Some background on the updated Europeana portal

The old Europeana portal has received, and deservedly so, criticism of being dry, not “happy” and unable to engage the user. Or to paraphrase a Tweetybird I overheard: I want an Artfinder built on Europeana content!

The navigation and search has also been evaluated by our users as comparing unfavourably with our competition. Even so usage of the portal has grown substantially since the launch in 2008. A very important change in usage pattern began this year when visitors coming upstream from Google and arriving on individual Europeana item pages began to outnumber direct users  by a wide margin. To a large extent Google is now our search engine and our item pages our landing pages!

Also the portal was launched in 2008 and began with about 2 million objects to display, having no curated content, and no presence on the social web. We now have nearly 20 million items, 5 curated exhibitions, an active blog and Facebook group pages, and micro-sites with UGC-aspects like Europeana 1914-1918 and Europeana Remix.

All together these changes made us want to do some changes. First, we wanted to make the site more engaging (“happy” and “sticky”!!!) and simpler to use and navigate. Especially so for user arriving on an individual item page from a Google search result. Second, we wanted to provide our users with thematic entry points and curated content showing the best of what we have to offer. Third, we wanted to make it easier to interact with Europeana by encouraging social sharing, showcasing our social media presences and UGC micro-sites.

The work is not done by far, but we thought it time for a first release. We will continue to try to improve search and navigation, add new ways of browsing content, facilitate for users to share their knowledge with us and others and integrate this into a whole.

Some conceptual designs for current and future development

The wall in front of my desk. Some conceptual designs for current and future development

Behind all the future developments will be big policy and technical changes.  Policy- and businesswise to transition to an Open Data platform allowing users to freely add to and remix institutional metadata, on our site or websites of their own. Technically, to implement the new Europeana Data Model and the technical interfaces, read and write both, to support Europeana as we grow to become a platform and not only a destination site. As a destination site we need to adapt to the rise of mobile devices and to reach out to our users and make it simple for them to add to and remix our content.

A list of changes in this update:

  • Revamped menus and footers
  • Image carousel featuring filling “snacks” of our best content: Exhibitions, Featured searches, and micro-sites with UGC-aspects like Europeana Remix and Europeana 1914-1918
  • Facebook activities field showing the most popular and recently liked Europeana pages
  • Europeana blog feed on the landing page
  • Randomly loaded featured items provide the user with “snackable” morsels of content
  • Re-ordered display of the facets in the search results
    • Based on their usage with the most used at the top
  • More compact grid layout
    • Thinking of increasing the number of items per page from 12 to  24 or 48. What do you think?
  • Improved user interaction in the timeline
    • We’re still struggling with performance on this one. Any input on optimising Solr/Lucene/SIMILE combos appreciated!
    • Not adapted for swipe control yet though. The only element not working on tablets. If anyone knows of a refined SIMILE timeline with swipe control let me know!
  • Advanced search removed
    • As less than 0.1% of visitors used it
  • List results display mode removed
    • Very small proportion of visitors used it
  • New item display layout
    • More image centric and hopefully “stickier”
  • Translation of item descriptions option
  • Improved social sharing
    • Clearer calls to action and counts enabled
  • Option for users to embed Europeana items on their own websites
  • who, what, when, where searches based on aggregated Solr fields
    • Which include the multi-lingual labels resulting from semantic enrichment
  • Navigation links based on metadata values
    • Using the who, what, when, where searches
  • Similar items carousel to navigate further
  • Grid layout that should work on all tablets (tested on iPad and Android)
    • Including swipe control of the image carousels
  • OpenSearch API: JSON and JSONP response formats
  • On page SEO improvements

We hope these improvements will make our users happy! As with all releases there are features we had hoped to have had the time to include but didn’t have the time. And all suggestion to further improve our site are very welcome.

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2 Responses to Some background on the updated Europeana portal

  1. Can I just say what a relief to find someone who actually knows what theyre talking about on the internet. You definitely know how to bring an issue to light and make it important. More people need to read this and understand this side of the story. I cant believe youre not more popular because you definitely have the gift.

  2. Pingback: Top 10 most viewed Europeana objects for November « jmeuropeana

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