by Lozana Rossenova



Discovery phase & user research: 2018


This report aims to record and review the landscape of digital collection interfaces utilized for cultural heritage preservation purposes. It asks questions such as: what paradigms are common in terms of visual and interaction design; or how forms of information architecture and choice of databases and content management systems can inform the overall user interactions with these interfaces. It does not claim to be a comprehensive state of the art survey. Such research, while somewhat fragmented, is already being carried out and published (see the bibliography for a list of relevant academic literature). Furthermore, even the surveys aiming to be comprehensive are limited to a specific direction of enquiry – e.g. a study in the use of data visualization, or a study in facilitating serendipitous discoveries or alternatively – advanced search for specific information, studies of presenting collection overviews or temporal and spatial distribution of collection items. While all of these topics are interesting in their own right, looked at in isolation, they do not provide the necessary points for benchmark evaluation needed for the re-design process of the ArtBase.

Structure of the report

The report presents a “scan” of the landscape divided across a few specific directions of enquiry. These are articulated in the following sections:

1) Interfaces for net art archives – looking at how other net art archives present artworks and metadata.

2) Interfaces for artwork records in institutional collections – broadening the scope beyond net-art-only collections to include collections in large institutions which may have some net art or software-based art pieces.

3) Interfaces for collection entry points – looking at how collections and archives can be accessed, i.e. taking a step back from the individual record page.

4) Interfaces utilising collection overview visualizations – focusing on the use of various data visualization approaches towards providing “alternative” collection or archive entry points.

5) Interfaces for linked data cultural projects – focusing on the use of applications built around a linked data database.

6) Interfaces utilising data visualizations to express relationships in collections – looking at how collection data visualizations can provide ways of expressing complex relationships between various items (or concepts) in collection and archive interfaces.

7) Interfaces for net art exhibitions – looking at how net art can be exhibited online and what paradigms are typically used.

The report concludes with a summary of key findings from the review of 46 different interfaces ranging from institutional to experimental projects and a list of recommendations proposing what design patterns and features should be implemented during the design and prototyping stages of the re-design process.

NB: If reading the report as a PDF on a relatively large screen, the following settings in Acrobat Reader are recommended for optimal vieweing: View > Page Display > ✓Two Page View & ✓Show Cover Page in Two Page View.

▍ Cite as: Rossenova, L (2020) “Design Landscape – Online Collection Interfaces: Discovery phase and user research 2018”. Available from:

✦ About the report series ✦ This report is part #3 in a series of reports documenting the research process and practice of Lozana Rossenova, a PhD researcher embedded at Rhizome between 2016–2020. The reports trace the development of a practice-based interaction design research project, starting with a Discovery and User Research phase. Discovery and User Research includes: study of the organisational context and history (report #1); information gathering around past and current use-cases and user expectations (report #2); as well as review of the contemporary landscape of digital design for cultural heritage archives and collections (report #3). The next phase – Design Exploration, which includes low-fidelity sketches and prototypes and continuing the conversations with users, is documented in report #4. Report #5 documents the final two phases of the process – Design Specification and Evaluation, wherein the initial design proposals are transformed into concrete design specifications and recommendations, alongside a functional prototype, which can be evaluated by users.