The James B. Hunt Jr. Library is a facility that houses NC State University’s second main library and a few other building partners. The complexity of the library, as well as the architectural separation of the building partners, posed some potential challenges for wayfinding. One month before the building’s opening date, I saw a unique opportunity to understand the extent of these issues and initiated a usability study of the maps and in-building signage.
We recruited eight students who had never been in the building to participate in the study. We placed a GoPro camera each student’s head and asked them to complete a series of tasks using a talk-aloud protocol, as we followed them around. At first we asked them to find things without a building map, then we provided two different versions of maps to see which were more usable and desirable.
ANALYSIS & REPORTING
The GoPro footage we recorded was great for seeing the space from the user’s point of view, which gave us a fresh perspective on a building we had been planning for years. For example, we discovered that the sightlines at the top of the stairs from the 1st floor don’t let you see the entrance to the library space and that some signage, even when noticed and read, wasn’t sufficiently clear for users.
The main issue we discovered was that most visitors are unaware that there are effectively two separate parts to the building, and that to access library spaces on the 3rd, 4th, and 5th floors, you must first enter the library on the 2nd floor. 7 out of 8 study participants immediately got onto the north elevators from the 1st floor and get lost amongst the building partner offices on the 4th or 5th floors.