Engaging the User – Creating Touch Apps in a Library Context (Project Workshop Report)
How to create touch screen applications to entice & engage library visitors? This was the premise of a workshop organized by the Visual Navigation Project on 20 November 2017. In the workshop, participants gained experience with building touch applications using the XIMPEL framework.
This workshop brought together 18 participants from a wide variety of libraries and institutions. The workshop program started off by a brief discussion of the ten-year history of XIMPEL by invited speaker Winoe Bhikharie (architect of the XIMPEL framework).
XIMPEL, a framework for creating interactive media applications, was first utilized at VU University Amsterdam for a game disseminating climate change research, followed by a large number of interactive media applications for education and entertainment. Winoe showed some examples of applications created in the context of an undergraduate Introduction Multimedia course at VU University. This included a real-life “Mario” game, and an app showing the highlights of the Dutch touristic landmark “Zaanse Schans”. Winoe also underlined some advantages of using XIMPEL for creating touch-based applications, including its free and open-source nature.
Touch apps in the Visual Navigation Project
Next, Hugo Huurdeman demonstrated touch table applications created within the Visual Navigation Project, including apps about the movie Hidden Figures, the Abel Prize, and Endosymbiosis. He briefly explained some of the lessons learned during the design, use and evaluation of these apps.
For instance, Hugo explained that there is “only one chance for a good impression”, so it is important to include the most interesting and engaging content upfront. It is also important to encourage library visitors to “touch” the screen, and to keep menu structures simple. Moreover, user testing and monitoring use over time is a pivotal activity to improve designs and correct errors.
Practical exercises & group projects
After the introductory talks, it was time to gain hands-on experience with creating XIMPEL applications. The workings of the XIMPEL “playlist” format were explained, and participants carried out four basic exercises. These exercises included replacing and adding images and YouTube videos, as well as creating clickable overlays and image overlays.
After getting to grips with the workings of XIMPEL in the morning, the afternoon program of the workshop consisted of collaborative group projects. These projects were done in teams of 2 to 5 persons, and consisted of three main steps:
- Brainstorming & story graph creation (i.e. visualizing the intending navigation structure)
- Designing screens; gathering content, and adding interactivity (an iterative process)
- Demonstrations and discussions of the applications resulting from the group projects
The formed groups swiftly got to work to create the app of their choosing, while the workshop organizers walked around to help in the process, if necessary.
Chosen topics for the group projects were quite diverse. First of all, groups worked on an app contextualizing an exhibition about Kristine Bonnevie; an app aiding in wayfinding in the library, and an application to show the ‘researcher of the month’. Other groups focused on providing access to (library) resources about international law, as well as cataloguing & classification. Finally, the fifth application was aiming at showing newly acquired books.
Group project outcomes
All groups demonstrated impressive progress towards reaching their end goals, and they all ended up with a interactive prototype application about their proposed topic. Thus, at the end of the day, each project team presented their work in the final "round-up" on the large touch-screen in the workshop room.
After due deliberation by the organizers of the workshop, now serving as the jury, the best application was awarded a prize. The honour of the best touch app, based on app originality, content and design, went to the "Researcher of the Month" application created by two workshop participants from the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences Library. This app allows library users to explore the research, profiles and publications of featured researchers. Congrats!
Try building an app yourself? Just follow the steps in the workshop presentation below - all resources of the workshop are available for further use. Feel free to contact us in case you have questions!
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