Stephanie Walker

User Experience Design and Accessibility

UX Research: MSU Library Bento Box

Screenshot of the MSU Library Bento Box wireframe-before search displayed on a Mac Laptop
Final Prototype Version- What the Bento Boxes would look like before a search

Quick Summary

For the MSU Library Bento Box project, three other colleagues and I conducted UX research to test the overall usability of the Bento Box Search Engine on the Michigan State University Library’s website. The Bento Box search engine was in beta at the time when my team became involved with the project, so my team and I were responsible for conducting final usability testing. After conducting surveys and Wayfinding user tests, my team analyzed the results and found that the beta search engine still did not meet the needs of the users, and therefore was not ready to be fully implemented. Based on what our data from the User Research (surveys) determined was confusing, we developed eight suggested features and interaction patterns to improve the search engine to fit the users’ needs and expectations. This included adding an information button to each “box” or section of the search engine. Our suggestions were then presented to the librarians at the MSU Library, who had the option to accept (or decline) our designs, and some of our suggestions were implemented into the final search engine. To read more about our specific findings and suggestions, please view a PowerPoint summarizing this project.

Please note:

  • The Bento Box search engine is named after the traditional Japanese dish or container called a Bento Box. A Bento box is a box with small compartments within it that are designed to separate or organize different pieces of food.
  • The Bento Box search engine functions similarly in that when you conduct a search, the results are broken down and displayed in separate boxes determined by category (such as “Articles, Books and Media, or Databases”). 

The Issue / Task

Conduct User Experience Research to determine if the MSU Library’s beta Bento Box search engine was intuitive and usable, before being fully implemented into the Library’s website as the main search engine (pass the beta stage).

My Role

I worked with a team that included myself and two other colleagues to assess the usability of the MSU Library’s Bento Box Engine, which was in beta when we started the evaluation.

My Process (Summarized)

  • Navigate through the beta Bento Box search engine ourselves to determine its essential functions
  • Write and Distribute usability Survey on Google Forms. Questions would use Wayfinding techniques to evaluate if users understood the function(s) of the search engine, and if it would help them find the information they were looking for
  • Analyze the results of the survey to determine what parts of the Bento Box search engine need to be improved
  • Present suggestion of improvements, along with the user data (survey results) that supports them, to a team of MSU Librarians

My Process (Detailed)

Phase One: Initial Scope and Analysis

  • Navigate through the beta Bento Box search engine to determine its essential function(s).
  • This would help determine what questions to ask in the usability survey.

Phase Two: Usability Research

  • Develop a usability survey for the search engine using Google Forms and send it out to the users of MSU Library’s website.
  • We determined that there are several groups of people that would use the MSU Library’s website, and therefore would also use the search engine: MSU students, MSU faculty, and community members living in the East Lansing Area.
  • The survey consisted of questions that would ask the user (someone from one of the groups listed above) to complete a task using the search engine.
  • This evaluated whether a user could easily understand how to use the search engine, and if they could easily complete the task that they were trying to complete by using the search engine.

Phase Three: Research Analysis

  • Analyze the results of the survey to determine if the search engine is ready to be fully implemented, and if it is not, what parts of the Bento Box search engine need to be improved to make it usable.
  • After analyzing the results, we determined that the search engine was not ready to be fully implemented because the user data from the survey showed that there were eight different things that needed to be changed in order for the search engine to be usable.
  • Next, My team created some redesigned prototypes that implemented these eight suggestions.
    • Prototypes were created from sections of the search engine, not the engine as a whole. This is why multiple prototypes were designed.
  • Select photos of the final prototypes are also viewable below

Phase Four: Present Redesigned Prototypes to Stakeholders

  • Presented the suggested improvements and wireframes to a team of MSU Librarians, using the user research survey data to explain the reasoning for improvements.
  • MSU Librarians then determined which features, design, content, etc to implement to the final Bento Box search engine. Some of our designs were selected for the final, live version of the search engine.

Final Outcome / Summary

After presenting our suggestions to the group of MSU librarians, some of our improvement content and design suggestions were implemented into the final version of the search engine. In summary, my team and I developed a survey to determine if the MSU Libary beta Bento Box search engine was usable and intuitive. Our research discovered that the search engine was not ready to be fully implemented because it was not user-friendly or intuitive. The analysis of our research data determined that the search engine was not ready to be fully implemented and discovered eight different suggestions to improve the usability of the search engine.

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