Workshop 7 – Collaborative Design

1 Activity – Participatory design

We were tasked with working on an interface that will be used within a library. This is an in-house system that allows people using the library to locate the books or material that they’re after, and to be directed to where that material is held. There’s just one catch – this library is in Timbuktu.

1. First we identified the goals for your design session.

We chose to focus on the user interface for people to add parchments to the libraries catalogue.  These parchments are spread across many different locations, many of which are in private residences.  As such, members of the public who are custodians of such items, need a way to add their items information to the libraries catalogue.

2. Next we identified who will be affected by this feature.

This function is accessed by a wide range of different people, with different languages and literacy levels. The information is collected and maintained by the library, but is ultimately for the broader community.

3. Then we questioned what it is that we don’t know?

Fortunately, we had access to a librarian from the library in Timbuktu (role played by a student), and worked with us to design the interface.

We discovered that the users for this interface speak a number of different languages, and our librarian told us that you cannot rely upon a common language.

The levels of literacy vary widely among those likely to use this system.

4. What do we need to know?

Again we questioned the client representative on:

  • what information about each manuscript the library requires for their catalogue.
  • what level of resources the library has for supporting the help function of the system.
  • how reliable are street addresses, and how wide spread is internet access.


We used a simple, hand drawn low fidelity wireframe on paper:

ParticipatoryDesign ParticipatoryDesign2


The top banner on the left image is a link/button to a help page.  It uses an icon which is locally recognised as being a request for assistance.  The form on the page uses text labels, as the assumption is that if users are unable to read the short labels, they are unlikely to be able to effectively fill out the form about their manuscript.  In these cases, help should be sought form library staff.

The right image is the help screen which results from clicking the help banner.  Here, users can select their dialect/language using the “flag” icons at the top, then watch a video which explains the sources of help that are available.  The short form is so that the user can enter their details and get assistance in person from library staff.