Prototype Testing

The Harvard Library web team used established personas and user stories to design new page types for library buildings, collections, and a web app for students to find study space. The Find a Space app was especially critical because it was a new feature based on our discovery research.

The Find a Space web app enables users to browse and filter library spaces at Harvard.


I used Qualtrics to create and execute a survey with 40+ students to learn the best language to use to describe certain space features, like charging stations and noise levels and understand which features are most important.

I collaborated closely with our team’s content strategist and designer to create mock-ups of the find a space app. Once we had the designs, I built an interactive, clickable prototype in Sketch. I used the prototype to conduct a task-based usability test with 10 users to understand overall usability and UI preferences.

A Sketch prototype showing click areas with orange arrows.
Interactive prototype of Find a Space made with Sketch
We wanted to know
  • Do users feel overwhelmed by the amount of filter options on Find a Space
  • Should some/all filters appear collapsed or expanded by default ?
  • What is the preferred order for the filter groups? 
  • Is it helpful to display the map by default?
We learned that
  • Users did not feel overwhelmed by the app; most users said it was “very useful” to them.
  • Users strongly preferred most filter options be collapsed by default.
  • The most important and useful filter was “Space Type.”
  • The map was an important part of the interface that signaled the variety of locations and as a way to navigate the app.
Survey Results: Language Preferences for Furniture
  • Private tables/desks (72%) v. Study carrels (28%)
  • Group tables (87%) v. Shared tables/desks (13%)
  • Standing desks (80%) v. Standing workstations (20%)
  • Couches/upholstered furniture (84%) v. Soft seating (16%)
  • Moveable furniture (87%) v. Configurable furniture (13%)
Survey Results: Preferred Order of Space Features
  1. Seating choices
  2. Outlets
  3. Work surface choice
  4. Food & drink allowed
  5. Food & drink available for purchase
  6. Charging stations
  7. Whiteboards
  8. Printers/copiers/scanners
  9. Lockers
Usability Results

All of the participants in the usability testing of the prototype were able to find a specific room and use the filters to browse rooms. The feeling of being overwhelmed was low (2.75/5), but the majority of participants preferred most of the filters to be collapsed by default, rather than expanded.

The categories of “Building” and “Room Type” were the most important in the filter bar. And we heard that students wished there was a way to search by keyword, like building name or furniture type. All participants found the ability to navigate the buildings via the map very useful.


Using the clickable prototype was an effective way to evaluate a complex interface with multiple interaction points. Based on the survey and prototype test findings we updated the filter presentation and collapsed all options, except “Space Type.” We preserved the map interaction as the most prominent content on the page.

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