MW2010: S. de Caro et al., In Search of Novel Ways to Design Large Cultural Heritage Websites


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A presentation from Museums and the Web 2010.

A Web site, in all domains and in cultural heritage in particular, is meant to support a variety of communication goals, like providing practical information, offering an “at a glance” understanding of what the permanent collections are about, supporting a pleasant and enticing exploration, allowing the user to locate a specific piece of content, as well as promoting the institution’s brand, some selected pieces of content (shop-window effect), etc. As long as the site is small, “traditional” information architecture can cope with these needs. But when the site gets large and information-intensive, the traditional structure starts “cracking” as layers upon layers of navigation are added, and disappointment becomes a common user experience. Straight search engines have provided a reasonable solution to support just one of the above goals: allowing the user to locate a specific piece of content.

In this paper we illustrate how Rich Internet Applications (RIAs), combining lightweight information architecture with advanced search paradigms (like faceted search) and interactive visualization strategies, can be used to better support a number of communication goals. The examples are taken from the new Web site for the Directorate General of Antiquity of the Italian Ministry for Culture Heritage (to become public in Autumn 2010), where both a huge amount of content (the Italian archeological heritage) and a variety of users’ profiles (from scholars to amateurs and tourists) are managed.

Session: Actionable Research [research]


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MW2010: S. de Caro et al., In Search of Novel Ways to Design Large Cultural Heritage Websites

  1. 1. In Search of Novel Ways To Design Large Cultural Web Sites<br />Museums and the Web, 2010<br />S. De Caro – GeneralDirector for Antiquities (Italian Ministry for Cultural Heritage)<br />N. Di Blas, L. Spagnolo – HOC-LAB, Politecnico di Milano (Italy)<br />
  2. 2. The problem<br />Information intensive website are "rooms of treasures" where invaluable items are stored. But risks are there. Users may:<br /><ul><li>get lost
  3. 3. get overloaded by information
  4. 4. never bumpo into intersting stuff (which is buried under strata of navigation – will it ever be seen by anyone?)
  5. 5. be unsatisfied by the "paths" offered tothem
  6. 6. never find what they are looking for (and SEARCH is a power life-vest)
  7. 7. …</li></ul>"Mona Lisa" – you find it (among other 22 works)<br />"Woman portrait" - no<br />
  8. 8. The wish<br />What are our communication goals?<br /><ul><li>Findability
  9. 9. Users can easily locate what they are looking for (provided they do know what they are looking for!)
  10. 10. Serendipity
  11. 11. Users “stumble” into interesting pieces of information
  12. 12. At a glance understanding
  13. 13. Users can easily make sense of the content
  14. 14. Playful exploration
  15. 15. Users enjoy browsing the site’s content
  16. 16. Playful learning
  17. 17. Users learn things as they browse
  18. 18. Branding
  19. 19. The site conveys the institution’s value (e.g. we are authoritative…)
  20. 20. …</li></li></ul><li>One “try”<br />Web site for the Directorate-general of Antiquities in Italy<br />Huge amount of content forseen<br />Many intended users' profiles<br />Prototype version<br />
  21. 21. A smart combination of:<br />
  22. 22. More is envisioned<br />"Fuzzy" facets: Beyond the two-values (yes/no) facets, introducing the concept of relevance<br />Fish-eye approach: Outputs change according to the "zooming"<br />ITALY<br />LOMBARDY<br />MILAN<br />The archeological Museum of Milan becomes RELEVANT!<br />E.g.: looking for relevant museums for "Romans"…<br />
  23. 23. Conclusions<br /><ul><li>A new generation of (very) large content-intensive websites, coupling “traditional” engineered Information Architectures (offering strong organization, powerful navigation, context orientation, etc.) with features provided by search patterns and advanced interfaces
  24. 24. A rich and rewarding experience for the users
  25. 25. For designers, the problem of designing complex information architectures is SIMPLIFIED and they can CONCENTRATE on communication/cultural issues directly</li></li></ul><li><br />Why don’t we cooperate?<br />