Session 8 — Interface Design for Users
Friday 11:30 - 13:00
Chair: Jamie McLaughlin
University of Sheffield
The AHRC-funded project ‘Participating in Search Design: a study of George Thomason’s newsbooks’ is a collaboration between the Humanities Research Institute and the departments of History, English and Sociological Studies at the University of Sheffield. The principal aim of the project is to investigate and understand how search is used within humanities research methodology and to apply this knowledge in the design of better search interfaces for online resources, which genuinely meet the needs of the research community. We are exploring the use of a Participatory Design approach in developing search tools, which will ensure that potential end users are actively engaged at every stage of the technical design process as creative agents rather than reactive consultants. Our test dataset is a sample of the Thomason tracts, currently only available as facsimiles through Early English Books Online.
Participatory design does not have a set method. By its very nature, it involves tailoring the approach specifically to the subject matter, the types of users involved and the expected outcomes. We have gathered five participants to take part in Design Groups, all academics at varying career stages and from different disciplinary backgrounds. By the end of the project, they will have attended four physical meetings and also remotely discussed HRI prototypes and issues raised pre and post group meetings on a purpose-built community forum run by Ning.
We will explain how we went about the Design Groups; the outcomes and lessons from each session and how these fed into evolving our approach at each stage. We will also discuss the mediation process between the Design Group and HRI technical developers to translate their ideas into practice – a crucial, but little researched, aspect of Participatory Design.
The paper will also briefly recap the key findings from our initial survey and focus groups and explore what we have learned from interviews with content providers and initial testing of the Design stage on a pilot group at the National Library of Wales.
Jisc Collections purchased perpetual rights to Early English Books Online and Eighteenth Century Collections Online for the Academic Community in the UK. This allowed UK institutions to gain access to these collections for just an annual platform fee (as the content has already been purchased). Over the past 5 years this platform fee has been creeping up, and so Jisc Collections decided to develop a platform the allow us to host all the content in EEBO and ECCO as well as add other content.
We initially created the Jisc Historic Books platform,, although generally well received, the interface did not fully meet the needs of the community. As it was difficult, as well as expensive, to make major changes to it, in 2013 the decision was made to build a new platform from scratch. We decided at this point user involvement in the development of the service would be the key to its success.
We already had an Advisory Board including academics of English and History as well as Librarians (who pay for the subscriptions) and recruited a large user group (mainly from users who had experienced problems with the service). Both of these groups have been involved at all stages in the design and functionality of the new service. They have helped shape the specification of the service, fed back on initial wireframes, tested the service as it develops and discussed online complex issues such as exactly how a search could be constructed with our software developers.
In addition the Advisory Board has helped shape the future of the service by prioritising future developments for the service.
This paper will explore in more detail how the users have shaped the service, how they will continue to shape the service as we go forward, and demonstrate some of the unique features the new Historical Texts service has.
National Library of Wales
Rhyfel Byd 1914-1918 a’r profiad Cymreig / Welsh experience of the First World War 1914-1918 (www.cymru1914.org) is a mass digital archive of the primary sources relating to the First World War in Wales. It was funded by the UK’s Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) from February 2012-October 2013. The project has digitized archives, manuscripts, photographs, art works, and oral histories held by the archives and special collections of Wales to create a coherent, consolidated digital collection revealing the often hidden history of the impact of the War:
an invaluable resource for teaching, research, and public engagement that is available to support many aspects of the commemoration of the centenaries of the First World War.
The Research Programme in Digital Collections at the National Library of Wales has carried out research into the use and impact of the digital collections of Wales, and these studies have identified key interventions in the digital life-cycle that can increase the impact of digital resources by a wide variety of stakeholders. The development of Cymru1914.org incorporated these findings. This presentation will discuss the development of this digital resource, and in particular, it will highlight ways that considerations of end-use and impact were built into project planning. This includes selection of content, interface development, community engagement, and planning for long-term sustainability of the finished digital resource. We will also discuss detailed analysis of the use of the resources since its launch in November 2013, in order to understand the full extent of the use and impact of the resource internationally.