I spent the day on Friday, along with a few Library colleagues, just down the road at the offices of our self-service hardware/software suppliers, 2CQR. With 2CQR’s head of Research & Development, we worked through a set of new designs for the touch-screen user interfaces of our green ‘Totem’ self-service machines. As a result, early-ish in 2011 we hope to upgrade the machines in our 4 libraries with more ergonomic, more logical [i.e. better reflecting the real-life process of borrowing and returning books], cleaner and more attractive touch-screen displays.
I’ve found in other user-interface design projects that sitting around a table as a group, arguing through each and every step to which we’re intending to subject our users, is by far the best way to initiate usable and consistent web services. Ideally the design groups should include service providers (e.g. library staff), users (e.g. students), and at least one disinterested party. It’s an approach which ties up a lot of people for a long time, and which requires a special kind of group-pedantry that can grate after a while… but I think it’s much the best way of providing a ‘bedrock’ for later, user-responsive tweaks to a service once it’s up and running.