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Archive for the ‘Usability’ Category

It’s great to know that the ARTstor Digital Library offers more than 1.6 million images when you’re searching for something in particular, but a bit overwhelming when you just want to explore. With 235 collections from museums, photographers, libraries, scholars, photo archives, and artists and artists’ estates, where to start browsing? We have some tips.

random3Let’s begin with an open secret: the slide show on the Digital Library’s search page. You’ve probably noticed the image at the top of the page, and that it changes each time you visit. But did you know you can open the image by double-clicking it? You can also learn about the collection it comes from by clicking on “INFO” on the upper right, or dive straight into the full collection by clicking on the name below the image. And you can scroll through the slide show by clicking on the arrows on either side of the slide to discover a wide selection of hand-picked images from other collections. (more…)

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René Magritte | The Eye, c. 1932/35 | The Art Institute of Chicago Collection | © 2009 C. Herscovici, London / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

There are many ways to find the images you’re looking for in the ARTstor Digital Library; a simple keyword search will often lead you to what you’re looking for, and an advanced search will help narrow the results. Wildcards can help when you don’t remember a precise name or title, or, conversely, when you are looking for something very specific. There are only four to remember: (more…)

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ARTstor is collaborating with three discovery services to allow subscribers to search the Digital Library at libraries using EBSCO Discovery Service™, Paratext’s 19th Century Masterfile database, and Serials Solutions®’ Summon™ service. Users will now be able to find content from the Digital Library alongside their institution’s other collections through a single search. Agreements with more discovery services are on the way.

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You will now find two new icons in ARTstor’s online environment that are intended to enhance discovery and use of images in our collections. Icons used on the search results screen help you identify and act on special features related to an image. The two new icons are:

  • i-cluster Duplicates & Details: Explore ARTstor “clusters” – groups comprised of duplicates and details centered around lead images that are chosen for their high quality.
  • i-collab-filter Associated Images: Discover the collective preferences of ARTstor users by exploring which images are most frequently used and associated with others in ARTstor image groups.

While we have been signaling ARTstor clusters for some time, the icon itself for Duplicates & Details has been updated. The second icon – for finding Associated Images – is an entirely new feature. Just as Amazon “recommends” other books that are often purchased by the same people who purchased the book you are buying, ARTstor will now be able to inform you (in ranked order) of the other images people are using in image groups with the image you have found (while maintaining users’ privacy by not indicating who is using those images). In this way ARTstor users will be collaboratively sharing their knowledge, making it easier for the newcomer to an image to follow paths that are built off of our collective arguments. Implementing this feature is one effort in our ongoing focus on getting you not simply a large number of results, but rather getting you to the results you actually need and find useful.

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In response to user feedback, we have made enhancements to the interface of the Digital Library. These improvements should make ARTstor even easier to use, while preserving all of the existing functionality that you have come to depend on for teaching, sharing, study or research. The enhancements are concentrated in three areas: the Image Viewer, the Thumbnail and Collection Browsing pages, and the Toolbar menu. In addition, we increased the Remote Access Grace period from 14 and 90 days to 120 days for all users.

Image Viewer

  • Images can now be rotated 360 degrees within the viewer.
  • For presentation or testing purposes, users can now hide the entire caption, removing the title and creator from the Image Viewer and any descriptive information from the banner.
  • Users can now see exactly what percentage of the actual image file size they are viewing and will not be able to zoom-in past the actual size of the image.

Thumbnail and Collection Browsing Pages

  • In the Thumbnail page, images of key works of art will increasingly be “clustered” so that users have a choice whether to see multiple versions of the same image.
  • In the Thumbnail page, users can now toggle between the familiar Thumbnail mode and a new List Mode, which displays a scrollable list of all the images in an Image Group or result set with their accompanying data.
  • Registered users can now save their preferred display mode to their User Preferences.
  • While in the Collection Browsing pages, users can now expand a category to view all sub-categories by clicking on the plus sign to the left of each category.
  • The number of images within each category and sub-category is now listed in parentheses to the right of each category title.

Toolbar

  • We created separate Back and History menu buttons so that you can navigate through ARTstor in the same way that you navigate the Internet. The Back button permits users to step backwards through their recently visited pages, while the History button shows a list of the places visited during the current session.
  • We altered the wording of existing menu options in the Image Groups, View and Tools menus to make it easier for users to locate desired menu items. Please be assured that we did not remove or change the function of any menu items, just renamed them in more intuitive ways.
  • We collapsed the Collections and Browse Collection buttons into one button to provide consistency when navigating across collections.
  • We’d like to thank you all for an exciting and productive year. We appreciate hearing your suggestions, questions and concerns about ARTstor. Many of these enhancements are a direct result of user feedback; please continue to contact us so we can improve ARTstor in 2006 and beyond.

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During the 2003-2004 academic year, over thirty colleges, universities and museums have been participating in ARTstor’s “test” phase. The goal of ARTstor testing was to assess our progress in building the ARTstor image collections and software tools. Our institutional test partners – fourteen in the fall semester of 2003, and over thirty-five in the spring of 2004 – were invited to participate on the basis of a range of considerations, but mostly because of their ability and willingness to bring diverse perspectives to bear on key aspects of ARTstor’s development. Users at these test institutions have had continuous access to ARTstor for use in teaching and scholarship. Institutional staff — including librarians, visual resources professionals, and instructional and information technology staff — have been working closely with ARTstor to assess the testing experience. We are grateful to all these individuals for their willingness to help understand their varied interests and needs, and to provide useful guidance for improving all aspects of ARTstor. A full list of our test partners is at the bottom of this page.

What follows is a brief interim report of the results of this testing. When the test phase is completed, we will update these findings and post them on the website.

Technology
Technology is an important aspect of any digital library delivery system, and the test findings led us to improve the functionality, usability, and performance of ARTstor’s technology and software. We experienced problems launching the software in some Macintosh environments. As of April, the system works on the OS10 operating system, and we anticipate that the difficulties we experienced with the earlier OS9 system will be resolved by June. We have also developed several approaches to “interoperating” with institutional digital collections and software (e.g., image management systems, learning management courseware, and other digital resources). To facilitate access for our participating institutions, we are now pursuing several approaches to authentication and authorization of end users. Most importantly, testing confirmed our belief that it is essential that ARTstor develop software that is tailored to the considerable variety of needs of its different users. Because we have chosen to build our own software rather than work only with existing software products, we believe that we have been better able to improve and adjust that software to reflect user comments and criticisms in a timely manner.

Feedback during testing also suggested that we build additional user-friendly tools to expand the possible uses of ARTstor’s content. In one specific example, our testers assisted us in designing an off-line viewer that allows the use of ARTstor content in the classroom, with no reliance on Internet connectivity. This off-line viewer was created in response to tester concerns about relying on a network connection to present images in class and by the widespread need to make presentations (in a classroom or elsewhere) without connecting to the Internet. We are very grateful to James Madison University for its generosity in allowing ARTstor to build from their code in their widely adopted MDID viewer to create the initial ARTstor Offline Viewer.

Finally, because ARTstor is hosted, launched and distributed in a way that enables users to work in an active software environment (i.e., dragging and dropping images from one saved group to another), testing allowed us to see how we needed to enhance our technological infrastructure. We improved server capacity and the load-balancing system, and also reconfigured the application server to enhance speed and performance.

Usability Testing
This fall, the Digital Knowledge Center (DKC) at Johns Hopkins University worked closely with ARTstor on usability testing, including conducting one-on-one tests with users at many of the test institutions. Because of the forty-two ARTstor usability tests, and the detailed findings that the DKC reported as a result, we learned about specific barriers, which we were able to remove or ameliorate. The majority of this work will be completed prior to ARTstor’s launch this summer.

Users
During the testing phase, we learned a great deal about the various needs of potential ARTstor users – especially about the range of potential users. While we believe it is clear that ARTstor provides value to individuals studying Art History and related fields, it also hopes to meet the broader need for a campus-wide image resource that is accessible to scholars, teachers and students across the humanities and beyond. We are also encouraged by the fact that our test phase indicated that ARTstor’s software provides the right tools for most users of digital images and is sufficiently user-friendly to enable individuals who are relatively new to digital technologies to feel comfortable using ARTstor.

Content
Feedback also indicated that the ARTstor Charter Collection is broad enough to engage a reasonably wide audience, and to support a good range of teaching needs, as well as deep enough in some areas to support aspects of scholarly research. ARTstor continues to seek new collections to provide greater breadth as well as the depth that scholars will require. One of ARTstor’s greatest challenges in building collections is balancing the need to add a great many more images with the desire to maintain appropriately high standards of image and data quality. Various users at different test institutions championed both “sides” of this equation – some calling for more images even at lower quality and others preferring that we include only the highest quality images in ARTstor. We do not believe there is one “right” path in this area; meanwhile, we are encouraged by the fact that so many users have urged us to strike a sensible balance, and to retain our core commitment to enhancing the quality of images and data over time.

ARTstor Licensing Agreement
Licensing digital content — especially images of art — is extremely complicated. Balancing intellectual property requirements with the educational and research needs of the non-profit educational community is a challenge. Based on concerns expressed by some of the fourteen initial test institutions, we made some significant revisions to our user agreements. We held a productive half-day meeting in December 2003 with user agreement representatives from our Fall test institutions in an effort to solve common issues. The final outcome, we believe, is an agreement that balances the needs and interests of ARTstor users, of their respective institutions, and of the many institutions that help ARTstor to build its collections. The vast majority of our new test institutions signed the revised agreement with scarcely any comments or questions. Given ARTstor’s strong commitment to work with all non-profit educational institutions in order to foster the use of digital media in teaching and learning, we regard the general acceptability of this new user agreement as a very important outcome of ARTstor testing.

What ARTstor Offers
We have deliberately designed ARTstor in a way that differs in many ways from other online information resources. ARTstor is relatively unusual in providing three separate but integrated components. First, it consists of a very large and constantly growing online database of searchable images and accompanying conformation. Second, it has embedded the database in a software “tool-kit” that enables the user to search and make active use of the collections. Finally, ARTstor also provides a restricted environment through its own network that is accessible only to members of non-profit institutions. By providing a restricted network (not accessible publicly through the open internet) and by seeking to balance the interests of content providers and users, we believe that ARTstor can play an important role in working through these complex intellectual property issues in a way that individual institutions – on their own- might find extremely difficult to accomplish.

These three inter-related components and services make ARTstor very different from a straightforward online digital database purchased by a library. During the testing period, we have begun to learn about ARTstor’s “spillover” effects, including how the availability of such a resource encourages certain forms of inter-disciplinary work and begins to help with a very powerful integration of the critical related process of teaching, learning, and research.

While we have only begun to observe and assess the impact that ARTstor will have for users, we also should note how the testing period has been instructive with regard to the collaborations that have been explored and have begun to flourish across organizational boundaries; librarians, visual resources professionals, and instructional and information technology staff have come together to support the use of ARTstor. While ARTstor “lands” in the library, we will be interested to see if – or how – the broad applicability of ARTstor will be a catalyst for new organizational collaborations.

Conclusion
The preliminary findings from this test phase have taught us many important lessons – about almost every aspect of ARTstor. Most of the improvements we have made would not have been possible without the commitment of our testing partners, to whom we are very grateful. We believe that the contributions of all these partners – as well as the professional relationships we have been created or built upon through this process – will make ARTstor a much stronger and more useful resource for all its users.

ARTstor’s Test Partners

  • Art Institute of Chicago
  • Bowling Green State University
  • Bryn Mawr College
  • Carleton College
  • Columbia University
  • Connecticut College
  • Dallas Museum of Art
  • Emory University
  • Getty Research Institute
  • Harvard University
  • Hunter College
  • James Madison University
  • Johns Hopkins University
  • Los Angeles County Museum of Art
  • Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • Minneapolis College of Art and Design
  • National Gallery of Art
  • New York University
  • Northwestern University
  • Ohio State University – Main Campus
  • Pennsylvania State University
  • Perpich Center for Arts Education
  • Princeton University
  • Roger Williams University
  • Sarah Lawrence College
  • Smith College
  • Smithsonian American Art Museum
  • Trinity University
  • University of California – San Diego
  • University of Miami
  • University of Michigan – Ann Arbor
  • University of Oregon
  • University of Notre Dame
  • University of Virginia
  • Walters Art Museum
  • Wesleyan University
  • William Paterson University of New Jersey
  • Williams College, Sterling & Francine Clark Art Institute

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ARTstor (in collaboration with 14 colleges, universities, and museums) will be conducting a test during the Fall of 2003. During the test period, users at these institutions will have access to the ARTstor content and tools for their educational and scholarly work; institutional staff will work closely with ARTstor staff on assessment of how well ARTstor serves various user needs. During the testing period, ARTstor will also be engaged in expanding its operational capacity so that it will be prepared to work with a larger number of institutions in 2004.

Key areas ARTstor will explore with its test partners include:

Technology Issues

  • Evaluating the functionality and usability of the ARTstor interface(s)
  • Exploring the various ways in which ARTstor can help institutions to support the creation and management of image groups for use on course websites or electronic course reserves
  • Examining solutions for “interoperating” with institutional image management systems, learning management courseware, and other digital resources
  • Identifying different institutional contexts for authorizing and authenticating users
  • Understanding and managing network performance issues

Users and Uses

  • Understanding how ARTstor will be used by different segments of the community
  • Exploring how ARTstor can partner with institutions to promote broad use of this new resource, in pedagogy as well as in individual research
  • Identifying potential barriers to adoption of the ARTstor service
  • Evaluating the training and support needs of different types of users, and understanding how institutions are likely to address these needs
  • Assessing image and metadata quality standards for various users and uses
  • Assessing and improving user awareness and understanding of the terms and conditions of use

Collections
It should be noted that any feedback gathered in this area will influence longer term planning, since content development is a complex, ongoing process.

  • Gathering feedback on the content and presentation of the charter collections
  • Identifying promising areas for collection development that will address the needs of a broad range of users
  • Understanding how ARTstor collections complement local image collections, both analog and digital

This test represents only one aspect of ARTstor’s dialogue with the community. In order to become a truly community-wide resource, ARTstor staff will continue to engage in conversations with a range of individuals and institutions in an ongoing basis to learn more about the issues outlined above, as well as other issues surrounding the building, disseminating, and usage of image collections. Indeed, through this test ARTstor hopes to learn how best to gather this sort of feedback routinely, in order to assure that such assessment and learning develops as a core element of the ARTstor service.

Test Participants

The following institutions will be participating in the Fall 2003 test. These institutions were selected based on their ability to provide a diverse range of perspectives on the key issues identified above.

  • Art Institute of Chicago
  • Harvard University
  • Hunter College (City University of New York)
  • James Madison University
  • Johns Hopkins University
  • Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • National Gallery of Art
  • New York University
  • Pennsylvania State University
  • Princeton University
  • Sarah Lawrence College
  • Smith College
  • University of California, San Diego
  • Williams College/Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute*

*The staff and faculty at Williams College and The Clark Art Institute deserve special thanks for their participation in an early pilot ARTstor project in the Fall of 2002.

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