Design for User Engagement on Europeana Channels

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As the EU’s most visible expression of European digital heritage, Europeana has established itself as a reference point for European culture on the Internet. With the ambition of moving forward to transform in to an open platform for discovery and re-use of heritage content, Europeana Europeana started up a new project- Europeana Channels. Channels are thematically segmented vertical services for discovery, reuse and contribution of heritage information in Europeana. The concept would allow for Europeana network partners (professional users) to curate content as a trusted source. The general public (non-professional users) can search for content under their interested themes, provided with rich media access and interaction opportunities. They should be able to participate in a two-way conversation, not only consuming information, but also making contributions. The assignment of this graduation project is to design a concept for Channels, which should engage non-professional users with various content genres in a participatory, meaningful and enjoyable way. In order to understand who would be the potential users of Channel, their motivation to use Channels and the ideal experience on the platform, both literature research and user research were performed on physical exhibition visitors and virtual exhibition visitors. Based on the results, the culture vultures were defined as the main target groups of Channels. In spite of the huge diversity in target users, the personal growth (gaining knowledge, insights, expertise, inspirations) and social interaction which brings added value to them are their main motivation to engage with Channels and making contributions. As with the experience, apart from of the primary expectation of searching for content efficiently, an inspirational and explorative environment which could bring new perspectives and insights to users would be valued by them very much. Research on the current development of similar platforms on digital heritage and the trends of the online platform were studied. Together were the principles of Europeana, some promising directions for Channels were discussed. The phase of forming design brief was crucial to this project. With the proceeding of research, the complexity of the project was increasingly realized. For such a project it is impossible to design everything, therefore lots of decisions were taken at this phase. The general vision of Channels was proposed, with “Aliveness” as its core value and the strategy of focusing on the enhancement of the content. The design goal were refined as “To develop and sustain users’ engagement with Channels by empowering their personal growth and meaningful social interaction on the platform." And it was decided that based on a general structure design for the platform, the design focus of the project will be on user contribution, especially the collection experience. The interaction vision was also put forward, which is “enlightenment”, “achievement” and “connectedness”. After the iteration of ideation and conceptualization, the final concept was gradually developed. A general structure and layout design for the whole platform was proposed, as well as a focused design on the collection experience. Three main sub-concepts, “collaborate on collection”, “annotation” and “statistics” were proposed to enhance the user collection experience on Channels. The design was evaluated with selected target users. The results showed that the concept was quite promising in enhancing the enduring user engagement, and that the qualities of interaction vision were assessed positively. However, the success of an online platform is attributed to many factors(content quality, valuable user contribution, etc.), and users would need time to explore and experience the platform, seeing what they can gain really. Thus, further recommendations on the concept refinement and the future development of Channels were offered in the end.