The Public Library of Amsterdam as a community hub
I wanted to offer a helping hand to refugees and immigrants trying to integrate into the Dutch culture by redesigning the website of the Public Library of Amsterdam (Openbare Bibliotheek Amsterdam – OBA).
My parents were not born in the Netherlands and over the years I have seen how valuable and important a helping hand can be. The OBA therefore offers various social activities, but they also have a learning platform at their disposal. However, it’s difficult to find, because the navigation offers several ways to get there. Further more, it gets even more difficult for those that don’t speak or read Dutch.
It was important to me to be able to help others through my work, so that they could feel at home in the Netherlands. That’s why I’ve used a lot of recognizable patterns in my redesign. These makes the website easier to navigate. The new icons I added also support users who don’t have a good command of the Dutch language. These and other changes ensure that migrants and refugees experience a lower threshold and can get help from the OBA faster. Ultimately, this help is not only important for the integration of the current generation, but it also offers more opportunities and security for their children and grandchildren.
I have conducted many interviews with various people:
• People who do or do not have a subscription to the library;
• People who do have an OBA subscription;
• Visitors and tourists in Amsterdam;
• And employees of the OBA.
An important interview I’ve had was with Dimitar R. He’s an employee at the public library and has been with the OBA for 12 years. He studied for his PhD degree, with a focus on immigrants and refugees. Dimitar has given me interesting insights about the ‘Leef en Leerpunt’ (platform to help people integrate in the Dutch society).
He said that people at an older age find it difficult to integrate into Dutch culture. The reason for this is that they can’t remember the subject matter and they also find it difficult to accept a different culture. According to his research, the average age of immigrants and refugees is between 29 and 50 years old. About 20 to 30% are highly educated in their own country. According to Dimitar, the highly educated can pick up Dutch culture a little more easily than the less well-educated.
User Task Analysis
In the current situation, the user must go through various steps to reach their final goal. Navigation is too long-winded and very unclear.
Current Situation Screenflow
Based on the Task Analysis, I made a schematic representation. Here I discovered that you can find your way to the ‘Leef en Leerpunt’ in different ways. However, these are hidden in the website. People who do not have a good command of the Dutch language cannot find these. In addition, they’re always forwarded to new pages which takes the user out of the flow. To return they’re dependent on the back button in the browser.
OBA believes it is important to help immigrants and refugees to integrate into Dutch society. They offer various social activities, but also have a learning platform at their disposal to support them. However, the learning platform is not contributing as much as it could.
Based on the Task Analysis, I made a schematic representation. Here I found out that the navigation on the website is quite difficult to figure out, since you can find activities in several ways. However, someone from abroad with a weak grasp of the Dutch language would have trouble finding these. That is why it’s wise to use visuals and iconography. In addition, they’re always linked to new pages and to go back they’re dependent on the back button in the browser. What also stood out was that the user had to go through many steps to reach his goal.
I want more attention to be given to the ‘Leef en Leerpunt’ so that immigrants and refugees can find information better and easier on the website. This lowers the threshold and increases motivation among those who want to integrate into the Dutch society.
1. The user wants to learn Dutch together with others in a quiet place.
2. The user wants to plan an activity to get to know more people.
3. The user wants to build confidence and have fun.
4. The user wants to be able to make mistakes in a safe environment.
5. The user wants to make progress with the integration.
I presented my designs to the client. I refined my design with the help of their feedback. Although the design did not need major changes, I decided to redesign the agenda page. My goal in this was to make sure that someone who does not speak the Dutch language could navigate through the website without being dependent on the text. That is why I strongly focused on the use of icons, images and recognizable design patterns.
I had the second design tested with users through a “Heuristic Evaluation”. With this test method you use a certain set of rules, or “best practices”, to view a website and quickly identify problems. They found this new concept to be better than the previous one, because in their opinion the agenda page was well developed and universally recognizable. They also liked planning an activity, since you go through simple steps and are guided during the process.
Most of the feedback I received was aimed at improving some of the visual elements. The flow, on the other hand, was very clear and they knew where to navigate too. It was mainly the details that I had to pay a lot of attention too in finishing my prototype.
On the agenda page I wanted to design a digital calendar. Depending on the culture or country where someone comes from, the first day of the week starts on Monday or Sunday. In the Chinese calendar, for example, it starts on Monday. But in Christian and Arab countries the week starts on Sunday. For this reason, I consciously chose to give the weekends a different color in my design to avoid confusion.
After processing the feedback from the Heuristic Evaluation, I made a complete prototype for testing among my target group.
I conducted the Usability Test with 6 people. For 4 participants, Dutch was not the native language. The average age was 55 years.
This was the moment to see if the design patterns that I applied were also clear to my target group. After the first 3 tests I saw a pattern where test subjects encountered the same problem. The icons of the ‘Leef and Leerpunt’ weren’t always clear enough. Possibly they were too stylized (or modern), so that users could not associate the icons with reality. They also found it difficult to navigate independently through the page without help. This was because the homepage was too busy, or because the translation button wasn’t present. Once they got to the ‘Leef and Leerpunt’-section of the site they could find their way.
Halfway through I adjusted small elements in my design. Including the icons and illustrations for adding an activity to your calendar. For the last 3 tests I did not adjust the test plan. I asked exactly the same questions and the users were able to navigate the website better with the small adjustments.
After I gathered all the information from the Usability Tests and Eye-tracking Test, I came to the following conclusion: the design I made for the OBA website, with the target group of immigrants and refugees, was clear. Even for those who were less skilled in speaking Dutch. They understood the design patterns that were processed in the calendar, the tabs, changing the language and adding activities.
Afterwards I asked all test subjects where their attention often went. Participants who spoke little or no Dutch wanted to first adapt the website to their own language in order to navigate through the website. Participants who were able to speak a little Dutch, but couldn’t speak it fluently, didn’t necessarily have to use the translation button. Their focus was more on visual expressions, including icons and images. Using images, they could retrieve a lot of information and understand the context of the story. Participants who were more advanced at the Dutch language mainly looked at text and tried to find their way using that.
All test subjects understood the calendar very well and were able to find the activities quickly. The tabs above the calendar were very practical and space-saving.