Access to physical materials

I designed new features that help people to reach materials across libraries and archives. I also helped to implement them.

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Digital service creation is teamwork. See credits for other designers’ contributions. focus moved from searching to accessing material, when I became responsible for it. front page. makes the materials of Finnish archives, libraries and museums available in one search.

Both physical and online materials should be easy to access. More than 80% of Finna’s 10 000 000+ pieces of material are in physical format. On the other hand, latest trends shift focus towards online content.


We worked together on the project. In these years, two things in Teemu’s way of working have left me with a particularly strong impression. The first is his dedication to understanding the needs of the user, and how to serve them best. The second is his interest in teamwork and in understanding and continuously improving the patterns and practices of the team, especially in agile contexts.

Context of use

I based all improvements on usability evaluations. When I first started Finna work, I simulated the use of with tens of example situations.

For example, physical library materials are relevant for students who need to find exam books in last moment. Similarly, physical location of archive materials limits interest of researchers.

Most students who live in Helsinki will not be very keen to fetch exam books from Turku libraries. Likewise few Turku students will have great interest in copies which are available, but in Helsinki.

Library material availability map

The library material availability map (mockup) was successful in 2015 usability tests.

A mockup of library material availability map

Most users proceeded fast to the library material page (image). Consequently, they found the availability map easily. First they had searched the book by name on front page, and then glimpsed a couple of snippets in search list.

The drawback of this feature is that it shows only the availability of an edition of a book or other work. For example, newer releases of the book Tutki ja kirjoita are not present in this image.

Location facet

The location facet (mockup) filters out material which is far from a given geographical point. This provides an efficient way to reach library books and other physical materials.

A closer look at location facet mockup

A mockup of location facet

Both dropdowns in the image have 40+ items. In the future, even more libraries will join Finna. The location facet limits lists length to a couple of items.

Already 40% of Finnish university and polytechnic library search users use also the site. This means hundreds of thousands of people. The location facet could benefit those people.

Unfortunately, most participants’ flow did not hit location facet in the 2015 tests. Who would expect that Finna has this feature, when nobody has implemented such a thing before! However, the use of facets has multiplied since 2013, when users have become more familiar with Finna. I believe that users would learn to use the location facet, too.

Material page UI access information

The before / after screenshots (below) represent a library material page. As many as 80% of users come to from Google, and most land on material pages. Thus this page must inform, how you can access a piece of material.


Screenshot of material page UI before improvements


Screenshot of material page UI after improvements

The after screenshot has changes that improved the findability of two important facts.

  1. Libraries that provide a piece of material
  2. Availability in service points

Further, libraries that provide a piece of material are shown in two places of the layout: material provided by and table header.

Material providers

The right column Material provided by was first in a dropdown below cover image. (Yet in the before screenshot, it does not even exist.) When it was in a dropdown and a user wanted to see information of a relevant library, s/he needed to click the name of an irrelevant library. That was not a natural step towards your goal! Therefore material providers are now shown as list. A list provides good overview, and you get what you click.

In availability table header, we took selected library name out from a dropdown. The text “other libraries” gives better cues what relevant information you might find than current library name.

Availability in service points

A user needs to figure out which library service points are easy to access, when s/he has found a good library. For this purpose, we added “show all details” progressive disclosure. Consequently, the availability table is now more dominant in the page layout.

Before adding the progressive disclosure, the availability table was often not visible on phone, tablet and laptop screen sizes first, when the page had been loaded. The old layout worked well only on big table monitors.

Organisation introduction pages

Many users do not know that everybody can use the services of Finnish university libraries, and what services archives and museums provide. Organizations can now tell about access on their introduction pages (images below).

Screenshot of material provided by
Organisation introduction page, a screenshot of mobile device layout
Screenshot of material provided by

Links to introduction pages

The new material page UI and the organisation introduction pages were successful in the 2015 usability tests. However, test participants used an interactive mockup. Yet call to actions became poorly designed in first published version.

Analytics showed that hardly any users accessed organisation pages in the first version we released (leftmost screenshot). I thought that the links are too weak visually because right column links tend to be of secondary importance on many web sites. Therefore I returned logos to the links (middle screenshot).

Usage numbers did not improve much with the images. Thus I supposed that our link text is not appealing enough. Think of many company web sites, where About us page contains “boring company information”, number of employees et cetera. Seeing that, we put target page chapter titles to the link text (rightmost screenshot).

Input of organisation data

A service called Kirkanta is used as data storage for Finna access features. Kirkanta is the backend user interface of library directory and API services.

I contacted editor in chief Matti Sarmela to ask, whether we could use their API. He even agreed that Kirkanta could be used also for Finna archive organisations. Such flexibility is amazing from a public domain actor!

I designed the information architecture of a new consortium section in Kirkanta (leftmost and middle screenshots). I also wrote wiki documentation of Kirkanta integration for library and archive people (rightmost image).

Interactive prototype

I prepared an interactive prototype for the 2015 usability tests. It is still online, so feel free to try your luck. Test task is below.

(English speakers: unfortunately it is only in Finnish.)


“Asut Helsingissä Arabianrannan kaupunginosassa, ja opiskelet Helsingin yliopistossa. Sinulla on koulusi kirjastoon Helka-kirjastokortti. Tarvitset opintoihisi kirjan Tutki ja Kirjoita tieteellisen kirjottamisen kurssia varten. Olet hakenut hakusanoilla ‘Tutki ja Kirjoita 2009’ Finnasta. Selvitä Finnan avulla, miten saat tämän teoksen käytännössä käsiisi, vai saatko?”

Interactive prototype. Available at



A frontend oriented UX designer, Aleksi Turpeinen, worked in same product team 2013–2016. His input was precious in countless situations, where I needed a helping hand. Aleksi was also design lead in many Finna subprojects himself. However, I was responsible for the cases above because I was concept owner in 2013–2015. Yet Aleksi did the visual design of the Show all details element of this layout. You can see my version of it here.

I have expressed my role and contributions as clearly as I can in the text above. For example, one chapter has title Location facet. I tell next that images are mockups. Put another way, I have contributed the mockup of the location facet. My design of a feature normally includes its interactions with other elements, too.

The designs presented above build on certain design assets. A design agency called Tsto had provided a visual identity previously. Moreover, initial versions of some core layouts had come from the VuFind open source platform. Last but not least, Anne Luotonen and Ville Hirvonen have done great work as designers in Finna, at different times.

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