OBA Book Searcher

A indoor way-finding application, guiding library visitors of the Public Library of Amsterdam to specific books.


May – Jul 2019 · 10 Weeks


User Experience Designer


Research · concept design · interaction design · visual design · motion design · prototyping · user-testing.



Problem Statement

OBA currently works with SISO codes (serial codes) so that the books can be organised in bookshelves. This organisation system frustrates a large group of the visitors since they do not always seem to understand this abstract system. Their experience is often quite disappointing or stressful, since the books they are looking for are spread over several floors, and the locations and organisation schemes are changing frequently.

The Public Library of Amsterdam (OBA) has been a source for information for the people of Amsterdam for over 100 years. The headquarters is next to the Central Station, has thirteen floors and is also one of the biggest libraries in Europe.

Project Goal

The OBA wants to improve on the current book lending experience with the use of RFID technology so they can save visitors stress, time and to reduce the increasing workload of OBA employees helping visitors. Restrictions The way the books are sorted is managed by the Royal Library (national library). This is difficult to change unless it is relevant to all libraries throughout the country. The solution must be used physically at the headquarters of OBA (Oosterdok location)

Design Challenge

“Design an interactive application that helps library visitors find the books they are searching for more efficiently, with the help of the current RFID-tags in the books in the Public Library of Amsterdam”.

Long story short

With the OBA Book Searcher, library visitors can pick up their new book(s) faster and easier, knowing exactly where to find it.

The app guides the user to their book(s), reducing the uncertainty, insecurities, stress and time people spend searching for books in the current situation. This allows people to feel more at ease while they stop by the library to lend some books.

How does it work?

The books in shelves are automatically registered and communicated to visitors with the help of RFID readers in bookshelves.

Real-time information

The app guides the user to their book(s), reducing the uncertainty, insecurities, stress and time people spend searching for books in the current situation. This allows people to feel more at ease while they stop by the library to lend some books.

Seamless Interaction

The I-beacons keep track of the location of the visitor, allowing the app to recognise the step the user is at and providing a seamless interaction between the steps by automatically switching when the user is nearby.

1. Lookup A Book

2. Go to the right floor

3. Go to the right shelf

4. Grab the book from the shelve

The Design Process💡


Interviews & Observations

Interview with an OBA employee in the storage about the way the library currently uses the RFID technology.

Interview with employees in the book storage – OBA currently uses an RFID scanner to perform baseline measurements. In this way an inventory is made several times a year at the bookcases.

I started to observe visitors to see if my insight from the interviews with employees and visitors match the real world experience. I wrote this all down in a small notebook.

1. Visitors need to see clearly where they can find a specific book

Books are difficult to find because they are not all organised and sorted in the same way. Some might be sorted on sisocode, theme or author while some other might be sorted on title. Some theme’s contain allot of book closets and it’s also very easy to skip over a book on the long book shelves. You often find people walking around with tilted heads full of doubt, wondering if they are looking at the right place.

2. The visitors want to grab and lend the book(s) quickly and go home

Allot of visitors stop by after work and feel like it takes them way too long to find the books they are searching for. They often do not know where to look, which causes for allot of insecurity, stress and a overal disappointing experience.

3. Visitors need assurance they can do it theirselves

Visitors have little confidence that they can find a book themselves and increasingly ask employees for help, or reserve them online so employees have to search for the books and leave them to be picked up.


Empathy Mapping

With my research, I mapped out all relevant findings about the visitors. This is to collect all insights and to place myself in the experience of the users and to make better design decisions.

The visitor is stressed and insecure about the their ability to quickly and easily find a specific book making use of the book organisation scheme of the library.

Affinity Mapping

Interview Insight (i)  ·  Observation Insight (o)  ·  User Trip Insight (ut)  ·  Desk Research insight (dr) Orange Post-It: Cluster  ·  Yellow Post-It – Insights  ·  Blue Post-It – Key Insights

The visitor is stressed and insecure about the their ability to quickly and easily find a specific book making use of the book organisation scheme of the library.

  • Information from the online catalog is not always accurate and allot of visitors don’t trust it anymore.

  • Due to the lack of familiarity and information people become uncertain and frustrated about where to look for a specific book which causes a drop of their experience.

  • The employees of the OBA are constantly approached by people who take little to no effort to search for something themselves, causing them to fall behind on schedule.


A summary of the researched characteristics of the chosen target group (People that search for a specific book, using the online catalog) to easily share the information with stakeholders and to defend further design choices.

Customer Journey

In the journey stress and uncertainty is the main cause for the drop in the experience. I wanted to highlight that because would accurately represent the current experience. The linked opportunities (for the design) are all linked in to making the books in the shelves more accessible so they can be directly approached.

User Flow and Key Path

With the key path I highlighted on which steps I wanted to focus on to improve the experience. Because of the chosen target group (persona), I quickly made the choice for the steps about finding the right floor, theme, bookcase and bookshelf since those are the most complicated to them and that is the point where most of the problems occurred.


Problem/Solution matrix

Interview Insight (i)  ·  Obervation Insight (o)  ·  User Trip Insight (ut)  ·  Desk Research insight (dr)  ·  Red Dot: Problem  ·  Green Dot: Possible Solution

"I'm definitely all for testing an RFID prototype, it helps us think about how we can improve the experience in the library in the future with the use of innovative techniques!"​
Mark Vos
Project manager/Editor-in-Chief @ the Amsterdam Public Library

The matrix showed a complex and simple solution. After a conversation with the contact person (Mark) from the Library, he turned out to be more interested in the complex idea because it’s a concept that they can use in the future and that they can continue to work on. Based on feedback from the client, I chose to continue with the RFID (complex) concept.


In my concept I want to guide visitors who are looking for a specific book to the book by placing RFID readers and way-finding beacons in the bookcases of OBA Oosterdok. 

A technique that ensures that the user can see real time and the big pains of uncertainty, insecurity and stress in their current experience will be reduced. 

This is because they can scan the books that are in it. With an app the user can look up a specific book with the relevant location in the bookcase. This allows the user to walk directly to the book in a few short steps using the way-finding beacons.

I also made a model that explains and illustrates the technical operation/ecosystem of the solution. 


Job Stories

After I iterated on the concept, I also iterated on my MVP specifications. With the refised MoSCoW prioritisation I was fully allowed to focus on store finding, registering and seeing impact.

Format: Situation + Motivation + Expected outcome

1. When I search for a specific book, I want to be guided to the exact location so that I can find a book quickly and do not take longer than necessary and I feel efficient.

2. When I stop by the library, I want to immediately find the books in my list in 1 route so that I can quickly grab them all and I feel efficient.

3. When I enter the OBA, I want to look on the spot at the book I have in mind, so that I can see if I can borrow it and I don’t have to look for a book that is not available so that I feel assured.

4. When I have used the app for a while and am looking for tips, I want to be offered relevant tips in the app based on books that I have borrowed, so that I can find new relevant books and I can feel inspired.

First sketches

Prototype and validate

Rapid Protoyping

The rapid prototype was intended quickly test a very simple design with the target group.

  • Tests showed that the screens were still not detailed enough and showed too much information. The information needed to be chunked into smaller pieces.

  • I needed to focus more on elaborating the selected keypath and design it further into detail.


“How might we break up the flow of searching for a book, and provide the visitors with smaller bits of information?”

Keypath Microinteractions



In the project, I’ve spent extra effort in designing detailed micro-interactions, and learning more about them in order to create better en more complete designs.

Second Test

After designing the keypath in more detail, it was time to start testing again. I did this with library visitors who search for specific books.

  • During the iterations, I have to focus on the name of certain labels. This caused the most confusion in the tests, which could have been easily prevented.

  • Skilled library visitors want to see a feed forward if the next step so they can walk trough the keypath easier/faster.

  • The illustrations help enormously. Users understand the actions they need to perform better and faster. This was also verified in the eye tracking tests.

Second Iteration

After usability tests and heuristic evaluations, I iterated on my UI designs again. In these iterations I mainly adapted the names/labels that caused confusion during the tests and evaluations.

Final clickable Prototype

Internship Takeaways

✅ Stay Involved

When I carried out the project with the double diamond model. It was very rewarding to see how you can improve a process with research you have done yourself. Especially when you involve the target audience early in the process. I carried out the major part of this project in the library. Even when when I did work that didn’t require any contact with the target group.

✅ Communication

In the project I learned what it is like to work with a client. When I did not communicate, I had many questions that I could not answer and I often got stuck. I notice that it is important to keep communicating with the client. Even if it concerns small updates, stay involved with each other.

✅ Design is in the details

Thinking in detail about your designs can make your designs 10x better. This is because you can often elaborate them better and the difference between a normal design and a good design is often in the details.

Other Work