The design challenge was to come up with a solution for the wayfinding problems at TU Eindhoven (TU/e) campus.
Based on the user research, the data revealed that issues during wayfinding arise in three different stages. First, users start their navigation at home and look for a rough estimate of the direction and travel time. Second, the navigation outside where people do not always use digital devices and look for constant confirmation of travel direction. Third, the navigation inside a building, where people need confirmation of direction at each moment they need to change direction and also a confirmation that they have arrived at the correct room.
The solutions comprise of multiple prototypes that together solve the challenge user’s experience during wayfinding on the TU/e for each problem stages.
September 2016 – November 2016
- Focus Groups
- Thematic Map
- Usability Testing
- Pen and paper
- Adobe Photoshop
- Sri Harshini Sri Ramulu
- Maaike Kompier
- Lisette van de Steeg
- Eelco Wiechert
- Ruud Wijffelaars
Every day, people have to find their way around the TU/e campus. Students, staff, and visitors, all with varying degrees of familiarity with the layout of the campus and its buildings. However, navigation on the TU/e campus can be difficult: there are no street addresses to go on, most buildings have more than one entrance, signage is minimal and often confusing, etc.
The TU/e campus comprises of multiple buildings that accommodate multiple rooms. Locations are often indicated with the name of the building, followed by the name/number of the room. However, this information is often not sufficient to find the correct location. In order to better understand the problems people encounter, we have to investigate navigation issues on campus, so that we can come up with ideas for possible solutions.
To help people get where they need to go to on campus.
In order to get to know what problems the target group encounters, there are several methods that can be used. However, we used focus groups as it can address some of the issues we find when evaluating the pros and cons of interviewing the target group. Especially the role of the researcher is significantly reduced and thereby less bias is introduced. Focus groups are very useful in the early stage of development to learn more about the user’s problems that the product is supposed to solve. The dynamics of a focus group can lead to a good discussion on the topic, providing valuable insights.
The focus groups consisted of three focus groups with each 3-4 participants to ensure that there is enough discussion. Each focus group was as diverse as first-year international students, first-year non-international students, and visitors who never visited the campus before.
Before the focus groups, the participants were asked to come to a certain destination as the research place. That destination was changed to a location that is considered to be a struggle to find. Some of the participants were actually lost. Then during the focus group we asked them to explain about their experience to get there and put it on the experience flow on paper.
After collecting the data, a thematic analysis was used to identify, analyze, and report patterns within the data. With these patterns, we were able to get an overview of the data that could be used to design a product. Themes represent the most important and recurring bits of the data in relation to the design challenge. To create the themes, data that was gathered in our focus groups were transcribed. After the transcription, recurring findings and interesting relationships were identified and grouped in themes.
Referring to the data gathered, the users have difficulties navigating within three different stages of navigation:
- At home, specifically finding the location of the meeting based on abbreviations, incongruent, or odd naming of locations. This stage can be divided in two subsections: namely: finding information needed (i.e. actual building name) and the location of the building itself.
- On-campus (outdoor), people looked for indications around them where they had to go. The stage is characterized by confirmation seeking. The user wants confirmation that they are on the right track and confirmation when they have arrived at the building.
- On-campus (indoor), the problems from outdoor on-campus recurred. The first thing people do is look for information that shows how the building is structured to get a rough idea of where to go to. Then, along their way, more information is required and again confirmation is sought. When arriving at the destination, they looked for confirmation that the navigation task is completed.
It is possible to have more than one user type relevant to ‘navigation on campus’, but from the participants in our focus groups, we could identify two user groups: first-time visitors and first-year international students. The persona that we decided to focus on is a first-year international student who faces challenges in navigating on the campus because he is not familiar with the environment yet.
The ideation phase elaborates on the design process from requirements to concepts, which leads to the prototype. Three different concepts were created, of which one was used to design a prototype and tested.
In the brainstorm session, the three main stages of navigation and their main requirement have been noted down and possible solutions were created. All solutions are categorized near the stage that it belonged to. After we could think of no new solutions any longer, we explained all solutions briefly and evaluated their feasibility. All solutions that required renaming of streets, buildings, and rooms were dropped as those would mainly cause more confusion and less coherence in communication, which was already a pitfall in the current navigation.
After this evaluation, some redundant solutions remained for every stage. As there are already many navigation tools on campus, we decided that we wanted to focus on improving these instead of introducing additional aids. We looked at the requirements of the solution for every stage once more and determined that the following set of solutions would cover the challenges encountered by the persona.
2. On campus (outdoor) – Building names on the navigation aids on campus (instead of street names) and salient/lucid name of the building on the building itself.
3. On campus (indoor) – Overview of the building (rooms/structure) at the entrance, from which colored/patterned lines depart to the different rooms in the building and salient/lucid names of the room at the entrance of each room.
We identified solutions for every stage solving the current problems. However, we decided to focus on the ‘at-home’ phase of navigating as this is the start, and thereby also the baseline level for the experience. We aimed to make navigating a better more pleasant experience and we believe that within the navigation process the most gain can be achieved with minimal effort in this stage. Additionally, by offering a solution for the problems in the starting phase of navigation, the challenges in the other stages may also be affected. Evaluation of this first concept will lead to a conclusion on what to do for the other stages of navigating.
The solution for the troubles experienced at home is twofold. Whenever users receive an unknown location for their meeting, they tend to use an online search engine to find where they have to go. The first element of our solution would thus be that every search for a location (in the form of an abbreviation) should immediately lead the user to the TU/e map we designed. Our main focus, however, is on the second element of the solution: an improved version of current online maps provided by the TU/e.
The second element of the solution is a part that can be prototyped and tested: it is the information provided upon the map itself. The user should be provided with all the desired information. When opening the application, immediately a high-quality TU/e map is shown. In a search bar, the user can enter the building name, the abbreviation, or the department/faculty. Using this information, the application recognizes which building the user is looking for and highlights this building, shows the entrance, and the full building name and street address. Furthermore, the map gives the user the option to look at the indoor floor plans to help them orientate where they have to go. Any other information, such as opening times, services, location of nearby parking places/bike racks can be added to the map as well.
The purpose of our prototype is to observe the user’s interaction with the interface and try to find out what information is useful to show and what information is redundant. Users will experience the new map by searching for different buildings and see what kind of information is given instantly and which information could be seen by clicking a ‘read more’ tag.
The prototype is tested in the focus group with participants of first-year international students. The purpose of the focus group is to get more insight into the usability of the prototype map.
- In our focus group setup, we incorporated a small task which intentionally allowed participants to get lost. This proved beneficial to the focus groups as participants had great call-back of their experiences during these tasks. However, when asked for other experiences of wayfinding responses were confounded to the more extreme scenarios.
- Whilst the environment of a focus group allows for an interactive setup in which new relevant areas to our research can be taken into account on the fly. However, by choosing for focus groups we had to accept that the amount of information gathered from three focus groups would be unknown until the data was actually gathered. Whereas choosing for a more structured approach allows for general insights and sometimes even data analysis to determine the number of participants needed. After focus group number three and transcribing most of our sessions we however quickly found out that three focus groups with three-four participants each were quite enough. We reached a point of data saturation, determining the point in which we encountered the same observations multiple times. The participants gathered for these focus groups proved to be quite diverse, including cultural differences (Dutch, Indian & Indonesian), age differences (18-57 years, M=26, SD=10.5), and different visitor types (general visitor = five, student = six). If, however, we needed more participants we should note that these resources of participants are not unlimited and other sources should be considered as well.