Since early 2016 we’ve been working on our new website and are pleased to launch this to the public. The website was redeveloped in response to the Digital Engagement Strategy which focuses on improved digital access to our collection and services.
Our user and data driven approach to the redevelopment has allowed us to include improved functionality and the mobile first responsive design provides an easy to use interface for the public to engage with our artworks and public programme from any device.
Although this new website has been in development for the last year we’ve released new functionality often, as part of our user story based Agile approach.
New CMS and Underlying Architecture
We were keen for our new systems architecture to be based on free open source technologies wherever possible giving us the flexibility to keep the technology up to date and ensuring a high degree of portability.
We wanted an architecture that included middleware to pull together the images from our digital asset management system and our catalogue records from Mimsy, and feed them through to the new CMS. We required a fast search interface that could handle the queries on our nearly 100,000 records as well as tailored faceted filtering queries selected by the user.
From the CMS we wanted a simple-to-use administrative interface with a high degree of frontend flexibility to allow us to create beautifully designed custom pages.
In the end we built the system using a Drupal install for our middleware, a separate Drupal install for the CMS, both on the Acquia platform as well as Drupal Commerce, CiviCRM, Amazon S3 cloud storage for our dissemination images, Apache Solr search, and a custom designed front end layer.
New and Improved Design
As per modern design standards we were keen to develop a site that was “mobile-first” ensuring that it is performant and responsive on handheld devices. We undertook a user and data driven development method with a strong user experience focus, taking into consideration analytics gathered from both our old website as well as usage of the new one.
We are committed to ongoing user testing to better understand the public’s response to the functionality of the website and where things can be improved, thereby informing future development.
Using an Agile method of software development, namely Scrum and Kanban, we ensured code releases that took place quickly and often. This method of development meant that we could respond quickly to newly gathered requirements and remain focused on high priority functionality.
We took requirements, prioritised them, and created user stories and acceptance criteria to discuss with the user experience and design team and the developers. We developed using two week sprints having sprint planning and refinement, daily standups, and retrospectives.
Starting in July 2016 we have had a series of both major and minor launches to include the following pieces of functionality:
The Collections (July 2016 launch)
Since our older website did not provide a window into our full national art collection we were keen to focus on getting our collection of over 95,000 records published online to be enjoyed by the public.
A sister project at the Galleries which focuses on the digitisation of our artworks means that as artworks are photographed and go through the rights clearance process, we can make the images available online immediately. In July we went live with over 30,000 images and now, due to this climbing number, we have over 40,000 images available to view.
The collections part of the website allows the user to free text search or search by tags such as artist, title, subject, feature and exhibition. We also included a browse facility to let users select a series of filters to hone in on artworks of interest.
On an individual artwork page you can read about the artwork, share, download, and favourite the images. Due to our high resolution imagery taken as part of our digitisation project, user can also use a zoom tool on the website to get a close up view of the images.
A quote from the Director-General sums up this work: “The new collection website serves as a fantastic window to explore our world-class collection, opening it up as a resource for everybody to use, from leisurely enjoyment of the arts all the way through to academic research.”
The July launch also included the ability for users to order artworks as Prints. This meant the development of a Print selection tool which lets a customer select the artwork they want, the size, the print paper, and frame colour. It also meant the development of a simple to use basket system and checkout process.
Features (October 2016 launch)
Next came Features. With the artworks now on the new website we decided that the longer form unique quality content produced as part of our Features should be in the next deployment.
Features are articles primarily focus on particular artworks and artists, and include images and other media making for interesting and engaging reading and exposing our collection to the public. We developed Features to be simple to administer by creating ‘lanes’ of content allowing staff to slowly build up a page for publication. Features pull together artworks and other content types, creating relationships between the content to create intuitive and enjoyable user journeys.
Online Shop (November 2016 launch)
Nearing the end of the year we decided that we would release the online shop next having it in place for Christmas to let customers engage with a simply to use product browse interface and purchase checkout flow. With the customer basketing already developed and released in July for artwork prints purchase, the new gift shop simply slotted into the functionality as a new ‘product type’.
The online shop is now fully integrated into the website allowing us to move away from a separate shop website and providing an interface where the user can include multiple types of products into a unified basket (both prints and gift shop items) and make a single purchase.
Visit (December 2016 launch)
The new visit section was aimed at those who are unfamiliar with the location of the galleries and the facilities. Our goal was to create a clean and simple interface and user experience to put information about visiting the galleries at the fingertips of visitors from any device. Our venue pages offer anchor links to the topic of interest and make the information easy to access.
Exhibitions and Events (March 2017 launch)
The inclusion of the exhibitions and events taking place at the galleries was one of the final pieces for this phase of the web build.
We wanted to bring together all of the information about a particular exhibition onto a single page and include related content and improved user journey. Many of our exhibitions are freely available however for our paid temporary exhibitions we now offer online e-ticketing so members of the public can purchase tickets ahead of time and better plan their National Galleries of Scotland visit.
Events are now simple to navigate and allow the public to filter by audience, type of event, and gallery location, as well as date range.
Event pages offer online booking for free stock controlled events as well as paid e-ticket purchased for paid events.
Donations, Memberships (March 2017 launch)
Our new Support section of the website offers information on how to become more involved with the Galleries. This section of the site offers the public the ability to donation online. It also offers a range of ‘Our Friends’ membership packages include student, solo, duo, and philanthropic memberships.
Expanded Search (March 2017 launch)
With an array of new content types in the website we wanted to expand the basic search to include all relevant content in the results. The website user can enter a keyword or select a tag from the autosuggest functionality. The results page will bring up any relevant content including artworks, Features, current exhibitions, past exhibitions, events, and shop products.
With a long list of further developments that we would like to undertake in the coming year, the first priority is to looking at introducing artist pages where we can bring together related content to provide a fantastic learning resource.
We will also undertake user experience (UX) testing to ensure that the above functionality is as good as it can be and to enhance and improve the sections in upcoming development.
We are very exciting about the new website and with the basics now in place we are able to set the foundations for entering into a new phase of digital transformation at the Galleries. With reinvigorated digital vision and culture, a training programme for staff to be digital content creators, we aim to increased and improved the quality of our digital engagement with the public.
We are very interested to hear feedback from our users, so please feel free to get in touch.
We expect that some of the information published may not be as complete as expected or may have issues with quality. We think that it is more important to make our data available to the public at the earliest opportunity and allow users to report issues they come across. This approach has been adopted by many similar organisations and any issues raised will be reviewed and addressed as quickly as possible. If you find something wrong, please let us know using our contact form.
Special thanks to the talented team at Cello Signal, Edinburgh, whose hard work helped get us to where we are now.