Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Developing this website

Drama student Jordan Coverdale, from The University of Kent, has been on an internship at Turner Contemporary to help us develop a website for the project.

Here are Jordan’s thoughts on his experience:

"I first got involved with the project through the Student Ambassador scheme at The University of Kent which offers outreach work to go alongside my studies. When I saw the advert for a post to help develop a website for an exhibition at Turner Contemporary, I was keen to apply due to my interest in online media platforms.

My role was to explore different web options that members from the community (involved in researching the exhibition) could use to share ideas and findings.

Whilst I've created informative websites for projects in the past this is the first time I’ve delved into making a fully interactive site, allowing people to create their own profiles and share content.

I soon discovered that there were several possible approaches, each of which would lead to participants interacting in different ways. One option was to go with a project management tool (e.g. Basecamp). However, this didn't feel suitable for the experimental and community oriented nature of the project.

Instead I proposed that we create our own platform built from existing tools. I had previously discovered online services that provide you with a basis for creating your own social network and the one that really stood out to me was SocialEngine, due to its simplicity and visual impact. Through experimenting with the service further, I learnt that users could create their own profiles with ease and that it was possible to build an interactive sense of community. Using myself and also a fellow intern, who was researching the poem, we set up a mock site that could act as both a public facing website with information for newcomers about the project, alongside an area for community members to share their own ideas.

I was keen to see what potential participants wanted to get out of using the website, and therefore used any introductory events to gather opinions. I learnt that people felt more at ease contributing to a closed off group. As a result I made the members area of the site by invite only. Some people were also concerned about whether the site would be simple and easy to use, which led me to create a help section with detailed tutorials. I feel that these discoveries were vital in the development of the platform, to achieve an interface that people could happily remain engaged with.

Looking back, the real challenges were designing a platform that could deal with lots of people working collaboratively, all with different levels of technical knowledge. 

It's fair to say that I have learned a lot in just the six weeks I’ve been working, and I am excited to see the platform finally being put into the hands of the users and watching the community grow. Going from joining an opportunity scheme within my University to helping develop an art exhibition has all been incredibly exhilarating, and now I feel so involved I can’t wait to experience the end result!"     

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