I don’t usually introduce myself when I’m doing a talk, it wastes time and you probably read who I am in the programme before making a choice to come and listen. It also usually says it on the intro slide behind me. But, I will do today since we’ll be spending more time together and I’m not just talking, we are going to have some interaction. I’m also going to optimistically assume that you did all choose this workshop and you weren’t just put in here because your other choices weren’t available. If that was the case, please don’t tell me!
I’m Carl Barrow I’m an Operations Manager at the Brynmor Jones Library at the University of Hull, which is around an hour east of here. I have a specific portfolio around customer experience and usability, both in the physical and digital sense.
This morning, I want to explore ways to help us deliver services that are usable to the widest range of people, certainly without making assumption on what might work for a specific demographic. I’m going to talk for a while first and then we’ll move onto something more practical, with time for discussion and feedback along the way.
We are all living in the physical world, we move through spaces and we interact with objects, people and services in those spaces. In our libraries for example, think about how we as staff and also our library users interact and move around our buildings. The way we do that has an impact on how we deliver our services, also our services impact how we and our users behave.
We also spend time in digital space. We use websites for online shopping, we interact with each other on social media or WhatsApp. You probably have an institutional intranet of sorts, something like MS SharePoint that you need to interact with and move around. Using these spaces makes it possible to travel the globe with our friends, family and colleagues without even leaving the homes or offices, interacting with their experiences and they with ours regardless of physical location.
What I find even more interesting is that these worlds or spaces stack up and even collide. WE can have a duel presence. How may people are using twitter right now? How many of you have been tweeting and interacting with a talk that you aren’t physically in? This conference is happening physically here but it’s also happening in a digital space, two separate spaces running parallel that we can move fluidly between, and these little devices (phone) help with that tremendously.
Thinking of phones, have you ever lost yours? What’s the first thing you do? For me, it’s panic! It’s like I’ve lost a limb, I break out in a cold sweat. If I‘m on holiday I spend almost as much time checking that my phone is still in my pocket as I do checking that my two children were still with us. Even more so now they are getting a bit older. So why is this? Probably because that small digital device is so much more than just a phone. It’s a camera which has catalogued just about every moment of the holiday and shared those experiences on social media with friends and family across the globe. It’s a SAT NAV that ensures I can get to where I need be, it’s an encyclopaedia, it’s a link to people I don’t see very often. Once I’ve parked my car, I use an app on my phone to pay for the carpark.
This small device has become so integrated into my world it’s hard to think how I might actually function without it. It’s like a portal that I use to travel between worlds, it’s like Star Trek. It’s so easy to take my physical world and have that become part of someone’s digital world, even if they are 2000 miles away. For many of us these worlds are colliding at an alarming rate, the boundaries have blurred, disappeared or just become irrelevant.
Why is this important for us at an Academic Library? It’s important because if this is me, then it’s probably also many other people too. Technology has become all important, but at the same time not important at all. We don’t need to develop a digital version of a service anymore. Perhaps, a service just is. I said a minute ago that ‘it’s probably also many other people’ and the word probably is very important there, technology forms a big part of many people’s lives, but for many others is doesn’t. That’s why it’s important to understand technology use and if we develop our service with the lines blurred and worlds collided, we provide the most relevant platforms and the most useful entry points for as many people as possible.
So I want you all to keep that in mind as we go through the workshop today and experiment with two methods we are going to explore. I’m also interested in your views on why and how they might be useful.
The first thing we are going to do is draw a cognitive map, you all have an A3 sheet of paper and there coloured pens. You will have six minutes to draw a map of your working day. Think about the places you go and how you interact with them. There are no wrong ways of doing this and no bad drawings. I will ask you to chance pen colour every two minutes, starting with blue then green and finally black. After the six minutes I will give you a couple of minutes to label the map.
Go… ( Everyone draws awesome cognitive maps)
These cognitive maps are a great starting point, but to make them really useful it is important to have a conversation around what has been drawn so that the map can be put into context. Would anyone like to come up to the front and talk to us about what they have drawn?
(We had 6 people stand up and talk us through their maps over the two workshops – Thank you!)
We talked about how we were able gain a deeper understanding of a user story this way and how we had learned far more about someone’s day than might from a number of tick boxes on a survey. We talked about how, using three different colours we could identify the importance of different elements on the map, the things drawn first are the things of greater importance and at the forefront of someone’s mind and as we moved through the colours over the six minutes that importance differs. We also picked up on the fact that some people might draw their map as a timeline and at that point the colours become less significant. This is absolutely fine, be we need to consider that when coding the maps.
I have used a coding method described by Andrew Asher (@aasher) http://www.andrewasher.net/BiblioEthnoHistorioGraphy/coding-library-cognitive-maps/ in the past and this had proved really useful.
Your Digital Day
You all now have a blank ‘Digital Day’ template in front of you, this is something that I devised a few months ago to help understand technology use and its impact on someone’s day.
I would be very interested to hear any feedback on its use as a tool.
On the template, you can assign a colour to each piece of technology that you use. Along the timeline, you can you can use the relevant colours to highlight use. The first column ‘I have with me’ is the tech devices you have about your person, the second column ‘I am using’ is what you are actually using at any point in time. The third column is to note where you are and the fourth to note what you are doing. (Download the blank template).
Following on we reflected in groups and discussed learning from both exercises. We thought about how this might help us to think a little differently when developing library services. Conversations were broad ranging from our obsession with smartphones and their constant use to our preferences for buying digital music online rather than a CD and how that impacts peoples listening habits.
To sum up, Service design and delivery is certainly not black and white. We have to find and understand our users stories and look for and provide entry points to our services that work for everyone. Perhaps we need to look for that little bit of colour in an otherwise black and white world. Keep in mind that technology may well be part of a service delivery, but it might just as easily not be. Design for people, do what they need, don’t give them what technology can offer because you think it might be helpful and certainly don’t assume it will work for everyone.