The Wartime Films Project: Design Workshops and Feedback for our Pilot App

This post comes from the team working on the Wartime Films engagement project, and is part of a series outlining how NARA is using design thinking to reach new and existing audiences. This project was made possible in part by the National Archives Foundation and a generous gift from an anonymous donor. Read the whole series here.

In our last Wartime Films Project post, we explored the process behind selecting our pilot project, a National World War I app. This week, we’ll take a look at how gathering continual user feedback during the development process is key to project success.

A scene from our app user-design workshop at the Innovation Hub on Dec. 1st, 2015.

A scene from our app user-design workshop at the Innovation Hub on Dec. 1st, 2015.

We started by holding workshops to explore user journeys and use cases. Figuring out the way in which people would want to interact with our app was the first step in determining our requirements and design. We met with representatives from our three audience groups, making sure to talk with the people who would ultimately benefit the most from the end product.

We enjoyed holding two of these audience workshops in the Innovation Hub, an open space in the National Archives building in Washington, DC, where staff collaborate on projects with interested public stakeholders. With both museum innovators and educators present for these sessions, we presented early conceptual designs for what the app might look like and how it might function. We also asked for key pieces of feedback- What would you need? How could you use something in a simple classroom setting? In a simple museum setting? In the time allotted?- to help shape our ideas into a product that would be meaningful for users.

A flurry of Post-it notes recording feedback during an app workshop.

A flurry of Post-it notes recording feedback during an app workshop.

We held similar workshops within NARA, talking to experts on the WWI motion pictures and photographs that we’d be showcasing, to learn how we could best focus on the experience of the content itself.

We were also fortunate to have the opportunity for a meaningful partnership with the Library of Congress and Smithsonian Institution, who each provided their own original WWI records for the app. This project was the perfect opportunity to combine rich, openly licensed, and reusable content from across national institutions into a collaborative commemoration of next year’s centennial of the American entry into the Great War.

During the design-process, we started with films themselves for inspiration, looking at how we could harken back to the past visually.

During the design-process, we started with films themselves for inspiration, looking at how we could harken back to the past visually.

With our partnerships forming and the influx of fantastic feedback received early on in the design process, we kept sketching and simplifying. We became more and more realistic as we continued wireframing, zeroing-in on the actual in-app user experience. We ended up with early designs that reflected the experience of physically pulling content out of the Archives, where the records themselves are front and center and can be used to create new narratives.

Check back next week when we conclude our series with a look at our official launch announcement and user workshops.

This entry was posted in Digitization, Films, partnerships, Photographs, Questions, Research, Social Media (Web 2.0), Veterans / Military and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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