Aesthetics, Accessibility and User-centered design: An analysis of the University of Otago Library Special Collections online exhibitions 2002-2013
Research Problem: This study analyses 42 online exhibitions which are currently available on the University of Otago Library Special Collections web page. The research integrates aesthetics, accessibility and user-centered design and focusses on each exhibitions functionality and appeal within these parameters. Methodology: The intention of this research is to compare and contrast 42 online exhibitions up until November 2013, with additional in-depth analysis of ten selected online exhibitions. Tools used were an LG wide-screen monitor and PC, and exhibitions were accessed via the Mozilla Firefox web browser 24.2.0. Results: Three clear issues with the exhibitions design were identified: 1) in the majority of exhibitions, the size of the type used was smaller than recommended accessibility guidelines, and fluctuated over time; 2) labelling rather than numbering cabinets in an index created improved usability; 3) overall aesthetics and functionality within the exhibitions improved over time, reflecting available technology. Implications: The 42 online exhibitions analysed provide insight into how available technology has improved the aesthetic appearance of the exhibitions and their functionality since 2002. The latter exhibitions contain far more images, varied and appealing page design, and an unobtrusive provision of further information on the cabinet artefacts. Usability and accessibility could be enhanced by consistent 12 point type within the main body and cabinets of the exhibitions, in addition to consistent labelling of cabinets which provides the patron a better understanding of the whole exhibitions theme, and the cabinets, wall and vitrines without too much ‘clicking’. Areas for future research into accessibility and patron inclusivity in online exhibitions for libraries are highlighted.