The art of wandering
Interfaces to explore museums' online art collections
Thanks to the developments in digitization and web technologies, many museums publish their collections online, and the possibility to interact with art beyond the physical visit to a museum is now a reality.
However, museums’ online interfaces mostly address the needs of existing users: researchers, academics and professionals. They allow to perform highly specific searches, use domain-specific keywords and focus on reducing the time needed to retrieve information.
Instead, how can we expand the audience of digital collections? The Art of Wandering focused on art lovers that engage with physical museums but do not yet interact with digital museums. How can we design interfaces that support these potential users in art discovery, casual explorations and engaging experiences?
WikiArt • I conducted a usability study to highlight problems and limitations of current interface designs.
In a laboratory setting, I evaluated the experience of potential users with the interface of WikiArt. The study investigated the use of search and browse features and the factors that increased users’ engagement.
ArtOfWonder • I explored users’ needs for additional information about artworks.
During two public events, I collected and analysed potential users’ interest for the single paintings of a small art collection. Interest was collected in the form of questions written on post-it notes, adapting the Thinking Routines method.
ArtRooms • I evaluated the potential of designing interfaces that increase users’ curiosity.
I created the ArtRoom, a prototype that implements principles of Design for Curiosity. Then, I conducted a usability study in a laboratory setting, where I compared the user experience with the novel interface to the experience with a control one.
- ENGAGEMENT FACTORS
Art explorations are engaging when the interface provides inspiration, personal connection, heterogeneity, novelty, information gap, and when it enables the user to create and pursue self-set goals. Conversely, users are disengaged if the interface does not support interaction with single paintings, or if it uses a vocabulary that does not match their level of expertise.
- USER PROFILES
Users’ expectations and preferences regarding the art experience differ. Some are engaged by contemplative intimate interactions with the artworks, others prefer interactive or gamified activities. Despite this difference, both groups seek to have an active role in the exploration, interpreting, reflecting, playing, exploring, rather than passively observing or navigating.
- USERS’ NEEDS
When requesting more information about artworks, non-expert art-lovers express interest for four main topics.
Moreover, they interact with the paintings using three main interaction modes, which highlight their need to understand, communicate and add to the art experience.
- DESIGN FOR EXPLORATORY STYLES
There are three exploratory profiles that describe three ways of navigating a collection. The mono-maniac, the multi-thematic, and the jumper. In each one, the user seeks novelty to a different degree and frequency. Interfaces could be tailored to meet the need of one or more exploratory styles.
- DESIGN FOR INFORMATION NEEDS
Novel interfaces can be designed based on the topics and modes of interaction displayed by existing users or potential users when observing paintings. This research offers the Inquiry Technique as a method to collect users’ needs and the Information Curiosities as a framework to analyse them.
- DESIGN FOR CURIOSITY
Applying Design for Curiosity can increase users’ engagement and satisfaction. It can also increase the diversity of content users engage with. However, it can disengage users looking for contemplative experiences and it can reduce the engagement time if it is not implemented carefully. The research offers additional recommendations to effectively implement principles of Design for Curiosity.
Users navigate collections with different degree of exploratory behaviours and need for novelty. Based on their use of exploration features (search bar and menu) we identified three groups