ARIAS : Concepts and Sketches

For the past several weeks we have been working on creating the concepts of the project pages /research environments for the ARIAS website. However, before that we have conducted four more interviews with Annemarie van Lankveld, Head of Communications at the Faculty of Digital Media and Creative Industries at HvA, Matthijs ten Berge, Director at Amsterdam Creative Industries Network Maarten Rottschafer, Head of Operations Research at the Faculty of Digital Media and Creative Industries at HvA as well as Twan Eikelenboom, writer, editor and adviser for Knowledge Mile. While in our previous interviews, our goal was to find out how the researchers could approach the website and what features would be important from their point of view, in the past four interviews, we focused on the second target group of ARIAS – policymakers.

The main insights we got from the interviews are:

  • The funding source feature is crucial and should be present on the project page, as it allows both researchers and policymakers to find out where the research funding is coming from and which grants, if any, the project has received.
  • In most cases, policymakers are not likely to base their funding decisions on the website itself, however, the website could be useful for potentially providing policymakers with key information about the project, such as who is the team, what is the research question and what are the milestones. According to Maarten Rottschafer, ARIAS needs to have policymakers involved to get the funding started, and the website will not be the main tool for obtaining funding.
  • Based on the previous interviews, we found out that the idea of community and offline collaboration is crucial for many researchers. The last four interviews have confirmed the importance of ARIAS having a lot of offline events that could become the starting point of collaborations within ARIAS. Moreover, we got insights about focusing on the community aspect of ARIAS as a separate feature or page on the ARIAS website, where the facilitator could be necessary.
  • Another insight we got is that we should limit the number of features available at the website, as both researchers and policymakers have a limited amount of time they can devote to posting content on the platform.
  • Finally, we found out that it would be essential to emphasize the quality and credibility of research in the certain project by highlighting the significance of the research results and possible awards or grants the project received.

After the interviews, we have started working on concepts and created several sketches. Initially, we had four ideas about project pages, which we visualized in the form of sketches.

The first concept we came up with was the idea of creating a functional project page, where researchers could close and open blocks with different features. This came up from the insight about the fact that researchers do not have a lot of time, and would like to only focus on specific features they would like to learn more about, rather than reading all information about each project.

Concept 1: blocks (open and close):

 

 

When a user opens the page, the short description section in the middle stays open, whilst blocks with other features stay closed, and a user can choose to open or close a specific feature.

When we had an interview with Maarten Rottschafer, he suggested that we could arrange the features in a more logical order, focusing on general information about the project, such as team, on the left side, and put the features such as research question or research methods on the right side. Moreover, he suggested locating the features in a sequence that gives a user clear idea about how the project started, what were the main methods and what are the results. Therefore, we thought about the sequence: research question → research methods → tools → research results. We implemented the suggestions mentioned by Maarten in the new sketch:

 

Moreover, in the new sketch, we have removed the feature “keywords”, as it was not considered to be very important based on the interviews, and we have added the funding source feature, as it was said that both researchers and policymakers need such information to be available on the project page. Moreover, we have added the “partners” feature in order to highlight the idea that apart from the team of the project, there are internal and external partners. We have also excluded the “events” feature from the project page, as there will be a general “events” feature on the website created by designers from Gerrit Rietveld Academie.

Another concept we came up with is a timeline:

Since all ARIAS projects are very diverse, we thought that this concept would be appropriate for a project, where the milestones are significant and where it is important to show major stages in the development of a certain research project. However, we also realize that this design has limitations. For example, if the project has already finished, then the research results would be considerably more important than the research milestones. Therefore, this concept can only be applied to the ongoing projects.

Moreover, we had two more ideas, which turned out to be weaker concepts:

The first concept aims to show the project as a mind map, and the second sketch shows a clear overview of the project with a focus on the image gallery to portray the photographs and pictures, which might be a key part of a certain project.

However, after talking to several interviewees and asking for their feedback, we decided to focus on the first concept, as it is the most functional and allows researchers to only focus on features they are interested in. After deciding on the sketch we have selected an ARIAS project so we could see if the concept from the sketch would allow us to showcase all the important information about the project. The project we have chosen is Making Climate Visible project; we are familiar with this project as we had an interview with Sabine Niederer, its facilitator. When we applied the information about the project to our concept, we realized that all the important aspects of the project could be shown with the features we have in our concept. We have made another sketch, using information from Making Climate Visible project:

 

Afterwards, Tessa has started working on wireframing and the visual identity of the project page. She began by creating the style tile. When doing it, it was important for her to align her design with the design of the graduates of the Gerrit Rietveld Academie, who are currently working on the ARIAS website.

The style tile :

 

Three first colours were the ones used by designers from Gerrit Rietveld Academie, while Tessa added the purple colour. She has decided to use the same font and the design of buttons as graduates of the Gerrit Rietveld Academie.

After developing the style tile, we have decided to apply this design to our sketches:

Our concept is still a draft, and Tessa will be working on improving it and developing it further.

Apart from developing the ideas for the project page, Tessa and I have focused on creating a separate feature, which could facilitate and encourage cooperation between researchers within ARIAS, both online and offline. This feature allows researchers to come up with ideas, announce new projects or new events they organize and invite others to join them or collaborate. We have come up with this feature based on the insight we got from many interviews about the importance of researchers from different clusters and fields working on projects together and participating in offline events:

By using this feature, researchers can suggest an idea about either starting new project, organizing an event or announcing that they are recruiting other researchers for their projects. The ideas can be filtered based on the institution, a cluster type or an idea type, as can be seen in the “filter by” section of the page.

Tessa’s next steps will include developing the project page idea further and thinking of other ways to showcase different projects which are, for example, more about artistic research. She will create a clickable prototype for the “blocks” concept and work on improving and advancing the feature that enables researchers to collaborate and exchange ideas.

Since my role within the ARIAS project was primarily about conducting research, my internship ends at this stage, as the further steps within the ARIAS project will be about the design of the project pages / research environments. After finishing working on the ARIAS project, l will do another internship within the HvA. The ARIAS project will continue within the Publishing Lab in collaboration with students from the Master Digital Design, who will create the final prototype and design the research environment.

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