task
Issue 1: Mixture of use of English and Finnish language on the interface
Current design. The Frontpage offers users the latest news and search action. The latest news card is one example of the issue. Its title and content are in English, while the action button is in Finnish.
On another note, the "Search" button, however, is unnoticeable and disappears when scrolling away.
Proposed design. The design replaces “Lue lisää” with “Read more” as the action button label.
The “Search” button is moved to the top bar and changed to a button icon. This approach resolves the availability of the “Search” button, even for smaller screen sizes.
Issue 2: Absence of suggestive search and indicator of typo error
Current design. The Search page instantly shows “No search results” upon entering the page. This can be considered a waste of space on the screen.
Proposed design. The design utilises this space for displaying the recent search queries, which help reduce the effort required from users when they need to conduct a search for the same items.
Current design. 5 out of 7 users struggled to find the requested book using search. They either had a typo in their search query, or can't fully remember the name of the book. They can only realise the issue after hitting Enter.
Proposed design. The design suggests suggestive search. It helps shorten users' mental and physical efforts since they can type less when searching. It also reduces the chances of users encountering typography errors while typing.
Issue 3: Absence of indicator suggesting users to log in to proceed with their task
Current design. Users can explore the library collection without logging in, which is a good practice. However, it lacks a signal to remind users to log in before they can continue with their task.
Proposed design. The design introduces the “Request it” button. The button is available and accessible to users even when they are not logged in to the application.
Current design. Interacting with a search result takes users to its Detail page. The current Detail page provides users with very detailed information on the item. Yet, the presentation of the page confuses users when they cannot access the desired information and actions.
Proposed design. The design utilises the upper part of the screen to display the most relevant details. With a glance at the interface, users see the title and author, rating, waiting time (if any), and the language of the item.
This project encountered a shortage of the diversity of its testing population. The test users, which shared a similarity of demographic background and previous experience with mobile applications, represented only one user profile of the application. If there is another chance to further improve user experience of Taskukirjasto, I would:
→ Involve users from more diverse backgrounds
→ Maintain an active feedback loop with users