Recommendation Station – Visualizing the Science Fiction Collection and Community Building
This fall the group "Real Fiction" has been working on a project for the Science Library as part of their the course INF2260 – Interaction Design. Their project goal was "visualizing the science fiction collection and community building."
Kyrre Traavik Låberg and Hugo C. Huurdeman represented both the clients and helped out with the coding throughout the project. Their goal was to make a solution for students that used the science library that were very or moderately interested in science fiction. After several good ideas they landed on what they called the recommendation station, an application for the touch screen table placed by the science fiction collection. Throughout the process they used the "Design Thinking" methodology and went through several changes in the design in the testing phase. Usability testing, guerilla-testing and the 5 second test were some of the tools they used to make the final prototype now found in the science library.
The application has two main functions that are presented on the home page: "Find your next science fiction book!” and “Recommend a Sci-Fi book!". Attached to the touch table is a RF-id scanner, and the idea is to get users to find books from the collection, scan them and review them. The review part consists of giving 1 to 5 stars and to chose which categories the book falls under. The categories are general literature categories, not specific categories of Sci-Fi literature. This is to ensure that also people who are not Sci-Fi experts are able to make recommendation. This seems like a smart choice since the content is user generated, and dependent on frequent user participation to function optimally.
The other function, "Find your next science fiction book!", lets you browse through the reviewed books sorted by categories or stars. Each book is represented by a picture, star rating, categories and the shelf location, making it easy to find the physical book in the shelves. Since the recommendations are user made, there is a nice variation in what kind of books that appear under the different categories. This makes the whole experience of browsing books a little more interesting and surprising, which in turn may lead the user to books she/he would not normally find.
In the earlier phases of the project the group determined what the students main obstacles were for using the collection.Time was a big issue, and also not knowing about its existence. I think the application offer a solution to both these problems by eliminating the need to browse through several shelves to find a book. Having the application on a portable touch screen that can be put in a different location than the actual collection opens up for reaching more students. Another issue some of the students had was that they find the collection a bit daunting, and that they would prefer some kind of recommendation to just selecting a book on their own. Even though the recommendations are not made by friends, choosing a book based on to your peers recommendations is easier than tackling the whole collection on your own. There is a community building aspect to it, in addition to a great visualization tool.
Overall it is a great application with simple and intuitive design. User generated content is a great way of engaging the students and creating interest, but it is dependent on a good amount of people using it to create an optimal application. Creating an event were the focus was the "Recommendation Station" would be a great way to get more reviews, and in turn optimizing the application.
Links to the students' reports, presentations, and blog can be found on their project site.