While navigating the campus during the time between classes, students often search for convenient places to study and work. However, with crowded libraries and a lack of resources to help students find space, this process can take a long time. StudySpace is an app dedicated to helping students find the best on-campus study space according to capacity and personal preferences.
As a project for Industrial Engineering 190E: Product Design (a Spring 2019 class taught by Rachel Powers), students were asked to think of and build a new service.
User Research & Key Insights
In order to gain a better understanding of students’ experiences navigating the campus for work/study space, I polled roughly 40 students, asking them about their average experience finding a seat in one of Berkeley's libraries. I also conducted in-depth interviews with 12 students ranging in age & background (freshman - seniors, new students & transfers).
Some interview questions I asked:
What traits do you look for in a work/ study space? What makes it the ideal space to work?
How would you describe your overall experience finding a space? Have you had any particularly frustrating OR pleasant experiences with this?
Can you walk me through your routine when you try to find a place to work/study on campus?
What are your work/study habits like? (length of time, amenities used, etc.)
Some key takeaways I gained:
Students don’t often have an efficient method of finding a place (some just walk around inside a library repeatedly until a seat opens up)
Students may find a study space only to realize that it doesn’t have what they need (outlets, printers, nearby food/water)
Students often resort to off-campus locations to work like cafes, which are further away and more inconvenient to get to
Students usually checked the main libraries (Moffitt, Kresge, Doe) for space before giving up and going home or going to a far cafe - many were not aware of other lesser-known spaces on campus
"Once I walked all the way to Moffitt, looked around everywhere for a seat, couldn't find one, and eventually just went back home."
"I don't even bother going into the libraries anymore because it's so rare to find a good space."
Ideation: Divergent Thinking
Taking into consideration information and insights from user interviews, I wanted to create something that would address efficiency, accessibility, and adaptability. I formulated three "How Might We" questions:
Efficiency: HMW improve the process of finding convenient places for students to work (on-campus, in between classes)
Accessibility: HMW help people discover the lesser-known, hidden locations on campus?
HMW relieve the feeling of helplessness faced by disabled people?
Adaptability: HMW streamline the process of finding places that meet students’ individual needs/accommodations?
Taking inspiration from my interviews, I created 2 user personas that would help me further understand student needs and pain points and compiled a list of ideas to address those needs.
I decided to design an app that combined my favorite ideas (highlighted). Theoretically, I could work with libraries to keep track of capacity via wifi counting - estimate capacity based on devices connected to library wifi. Alternatively, electronic devices known as “people counters” could be installed by passages to track entrances/exits and count the number of people in a given room
I started by creating a low fidelity prototype with pen and paper. Users would open the app to see a map with library locations pinned. If they clicked on a particular pin, a quick graphic would pop up to reveal information like a library name, a picture, current capacity, and hours of operation. If users wanted to learn more, they could further click on the graphic to see certain amenities/accommodations that the library had. Additionally, I included a filter option (dropdown button next to the search bar) to allow users to filter their library search based on preferences like location, characteristics, etc.
After receiving feedback from user testing, I decided to include a Popular Times graphic so users could see which times the libraries were relatively busy. I also included a Reminder feature so users could plan accordingly and set reminders to check library capacity/study at a certain time. Additionally, I added a “Favorite” feature. Users could favorite certain libraries, which would then show up in a list on the bottom of the opening home page. Rather than have to search for their favorite libraries every time, users could just swipe the page up and choose from their list of saved libraries.
After one more round of feedback, I added a few last details. When users clicked on a specific library, they would see how far away they were from it and be able to click for directions (which would lead to their phone’s map feature). I also added the option to book a room for certain libraries (ex. Moffitt). This button would lead to the website students use to book rooms. Additionally, I changed the layout of the filters to mimic checked boxes. I created icons to go along with this.
Overall, I was pleased with the features I designed. I think that my product would help students find libraries best suited to their needs while also spreading information about nearby, lesser known libraries. I can definitely say this is a good start.