I’ve always been secretly afraid of how the world is changing it’s reaction to reading. It’s become fairly common knowledge that physical books are slowly being edged aside in favour of e-readers like Kindle and the internet.
I’m a keen reader and a lover of the traditional book store environment, so I decided to base my project on trying to protect and enhance an experience I was already fond of.
This was quite a wide topic for me and I quickly had to narrow down what it was I wanted to focus on. It ended up being the physical browsing and excitement of discovery that lead me to my brief.
My main source of inspiration in this project has been my spontaneous trips to Waterstones. A lot of the design decisions I made towards the direction of my project came from the thoughts I had as I wandered around the store. It made sense to use Waterstones as a target client in the end because I based most of the design decisions around how they work as a company. I think I really needed that in the end, as it helped me design more realistic solutions.
In a society where physical spaces are actively competing against an expanding online shopping experience, it is hard for companies on the high street to maintain the same sales. Bookshops in particular are slowly becoming redundant as major online companies are providing a faster, cheaper and more convenient alternative to buying books in store. Glance aims to bring part of that online community in store and create a richer browser experience for customers. By linking the online and the physical it is possible to give books more of a presence in store.
I always wanted a segment of the book to be visible because I felt the users needed that visual connection between the physical and the digital. This feature still remains, but it has changed from a vertical to horizontal layout. There were many design flaws with the vertical version, all related to readability. I liked the vertical version because it had a good connection to the way in which we read, Ie, something about the strip you could see was reminiscent of a book spine, but ultimately usability is the main factor here and something had to be sacrificed.
However, I like the way the new version looks. I changed the colour from pink to orange. The pink ended up giving of the wrong vibe and it was described as ‘girly’. It wasn’t a bad thing, but it wasn’t the tone I was going for.
The navigation required a lot more thought than I originally planned. The three buttons I had in the first version weren’t the most useful or visually appealing way to show what I want.
I ended up ditching these and considering how people would be able to re-scan the books in store. I have made the main feature of the app the large ‘g’ button at the bottom of the page, which alerts the user to where they are in the app, how to get back and creates a sense of continuity in it’s architecture.
I think coming up with a name helped me move forward on the branding of the app overall, which in turn influenced how it functioned.
My app can finally scan things! I’ve been working away on the html side of things, getting it to show reviews/look better, that I’ve not managed to get it doing the main functionality which is scanning barcodes. I’ve mentioned before that I’m ditching the QR codes in favour of barcodes mainly because books already have isbn barcodes which I can use.
I’ve been using Zbar, which I’ve had working to a point for a while. I originally tried Redlaser, but I couldn’t quite get it to work. Zbar was really easy to get working as it turns out, but the trouble lay with getting it to direct to a url. However, I got a little help getting the barcode to open and it is now working. In xcode I could link it to a webview, which managed to bypass the problems I was having with browser bars.
All in all it was really satisfying to be able to scan a book and see my web app appear. I still have to make it look nice and link up all the barcodes to their book, but I’m really happy it’s scanning.
Not long now until everything is due to be finished. I can’t say I’m close to having most things done, but I’m certainly nearer.
Last week I paid a visit to Waterstones to discuss borrowing some books from them for the degree show. The manager was more than happy to help me in any way, but in the end I decided to purchase the books instead of borrow them. I had a few reasons for this, most of which came down to convenience. The manager told me he could potentially only lend me the books for the shortest possible time, ie the week of the degree show, which would mean I would have no books to work with up until then. I need the books to be present so that I can grab their barcode numbers, as it now seems that I’ll be using barcodes instead of QR codes. I also needed to see them all laid out, know which ones I could get and how much room they would take up. New Designers in July was also something I wanted to take into consideration, as I doubted Waterstones would let me take 10 books of theirs down to London for a week. In the end I spent a fair bit of money on it, but I think it will be worth it in the end. Seeing the books lined up and finally in an order which would be a fair represenation of a shelf is a nice feeling. I chose the classics because I think as a genre they’re the less judged or stereotyped. If I had chosen the horror section I think there would have been an entirely different response to the project.
SOME OTHER DESIGN CONSIDERATIONS:
1. My entire thought process has been founded by my views on Waterstones. This includes their stores layout, atmosphere, look and decisions. For my final piece I’m going to try to use those thoughts and allow the final thing to resemble a shelf in Waterstones as closely as I can.
My battle has been to produce a shelf that will be able to house all my electronics/arduino. The last time I showed it on here it was looking a bit like a little box, but after the feedback I received from my mark ii hand in I’ve decided to make a traditional shelf that will be put on the wall, not a plinth. So far this is proving to be more difficult than I had planned, but hopefully it will all come together in the next 1-2 weeks.
2. I’ve changed the design of my app due to the occasional piece of feedback I’ve been given and because I was never sure about it. I had a look at some other apps on the market(not necessarily for books) and am in the process of changing that. So far it’s looking a lot better.
The other half of my project is looking good too and so far I have my twitter account linked with 8 different leds representing separate books. I took a trip down the the dreaded workshop (a place I never go) to get help actually building something other than tattered cardboard box, and they’ve have agreed to help a girl out. I’m going back tomorrow and someone is hopefully going to teach me the ways of the workshop.
I finally got the twitter functionality working with my leds. I’ve managed (with the help of the wonderful Ali Napier) to allocate an led to each book title, which will light up whenever the name of the book is tweeted. It’s only a small step and I need to play with it a bit to getting it working out side my own twitter account and with more than 3 leds. It’s my first time working with json files and php, but luckily the processing and arduino parts were familiar.
The next step in this part of my project would involve Electric Imp, which I’ve been learning about this week. This small device will be able to connect my project to the internet wirelessly. If we get it working it there would be no need for a computer, which would help in making it look better overall.
And lastly, I’ve started looking at solutions for the app side of my project. Originally I was going to make a web based app, but due to the complications that might arise when trying to access the camera/scan a code, I’ve decided it might be better using a method that already allows me to do that. I’ve used xcode before in a previous project last year, but it lacked proper functionality. It might be a bit of a steep learning curve, but I think because I have so few screens it might be the better option for me right now.
Tonight I’m going to play with the arduino and try to get it to respond to data. Fingers crossed something happens.