Concept and Overview
Town Crier functions as a home page for all of the Artist-Run Initiatives established in South Australia. Initially hoping to create an events-centred website for the general arts community at work in Adelaide city, I soon realised that a more achievable and efficient way to publicise these events would to be to promote individual galleries which might then generate additional traffic for these spaces. After some brief research and two interviews with local artists, I decided that Artist-Run Initiatives (ARIs) – organisations developed by smaller art communities – would be an appropriate focus. In terms of websites that use a directory-style database to promote South Australian initiatives collectively, Town Crier is the latest of only two. The National Association for the Visual Arts website has a page dedicated to ‘Space’, aiming to assist artists with establishing properly regulated artistic spaces. Within this category is an ARI dedicated page, offering an explanation for the term, advice for establishing an ARI, articles on individual collectives, and a list of collectives divided by state. These lists were the inspiration for my own concept. Although similar in concept I wanted to establish my site as a database for these collectives, which meant including a blurb and immediate information as well as web links that the NAVA website utilised.
Visual Communication and Design
When first considering the design aspects of my website I decided fairly quickly that I would prefer a minimalist approach. When researching other informative art-related websites I noticed that this was a common design choice, especially when relating to contemporary or modern art. I wanted the information offered on my site to be obvious, and for the feature image of each article (at this point I had been hoping to feature images of ongoing exhibitions) to be the first focus for the audience after noticing the header and menu area. When deciding on the WordPress theme I took this into account, looking for a theme that would flow and encourage the audience to continue to scroll. I settled on a theme (Baskerville 2 by Anders Noren) that separated the articles into three columns (something I related to the rule of thirds) but did not contort the length of the feature images. Because of the varying sizes of these feature images, the front page developed a “waterfall” effect, leading the audience downward.
Another aspect of the design that took a main focus for me was the colour scheme. I wanted to maintain a minimalist approach, keeping a simple header, font, and layout, but felt as though black and white simply appeared lazy. In deciding on a third colour I actually referred back to a reading: Drawing with Color and Imagination by Gaspar De Fiore. In it, De Fiore details the mental aspects of colour to better understand how to utilise different shades in art. I found that the passage on red appealed most to me, in which De Fiore references Theory of Colours by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and his description of the colour red as “dignified and serious, because […] it combines all the other colours”, with De Fiore going on to describe red moving into pink as “delicate and harmonious” (De Fiore, 1988). Due to this assessment, I decided that a subdued reddish-pink (#d9a396) would appear not only professional, but calming and appealing to the eye.
User Interface Design
The basis, and therefore most important aspect, of my website is easy access to specific information. In designing the layout of Town Crier I wanted to ensure that the intended audience would have no issues in navigating the site, preventing confusion in accessing the information provided. In terms of both visual design and content I focused on a minimalist approach, so I kept the same strategy and decided to minimise. In their article Minimalism in Ubiquitous Interface Design, Wren and Reynolds wrote “transparent design means minimising cognitive demands on the user by limiting the changes to the pre-existing constellation of behaviours”, and so I began with navigation (2004, p. 370). First, I isolated the most important elements of the site and created a menu heading for each of them: Home (the actual content), Artist-Run Initiatives (a definition for the term and a full list of each ARI featured, each linking to its respective article), Maps (clearly subtitled “Venues”), About (to demonstrate the point of the site), and a Contact page (for any queries or suggested additions).
In doing this I hoped there would be minimal input from the user in accessing the information I sought to provide – the information was clearly labelled and segregated for ease of access. In short, I wasn’t nearly as concerned with users’ conscious experiences and opinions as I was with their unconscious experiences. For a user to “trust or understand, [the] design must feel trustworthy or obvious”, “it should feel automatic” (Marsh, 2016), and in making the navigation aspect of Town Crier as obvious as possible I hoped the site as a whole would appear relatively automatic. In a roundabout way another (early) course reading influenced this aspect of simplicity for the sake of the audience – an example provided in Edmund Tufte’s Visual Explanations showed a clearly mis-captioned photograph identifying a loinclothed Yanomami man as “Napoleon A. Chagnon, American Anthropologist”, demonstrating where the orderly design “unfortunately all [came] undone” (Tufte, 1997). For some reason this simple example stayed with me when designing the first wireframe for Town Crier – if there was an aspect of the site that was misleading or unclear the accessibility (and, to a degree, the integrity) of the site would be diminished.
User Experience Design across Digital Platforms
At first, I thought the photo-sharing app Instagram would be the best use of social media for Town Crier. At this stage of planning my concept was still events-based: I hoped to promote ongoing events around Adelaide city that I would then be able to visit, photograph, and post on the connected Instagram and Twitter accounts. During this phase of my concept building, I visited an event (Wonderwalls, a street art festival in Port Adelaide) and posted some photos on my Instagram account.
It was at this point that my opinion shifted and I realised the sheer inefficiency of my concept as it was. Instead, my instagram account became a way to access the ARIs I decided to focus on. I followed all of the ARIs (that had accounts, which only excluded one) and used their accounts to gather information and insight before writing my articles. At this point I also decided to take photographs of the ARIs and their committees, but soon realised this wasn’t nearly as achievable as I had anticipated due to scheduling and the lack of payoff for the ARIs to participate. Instead, I decided to utilise my instagram much the same way I had decided to use twitter: I would post links to each article. This ended up being a little more tedious than anticipated; posting to twitter is a default option when publishing a WordPress article, whereas posting to instagram is not. I posted a simple blurb about each ARI, linked their respective articles, and also tagged the ARI’s account in their article – both to imply a link between Town Crier and the collectives, and for ease of access for any potential audience.
Although the instagram account ended up not being as useful to my website as I had anticipated by being utilised in this way, I decided it was important to keep a major picture-sharing app involved when relating to art-based content – ensuring the use of featured images carried across all the media to demonstrate the content simply. Not only this, but I hoped the difference between popularity of the primary site (WordPress) and instagram would create a promotional effect.
The audience for Town Crier is, sadly, non-existent. With the WordPress view count suspiciously corresponding with a critiquing day in class, and the only article retweet coming from a user named “Buy Followers”, attracting an audience was not a successful element to Town Crier. In hindsight, I should have better utilised my social media – in particular the Town Crier Twitter account.
Although potential for promotion through Twitter is substantial, I found I wasn’t able to decide on how to utilise this platform in a promotional way. I posted each article and followed as many relevant profiles as I could to entice any curious users to investigate, but this didn’t result in much response (if any) and only served to multiply the same content I had already published. In researching ways I might have been able to better employ my twitter account I read a paper examining the use of the site in promoting and branding for local television news programs. One finding showed that 79.4% of the stations examined that posted news stories to twitter “did not feature breaking news items” and 71.6% of the same stations “did not use their tweets to promote their on-air newscasts” (Greer & Ferguson, 2010, p. 209). Due to this paper I realised a better use of the Twitter account would be to post additional content alongside the articles posted on my wordpress account. In noting this I think attempting to keep an element of events-based content would have allowed for more of a social media presence and, potentially, more of an audience to speak of.
Future Directions and Development
In terms of development I would focus on improving the content of the website. In order to attract more of a participatory audience to the website I would revisit my initial concept of detailing an event-based art community. It would be important to keep a focus on Artist-Run Initiatives as the main promotional aspect of the website, but would change slightly in nature. Rather than offering only a summary of these ARIs and the opportunity for the audience to continue exploring these communities by merely following links, the nature of my website would have to become more active. Rather than a stagnant set of basic articles on ARIs, I would establish individual pages for each collective and update the homepage with event and community related articles pertaining to those collectives exclusively. The map page is also something I would alter; inserting interactive maps for each individual ARI page rather than having a single map for all of the collectives (which was my initial intention before encountering technical difficulties). I would also include permanent social media widgets in the website sidebar which would be properly updated with event information and announcements.
Caitlin Warnock, a1731714
Word Count: 1729
List of References Used:
De Fiore, G 1988, Drawing with Colour, trans. Joachim Neugroschel, Watson-Guptill.
Greer, C and Ferguson, D 2010, ‘Using Twitter for Promotion and Branding: A Content Analysis of Local Television Twitter Sites’, Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, vol. 55, no. 2, pp. 198-214
Marsh, J 2016, UX for Beginners: a Crash Course in 100 Short Lessons, O’Reilly Media Inc, Sebastopol, p. 31
Tufte, E 1997, Visual Explanations: Images and Quantities, Evidence and Narrative, Graphics Press, Cheshire, p. 102
Wren, C and Reynolds, C 2004, ‘Minimalism in Ubiquitous Interface Design’, Personal and Ubiquitous Computing, vol. 8, no. 5, pp. 370-373