Marta Bednarek, Agnieszka Hasik
A tailor-made library system - user experience in PROLIB solutions
The idea of user-oriented design is very simple. Take the user into account at every step of creating the product .
We usually talk about the success of a product when we observe the sales bars. The real success comes later, however, when the headlamps have dimmed a bit. It is the end user, often not related to decision-makers in any way, who verifies whether the product meets his expectations. In the book “Research as the basis of user experience design”, a successful product is described as: functional (providing its users with appropriate functions), easy to use (not discouraging at the first contact and not frustrating during use) and evoking positive emotions. The list of adjectives is endless, because we continue to read about fast, reliable and nice products.
So how do you create a perfect product? To meet all of the above conditions, a broad view is needed. System developers and designers need to know the real needs of users. Therefore, nowadays an inseparable element of work on IT systems is the so-called user experience. This term covers the entire perception and reaction of a person that results from the use or anticipated use of a product, service or system .
The idea of product design is based on meeting the expectations of the end user. In the case of a library system – we have two end users. Librarians receive a tool for work, and readers – the INTEGRO catalog and a mobile application. The products that reach our customers are the result of the daily exchange of experiences. In the PROLIB system, we work closely with libraries that are willing to share their insights and needs. The way to learn about the opinions of our users begins in the INTEGRO catalog, in which we provide the Feedback option. Readers using the catalog can provide feedback on their impressions and possible problems. Each of the libraries using the PROLIB system also has access to the System Service, which also serves as an information exchange between different libraries. Our clients also have the option of direct telephone contact with a consultant who is a librarian by education, which positively influences the understanding of the specifics of libraries’ work. Thanks to such availability, we are able to recognize the expectations of all users. We get to know the opinions of people who are actual and objective recipients of our products, which allows us to better respond to their needs. When discussing the communication channels that we offer to our clients, it is also worth mentioning the fact that they are actually serviced. No application remains without our answer. On a daily basis, we use the Quality Management System according to the ISO 9001 standard and we have strictly defined response times in the Service Support System.
All reports of our users are first analyzed internally. As part of a team of consultants, we verify the submissions, assessing their usefulness in the system. At each stage, we take into account the fact that we work with different library profiles that have slightly different needs. As part of close cooperation with libraries, we also consult with our clients some solutions that we want to introduce into the system. Real contact with the end user allows you to minimize the risk associated with low usability of the product. In the PROLIB system, we are aware that it is much better to design the system if you have actual knowledge about its recipients. The whole team participates in this so that each process is consistent from the beginning to the end – starting from the assumptions (consultants), through writing the code (programmers), to technical issues related to the broadly understood infrastructure (system engineers).
Our clients receive solutions that meet a number of requirements. Some of them are already standard on the market of technological solutions, and some of them we impose ourselves in order to work in the best possible environment. Our products at the stage of programming work are subject to the so-called code review. In practice, this means that code written by a programmer is always verified by another person. Web solutions must meet WCAG standards at level 2.1 and RWD (responsive web design). The products prepared in this way go into the hands of qualified testers (with ISTQB certificate).
In order to understand the needs of our users even better, we also carry out the so-called usability testing. For recipients of various profiles (small and large libraries, scientific and public) – we observe how various operations are performed in the system. During meetings, librarians show us how they work on a daily basis. Practical meetings of this type make it possible to identify places where potential problems with the usability of the product may arise.
Due to the fact that our software is constantly evolving, each year we provide our clients with two new versions of the system. The process of the test session itself (which lasts about 3 weeks) is extremely important to us, because during it we finally verify the consistency of the entire version before making it available to our users. The entire team is involved in the test session: consultants and testers verify all changes made in the context of the entire system, and any errors are constantly corrected by programmers. System engineers with each version try to automate and improve the update process so that it is carried out as efficiently as possible. As a result, a product is created that safely ends up in the hands of our libraries.
Only in the latest version of the system, we have implemented over 50 changes in the INTEGRO catalog itself. There are completely new solutions, such as rankings of the most popular items, dashboard for the reader or displaying copies on the map. The continuous development of the system is possible only by carefully listening to the needs of users – readers and librarians. We know from practice that designing experiences, not just pretty pictures, is a more difficult and time-consuming task. The end result, however, is a satisfied customer who cannot imagine working on a different product, and this is the greatest success.
 Research as the basis of user experience design, I. Mościchowska, B. Rogoś-Turek, Warsaw 2015, p. 26
 Ibid., P. 24