Guest post by Meg Dolan (MScR Collections and Curating Practices, 2020) and Keith Bossert (MSc History of the Book, 2020)
This summer we had the opportunity to intern with the Digital Imaging Unit, working under Photographer, Juliette Lichman, and DIU Manager, Carla Arton. Due to COVID-19 we worked remotely to expand and update the DIU’s web presence on the University’s Main Library page, a service development project related to their larger Digitisation as a Service Strategy.
The project was divided into 5 phases:
- Pre-Planning and User Experience Research & Analysis
- Planning and Training
- Design and Creation
- Usability Testing and Tweaking
Phase 1: Pre-Planning and User Experience Research & Analysis
In Phase 1, we viewed the websites of similar digitisation departments across other academic and research institutions. This allowed us to get a feel for what we thought was user-friendly about other sites, as well as to start to decide what information we would like to include.
Next, we took a list of potential items of information for our website, and we performed a UX research activity called Card Sorting. In this activity, participants are given a list of tasks, asked to group them into categories and to name the categories. We gave ten participants from across several Library and University departments a list of 30 things (mainly actions and section headers) that we were hoping to include in the new website. The results of the card sorting activity showed us that most participants were confused with what services were offered and classified the majority of our planned information as “About Us” type information. We would have to simplify our terminology for a very technical service and be clear on what digitsation as a service fully encompassed for the Digital Imaging Unit.
Phase 2: Planning and Training
Based on the results of our Card Sorting exercise, we had several lengthy discussions related to information architecture (main pages, subpages, placement on page, etc.) and terminology.
We created the following six categories:
- Our Services: Lists the different types of digitisation services offered as well as an updated price list
- Find Digitised Material: Points the user to the repositories for images and books that have already been digitized
- Request Service: Lets the user contact the DIU to start a service request
- About Us: Details the department mission and vision, staff, equipment, and provides a contact link
- Image Licensing: Information on licensing, copyright, citation styles, and data protection
- Engagement and Impact: Links to this blog, projects and repositories such as our Digital Wall, and collaborations with Google Arts and Culture and Europeana
We additionally undertook mandatory training from the University to become acquainted with the Content Management software EdWeb, web accessibility standards, and university branding practices before moving on to the actual creation of the website.
Phase 3: Design and Creation
EdWeb as a tool helps to maintain a uniform look across the University’s plethora of departmental and administrative web contents. Although the tool is easy to use for the non-IT professionals of the University, the uniformity comes with limitations. Fonts, text styles, image sizes, image placement, and page layouts were all affected by EdWeb’s rules, so we had to find creative ways to transform our mockups into actual pages, particularly when working with images. Keith, a veteran website developer, described the process as “performing surgery with boxing gloves.” Even with the limitations of the tool, however, we were able to create a more inviting, image-filled site to showcase the services and impact of the University’s Digital Library staff.
Phase 4: Usability Testing and Tweaking
After all the page architecture had been established and the content placed in the correct pages, we again invited users from across the Library and other University departments to test the site before our launch. We again gave them a list of tasks to perform, engineered to have them find different sections within the sub-pages. The feedback we received was overwhelmingly positive, with a few small suggestions.
Next we spent a few days performing final tweaks: checking links, providing alternative image text for accessibility, and ensuring formatting was consistent throughout the pages.
Phase 5: Publication
Now officially published, we’d like to invite you to explore the new site! Not only does the site now visually reflect the quality of the work output by the DIU, it also offers new insight into the DIU’s full service offerings, including its engagement within and outwith the University beyond digitisation. The department intends to measure the success of the new website by tracking pageviews, collecting comparative feedback from users of the previous site, and with a follow up survey in a year’s time to gauge how to move forward and continue development as the service matures.
This has been a wonderful internship opportunity, and a great way to get to know more about the inner workings of the University’s Library and Collections group, and how the Digital Imaging Unit functions within that system. Working under Carla and Juliette has been a wonderful experience. We are so pleased we were able to contribute to their Digitisation as a Service Strategy while also building skills in UX, branding, and digital engagement within the cultural heritage sector and higher education.
Other new and updated pages
- Digitisation Services (offered across the Library)
- Centre for Research Collections Digital Imaging and Scanning Services