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The increasing number of crowdsourcing projects driven by established academic and cultural heritage institutions provides ample proof that crowdsourcing is rapidly becoming a mainstream approach for collection preservation, enhanced access, and research. The success of such projects relies on sufficient volunteer contributions over a period often limited by project budgets and resources. An understanding of website optimization can enable project teams to invite, instruct and incentivize ‘the crowd’ more effectively, and increase volunteer participation.
Website optimization involves clearly defining the objectives of the website and aligning them with the objectives of the online visitor. It aims to maximize visitor motivation and relevant incentives, and minimize sources of frustration and concern. Just as crowdsourcing isn’t a single strategy, website optimization takes many forms; factors commonly acknowledged as impacting on the online user experience are consistency, readability, website navigation, arrangement of page elements, language, visual appearance, and the number and complexity of processes required to complete the desired action.
With a view to informing the planning, development and evaluation of future projects, this paper aims to give project teams a deeper understanding of the main elements impacting on volunteer participation. It identifies a website optimization framework relevant to non-profit crowdsourcing, and demonstrates how it can be applied using the example of What’s on the Menu?, developed by New York Public Library. The website enables online volunteers to help transcribe the Library’s historical restaurant menu collection. Since April 2011 over 1, 00,000 dishes have been transcribed from over 15,000 menus.