People Interact

Blog about people-centered design by Lisa Chow and Sandra Sajonas.

Monthly Archives: December 2013

Everyday Usability: Outlets


I was in a meeting recently and noticed that the outlets in the room are high up on the wall, near the ceiling. I would guess since the outlets are so high up, they’re not really usable or being used. I can’t seem to figure out why the outlets would be placed so high on the wall. Thoughts?

Check out more posts in our Everyday Usability series.

Unfavorable First Impression

library buildingAfter many months in the city of Stamford, CT, I finally mustered up the energy to get my library card at the Ferguson Library. Upon arriving at 10:30 am on a Thursday in November, I found that the library was still closed. I decided to enjoy a leisurely cup of coffee at the Starbucks connected to the library.

When I finally entered the library from Starbucks, I was immediately in the Friend’s group section of the library. Once I passed through this section into the main foyer, I was confronted my a staff member telling me I could not have coffee in the building. I can part with my coffee but did not like the lack of signage notifying me of this rule. When I asked the staff member where I can dispose of the cup I was ignored. I went to the desk by the front door and was told I had to exit the building to the trash can on the street corner.

library brochureOnce over this first hurdle, I went to the circulation desk to get my library card. Again, no signage telling me where to go; in fact from the main foyer you cannot even see the service desks. I did have a nice interaction at the circulation desk getting my library card. I received a brochure and a handy guide for setting up my online account and pin number.

Second hurdle done. Now it was time to look for my books. After an initial walk through the library it seemed that the sections are not clearly marked and required having the library brochure in hand marking the section locations. Admittedly, I took the lazy way out and asked the librarian where to go.

self check out machineOnce I was in the correct section, I used one of the readily available catalog computers. After finding my material, I used the self check out machines since there was no line.

There are several redeeming impressions from my first visit:

  • Ferguson has lots of quality educational, entrepreneurial, cultural and literary programs for all ages.
  • Ferguson was also one of the first public libraries to have a passport center.
  • Ferguson has an admirable list of services for non native English speakers and new Americans including it’s Language Lab.
  • Ferguson has an impressive list of financial and business resources.

Hopefully, Ferguson’s offerings can wipe out the negative impressions from my first visit and make me a library regular. We’ll see when I go back to return my materials.

Accessibility – Available But Not Available For Use

accessibilityRecently I was walking by the library and noticed that a library staff person was on her way to locking up the gate for the ramp entrance and at the same time, a parent with a child in a stroller was about to enter through the gate. The staff person said that the library is closing soon and that they will have to use the front entrance (no ramp, just steps). At this point, the gate for the ramp entrance was not locked yet. As I watched the staff person lock up the gate for the ramp entrance, I noticed that the parent was struggling to push the stroller up the steps. Parent, child, and stroller eventually made it into the library building. By that time, the staff person finished locking the gate and was walking back on the ramp to go into the building.

What I can’t understand is why the staff person wouldn’t let the parent with the child in the stroller use the ramp. Chances are, based on my observations, if the staff person let them use the ramp, she still had more than enough time to lock the gate. While the library may be stating that accessibility is important (i.e. they have a ramp), it doesn’t make a difference if the ramp is available, but not available for use.

Another story: A few years ago, I was visiting a newly renovated library and noticed that they now have a button-activated door (you push the button and the door opens). I decided to use that door. I pushed the button. Nothing happened. The door did not open. Meanwhile, people were using the regular door. I pushed the button again. Nothing. Maybe it’s broken? I decided to pull the door handle. Nothing. The door was locked. I used the regular door.

Am I being too critical? What do you think? What are your thoughts on accessibility? Sound off in the comments.

Monthly Method Spotlight: Camera Journal

my-camera-journalCamera Journal

When/why: This self-conducted technique is useful for prompting users to reveal their views, behavior patterns and thoughts at the user’s own pace. Because this method is informal and gives users independence from the researchers, it can result in rich and honest feedback.

How: Ask users to keep a written and visual diary of their activities and impressions over a period of time.

Tips: Keep an eye out for patterns, themes and motives as you read through the journal results.

Interested in using/applying these methods in your work? Contact us for more info.