We have begun our User Experience  design process. This is a very exciting stage of the project, where we really start getting a sense of the site will be like- how it will function and what it might look like.  It is also the time when all the hard questions have to be asked and decisions are made. What kind of experience do we want our users to have? Who are they? What will make them want to not only use the DAAO but contribute to it. How will all different types of users and stakeholders  get value from the DAAO? and then once we ‘think’ these solutions, we need to design them and make them practical and implementable for the site developer.

We are very fortunate to have to have a such a great team of people working with us.  I was particularly pleased to find out that House of Laudanum, (who are working with us also on User Experience design stage)  had  engaged Lotte Meijer to collaborate with them on the DAAO.  Lotte is a very talented artist and Interaction Design specialist, who I first meet five years ago, when I was a visiting scholar in the  Digital Design program at the Piet Zwart Institute,  Rotterdam.  Lotte had just completed her Masters in New Media and Digital Culture at the University of Amsterdam, and was doing amazing work on mobile interactive technologies and open-source publications.  She has since gone on to work at MOMA and the Museum of Contemporay Art, Chicago, designing all manner of quality content, high interaction sites.

Did I mention she has also won a Webby?

A Webby is often referred to as the Web version of an Oscar and Lotte was part of the Smart History Project that won  the 2009 Webby in the EDUCATION section. Yep, that’s the kind of team of team we are building here at the DAAO. Already Lotte and Zina and Snow from House of Laudanum are coming up with some great ideas to generate not only ‘good experiences’ for our users, but are also really focussing on how we build our community of users- so that we can start having real hubs of research activity accumulating around the DAAO. Its very exciting, but it is also a long term project- we need to get the foundations right, so we can keep growing and developing in the future.

This is NOT Lotte's Webby, but her kickball trophy that she won while working at MOMA. (As a team that has a high percentage of cyclists, we approve of sporty activities at the DAAO!)

One of the ‘users’ that we have really been focussing on  is the ‘contributor’. What is the experience of either writing a new record or updating and correcting an existing record like? This is question that moves well beyond just thinking about the  work flow rules of the site ( ie how a person can interact with the site) or the graphic design of the site, but moves alos into question fo motivation- why would anyone come, why would they stay? why would they contribute? Best practice in website production must take this kind of total systems approach and fortunately we have the skill set around us, the budget and an enormous amount of goodwill from pretty well everyone we deal with it. Everyone wants to help. I have to say, its the thing I love the most about working in digital cultures and online production- its a culture of sharing, collaboration and practical solutions.

In other words, the design needs to find a solution not only for the data but also a solution for a existing and potential users and that entails knowing about the context of use at both a micro level (what happens when you actually hits the buttons and use the site) and a macro level (what is happening in online public scholarly activity, who is funding what? what are the emerging norms of practice, where is the technology going etc)   But more about that in the next post!