Redesigning Duke Digital Collections

This fall, we’re redesigning the web interface to our Digital Collections.  And we want your help.

We unveiled our current interface back in January 2008, starting with a modest six collections, mostly of photographs and other images.  The system/website we built was pretty sufficient for that group of content.  It did some things well that marked significant progress at the time: it let you search across collections, it gave you facets to narrow your search results, and it gave you nicely bookmarkable URLs for items and search results.

Fast forward 18 months to today.  Our Digital Collections Program is firmly established and clicking on all cylinders (see our past blog posts for a recap of the past year & a half).  We’re now hosting almost 30 collections in this system, and we’re introducing new collections all the time.  We have a diverse and growing range of digital formats like videos and books.   We have explored hosting content in places like YouTube, iTunes, Flickr, and Internet Archive.  The Web has been rapidly evolving around us.  And our site has now been around long enough for us–and our users–to have kicked its proverbial tires to get a good sense of what it’s doing well versus where it’s falling short.  It’s getting pretty clear that we have outgrown this site.  It’s time to take it to the next level.

It’s the perfect time for a redesign.  Change is in the air.  Our team has been working hard on building our new repository, metadata editor tool, and index (Codename: Trident), and all that behind-the-scenes wizardry opens up a wealth of opportunities for improving the ways that you, as someone who uses our website, will be able to discover our digital treasures.

We have some ideas of our own for improvements, and we’ll share them here on the blog shortly.  But we really want to hear from you about your ideas.  Join in the conversation here on this blog in the comments section.  Tune into this new category (Website Redesign), where we’ll share information throughout the fall, including updates, mockups, analysis, and more.   You can also give us feedback privately at this page, if you prefer.  Everything’s fair game, from aesthetics to information organization to functionality.

We’re looking forward to hearing from you soon!

5 thoughts on “Redesigning Duke Digital Collections”

  1. I’ll start the comments rolling. One thing that I’d really find helpful in the new design is a way to easily get a citation for any given item.

  2. i would say in terms of the design of the home page, my eye just doesn’t know where to go. the use of black gives a heavy feel to the page, and “Recent blog posts” gets totally lost where it’s currently located.

    the combination of the “featured content box” rotating/sliding off to the left and the twitter box sliding downward gives me a touch of motion sickness. (pardon my inept terminology)

    i like the Collections by Subjects categories, but maybe instead of the expandable lists, have a separate page for each, with the ability to search across all collections within that category?

  3. Thanks for the feedback, Elizabeth! We’ll look for better ways to deploy and arrange things on the homepage.

    We’re also aiming to add more gateways into the collections based on themes and formats, so, for example, you’d be able to search/browse across all photographs, all advertisements, or all items related to transcultural experiences. The information architecture shifts required to make this happen are significant: we need to change from treating every object as if it belongs to only a single “collection” to enabling objects to be members of any number of collections (like Flickr does with ‘sets’). On the interface end of the equation, we’ll have to be tactful in designing item pages so they are presented in the proper context and so people can get to appropriate related objects and contextual information.

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