Does the Europeana website work for a visually diverse audience? Investigation


I started my internship with the Service Experience team in February. During my internship, I drew on previous Europeana research to examine the needs, motivations and experience of people using the website. I decided to invite eight visitors for further study, aimed at learning more about their needs, their experience with the website and their suggestions for improving it. I chose to work with people with visual impairments because I believe providing accessible solutions to this group would help not only people with disabilities, but everyone who uses the website. Data from this research filled some of the gaps in previous quantitative research.

How I Approached My User Experience Research

“User experience research” refers to the various methods used to examine an individual’s experience with a digital product. It can be either qualitative or quantitative, but in this case we have chosen a more in-depth approach, and developed for a smaller sample size. My research method was an interview combined with usability testing (where we ask someone to complete a series of tasks to help us determine the usefulness and accessibility of the website). These results are qualitative, that is, they do not deal with quantity (numbers) but rather with qualities or characteristics. Due to its depth, qualitative data is usually based on the smallest sample size, so results should not be extrapolated.

For my research, I spoke to eight participants between the ages of 22 and 74 who had varying levels of visual impairment and education. During our hour-long conversation, I asked them questions about their lives, their habits, and their affinity with art. Afterwards, I asked them to complete some tasks on the website and then share their opinion. These tasks included reading a blog post and filtering search results, navigating the website, and interacting with various content and features presented to them. I collected raw data in the form of notes and recordings.

My finds

Following data collection, we conducted a thematic analysis to group certain themes into patterns. Based on the analysis, we learned why some functions are not as accessible as they should be. Although respondents were enthusiastic about the website, they still had some difficulty using it.

Respondents felt that Europeana should offer a high contrast mode feature because third-party extensions do not work well on the website. For example, one participant had difficulty navigating the website because, when using an extension, most of the icons blended into the background. “Only when I hover my mouse over it can I see it,” said one of the participants. In response to this feedback, I designed a prototype dark mode feature suitable for the website and presented it to attendees who found it more accessible. Europeana will investigate the feasibility of implementing this functionality.

At the time of testing, we also found that the languages ​​the website is available in could be improved. When participants selected a language other than English, the titles of the articles were translated, but not the articles themselves (blog posts and exhibits). This caused confusion among those whose first language was not English. One participant said, “When you choose the language, all content is always in English. Only the noun categories are in Spanish. It would be more accessible if all the text was in the chosen language”. Europeana has now solved this problem.

Also, the color filter on the search page (see image below) caused some confusion. In general, participants liked the names of the colors calling them “evocative” and saying that they can imagine what the color looks like from the names. However, some names were confusing. One of the participants said, “I don’t know what the difference is between sea shine and antique white, creme de menthe and honeydew. These colors look the same to me. Additionally, they wanted to introduce some of the more complex simple colors to appeal to an audience that might be less familiar with them. Europeana will look into this.

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