Events + Tiny Café

We conducted brief interviews and a card-sorting activity to find out how users conceptualize our events, workshops, and exhibits. We found that users liked browsing by topic.



Do users understand the difference between events, workshops, and exhibits on our website? How can we improve browsing for events? 


Some participants made a similar differentiation between events, workshops, and exhibits, but in the card-sorting activity, participants tended to categorize by topic or discipline (e.g., technology or arts) rather than type. 

Participants liked a mock-up of topic tags for Events, and they pointed to the existing list of Event Series titles as another way they would browse.

Some mistook a newsletter signup box as a search box and said it would be useful; others saw there was no events-only search box and said they would expect one to be there. A few participants also said that location was an important factor in deciding whether to attend an event.


  • We should deploy Event tags including "Science & Technology" and "Arts & Media."
  • We should change the way the newsletter sign-up box looked. (This was done shortly after the Tiny Café.)
  • We should prototype an Events-only search bar.
  • We should prototype a dropdown menu of locations.

How We Did It

We used the Tiny Café model for this user research. We set up a table with coffee and pastries from Panera in the lobby of the Park Shops building. We chose to conduct this Tiny Café outside of the Libraries buildings in order to get a sample of participants who may or may not use Libraries services. 


While participants waited in a short line, we presented them with an iPad that had a "while-you-wait" survey loaded. It asked, "Before today, did you know that in the NC State University Libraries, you can..." with options including "Learn how to use a 3D printer" and "Attend talks by alumni." While not directly relevant to our research question, this information was helpful for contextualizing how much participants knew about Libraries events. 

Card sorting

Events sorted into Fun, Arts, Movies/Games, and Research/Tools
Card-sorting outcomes
Events divided into categories: Activities at the Library, Intersection of Art and Technology, Speaker Series, and Educational Opportunities

Then, the participant approached the table to do a card-sorting activity. We gave them a stack of 12 Libraries events, exhibits, or workshops, but they had only a small picture, title, date & time, and location. The cards weren't identified as an event, exhibit, or workshop. We asked the participant to group them into categories that made sense to them, and then label the category on the neon-colored index card.

For example, here are the categories that participants assigned to a workshop called "Orientation: Digital media making in the Libraries":

  • Art (digital)
  • Art/design
  • Computer science
  • D. H. Hill Jr. [location]
  • Digital stuff
  • Education
  • Hobbies
  • How to's
  • Intersection of art and technology
  • Learning and development
  • Library teaching
  • Math/science
  • One-time
  • Research
  • Research/tools
  • Tech-based tutorials
  • Technology
  • Technology and talks
  • Tips/help
  • Tutorials/workshops
  • Workshop/educational

Reactions to a prototype

Once they were finished with card sorting, we presented them with a printout of the current Events page, and asked them a few final questions, including "What's missing from this page?

Library Events page with a section that says, Find events featuring: Alumni, Students and Faculty, FOL Premium or discount, Science and technology, Arts and media
Prototype with five event tags: Alumni, Students & Faculty, FOL Premium/Discount, Science & Technology, Arts & Media

Then we showed them a printout of a prototype of an updated Events page, which had a way to filter by tags. We asked them:

  • How would you use this page?
  • What would you expect to happen if you selected "Science & Technology"? 

With that, their participation was concluded, and we encouraged them to help themselves to coffee and pastries. 

We had a total of 21 participants. There was one staff member, and the rest were undergraduate students with a variety of majors.



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    Alex Calderon
    Ask Us Student Worker