OBA Book Searcher

An indoor way-finding application, guiding library visitors to specific books.

UX Designer (solo)

April 2018 – Jun 2019 (8 weeks).

User Research, User Centered Design, Interaction Design, Visual Design, Motion Design, Prototyping and User-testing.

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
Users can see real-time information about the location of a specific book. The app guides users to this book in 3 basic steps: walking to the right floor, bookcase and bookshelf.

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 closet

4. Grab the book from the shelve


The Brief

The Public Library of Amsterdam/Openbare Bibliotheek van Amsterdam (OBA)

Problem statement
The Public Library of Amsterdam (OBA) has been a source for information for over 100 years, has has thirteen floors and is also one of the biggest libraries in Europe.

OBA currently works with SISO codes (serial codes) so that the books can be organised in bookshelves. But the 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 are changing frequently. 

Project Goals
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.

The way in which 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)

The 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”.


The insights from my interviews and observations of library visitors and employees guided me to the most meaningful user needs and a deeper understanding of the design problem.

Interviews and 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 baselinemeasurements. In this way an inventory is made several times a year at the bookcases.

I started with observating 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. 


Synthesising insights and converging around design opportunities.

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.

Take Away
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

In the Affinity Map I placed and categorized all my research findings to ‘connect the dots’.

Take Aways

  • When visitors search for specific books they come in and try to search for books through the catalog first. But the information is not always correct and allot of them don’t trust it. Because it is often busy behind the computers, there is often an extra barrier to access this information. 

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

  • This causes visitors to go to employees without searching themselves. Especially in a society where people are becoming increasingly impatient. 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 others and to defend further design choices.

Customer Journey Mapping

In this Costumer Journey, Kyra searches for a book in the online catalog and experiences uncertainty and irritation because she does not know where to look in the OBA. 

Take Away
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

After identifying the most important user task that visitors must perform, I started zooming in on it. The flow communicates all the steps and choices visitors need to make to find a specific book in the library.

Take Away
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.


In my concept I want to guide visitors who are looking for a specific book to the book by placing RFID readers and wayfinding 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 wayfinding beacons.

Problem/Solution matrix

Interview Insight (i)  ·  Obervation Insight (o)  ·  User Trip Insight (ut)  ·  Desk Research insight (dr)

Red Dot: Probleem  ·  Green Dot: Possible Solution

Take Away

"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 V.
Project manager / Editor-in-Chief OBA Online at the Amsterdam Public Library

By combining the solutions of my morphological chart with identified problems, I could include the client more in making decisions for the concept. 

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.

Technical Model

Beside the matrix I also made a model that explains and illustrates the technical operation. This because my concept consists of several components in a collaborative system. It turned out to be great of help in my first pitch of the concept to the client and concept exhibition for other library employees (IT, marketing, and people higher up)!

It shows how the books, closets, beacons and the app communicate with each other so the user can see real time information about .


In the storyboard the persona Kyra tries the concept on her smartphone for the first time. The problem of uncertainty, stress and insecurity in the customer journey of the current situation doesn’t appear here at all.

Jobs To Be Done

I created jobs to be done so I could focus on the task that the users need to do for my first sketches of the key path. It made me more focussed of the context and goals of the user while sketching screens for the main key path scenario you saw in the storyboard.

Job Story Format Situation + Motivation + Expected Outcome + Force

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.

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.

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.

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 UI sketches

Rapid Protoyping

For the rapid prototype I made the first sketches of the app based on the job stories. The rapid prototype was intended quickly test a very simple design of the concept and to see it in operation. It was a good start to give me an idea of how users interact with my concept. 

Take Aways

  • Tests showed that the screens were still too globally designed and it showed too much information. The information needed to be chunked into smaller pieces.

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

Rapid Prototyping

Iteration 1

While making new designs, I explored te following HMW question:

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


Keypath Microinteractions

Animating in Principle for Mac
After I thought trough every microinteraction, I animated the flow of the keypath in Principle for Mac to showcase how the user doesn’t have to do anything but look as they walk to the book!

Usability Testing

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. The main objective was to see if the users could easily understand the flow, could search for a book (or list of books) and spot opportunities to improve the usability.

With the eye tracking test I wanted to see how someone completes a task, which content attracts attention, and which content diverts it.

Take Aways

  • In general, the tests went very well.
  • 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.

Heat map van de key path

Iteration 2

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 prototype

Want to know more?

Project Takeaways

Trust the process
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 with the client is essential
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.

Learn to think in detail
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.

Next Project

User experience design internship


A description about my experience as a User Experience Design intern, devising the user experience by creating flows, wireframes and prototypes like there’s no tomorrow, laying the functional foundation for the visual designers.