Our improved laptop loan service: a UX exercise

A picture of grey metal cabinets containing laptops in the Templeman Library, next to a sign saying 'Laptop Loans'

We carried out a UX exercise, creating a mock advert and having short conversations with library users to get a feeling for how the messaging was coming across, and to help us shape the description and promotion of the actual service.

After the Laptop Loan service was suspended a year ago (following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic), we have been exploring the best way to reinstate it. This hiatus has also given us the chance to rethink and redesign the service, to improve its quality, user experience and sustainability. The previous batch of laptops were due for renewal anyway, and as the previous service had not been performing so well on the IS Survey for 3-4 years beforehand, we felt that this was a prime opportunity to make something better!


The UX exercise was designed by Angela Groth-Seary, Kaidi Goke, Jon Peacock and Nick Goodman in a series of meetings, with Bonnie Ferguson as the sponsor of the overall project.


The UX exercise was carried on campus out across four days between 07/05/2021 and 17/05/2017 following an initial planning meeting on 05/05/2021


Quality & Marketing created a flier as a mock-advert prototype. This provided a description and a list of the features and limitations of the service. The flier made it obvious that this was a mock-up and not a finalised service. We decided to use the ‘grab-and-go’ interview format to keep it more informal. We approached library users as they interacted with the Support Desk, or after they had used their carrel for the day to get their views on the proposed service.

We asked them questions such as whether or not they thought the service would be useful, and for any comments (positive or negative) about aspects that they thought were good, or things that could be improved upon! This allowed us to test the messaging, and helps us shape the description and promotion of the actual service as we move into the next phase of this project’s development. This is an image of the flyer we used:

Printer flyer. Title: Our improved laptop loan service for students. Text: Couldn’t bring your laptop to campus today? Want to work in a library area that doesn’t have PCs? Borrow a laptop for use in the Templeman Library! You can borrow it for up to 4 hours (so the laptops always have optimal charge and can be shared fairly). What to do 1. Borrow it: from the self-service cabinet on Ground floor, Block B (the café area). 2. Clean it: screen wipes are provided near the cabinet. 3. Use it: the laptop works with wired and Bluetooth headphones. 4. Save it: save your files to your University OneDrive so you can access them anywhere. 5. Report it: if there’s a problem, please take it to the IT & Library Support Desk so we can sort it out. 6. Return it: at the end of the loan period, take it back to the cabinet and plug it in. What they offer • Office 365 • A web browser • Citation tools and accessibility apps • Webcam What’s not provided • Course specific software • Charger • Other peripherals (eg mouse) • Speakers (they’re disabled) The small print • The laptops can’t be taken out of the Library. • If you don’t return the laptop at the end of the loan period, there won’t be a fine – but you can’t borrow any other items until you do! • If you lose the laptop, we will charge you for the replacement costs. • You need to abide by the Library and IT regulations when using them.


The feedback (gathered from 26 people) was overwhelmingly positive; people felt that the service was clearly described, would be useful for them, and that the terms and conditions were all justifiable and fair. The major issue people had was the 4 hour limit before you needed to return the laptop, and how this would be handled if they needed extra time to work, or wanted to borrow another laptop after that.

People were also understandably concerned with how the hygiene aspects would be handled during this pandemic and suggested ways in which we could provide information about this clearly.

A selection of feedback comments


  • It’s very helpful, especially if you want to use a laptop in a quieter study area, or you want to be social and spontaneously study in a group on computers.
  • It looks convenient and well-designed, and I would use if I hadn’t brought my laptop in to the library.
  • Very useful if your laptop is frozen, as also I like using the loan laptops more than the PCs
  • Good that you have all the basic essentials for programs and that it loads quickly and the internet is fast, and that it has your uni account on it.
  • I like that you have the ability to save your files onto your university drive or One Drive, so you can work on projects at home and then pick them up later on the university laptop.
  • Good that you have all the essentials, so you can browse, and you have Microsoft programs etc, because that’s mainly what we do.
  • I think it will be helpful and it looks great!
  • Great! Sick! Yeah I really like this. Amazing! Yeah I didn’t know this was going to be a thing, but that would be cool!
  • What I really like about this is that the instructions are clear and accessible.
  • It’s good, it’s informative and I can see that it will be useful.


  • I can see times when people would want to use it for longer than 4 hours, so possibly some flexibility if they did need to keep it for longer.
  • Make sure there is clear sign-posting for putting it back on the charger properly.
  • My only issue would be whether it would be hygienic, or would be disinfected between uses as this is a key issue at the moment obviously.
  • As a disabled student with dyslexia, would it be possible to have all the accessibility apps which are endorsed by Support & Wellbeing, or at least have a few designated computers which have these apps and the ability to change the screen to certain colours etc?
  • Make sure people can’t remove the RFID tags to walk out the library with it.
  • Make sure the battery life is good.
  • Could I return one after 4 hours and then get another one out immediately afterwards and repeat across the whole day?
  • Could you make sure that this is advertised properly to all the students, so everyone knows it will be available?


  • I would like to know the specifications of the machine, as the previous laptop loan service wasn’t fast enough for the software I was trying to run.
  • 4 hours does not seem long enough, maybe 5 or 6 hours would be better, as sometimes I’m here morning until late!
  • Could you get loan speakers to go with it as well?
  • Could you make the T & Cs for what happens if you lose the laptop a bit friendlier?


Overall, people brought up many valid points, and it was fascinating to learn about the varied ways in which people approached this messaging and project, and to communicate more directly with our library users about what we think will be a great new service!

We have taken all this user feedback on board, and will adjust our messaging, design and budget to reflect this as we move through the ongoing development stages of the project.