Europ.in - Would Your Grandmother Use It?
Last month, we told you we would soon be hearing from some of the Hack4Europe! 2012 winners. Developers were given access to the Europeana API at hackathons in Riga, Warsaw and Leuven in May-June this year and had two days to create a marketable app.
First to tell us about their app is guest blogger Uldis Bojars, who writes on behalf of the Riga winners. The team, who only decided to work together on the day of the hackathon, did some brainstorming and came up with 'Europ.in'. Here's their story…
Europ.in showing search results for 'Riga opera'. See it in the Europ.in app here.
The application is search-based. Visitors enter a keyword and are presented with a stream of images from Europeana. The ‘infinite scroll’ approach sees new content appended to the page when the user scrolls to the bottom of it. This creates an impression that there is a never-ending stream of content.
The initial idea for Europ.in came from the popular image-sharing site Pinterest. When we looked at Europeana, we liked the interesting content but not the time it took to browse through pages of results.
One of our team asked, 'How could we make something that my grandmother would use?' The result is an application in which people can view hundreds of images at once, then access a close-up view of an item's details, links to related items and sharing options.
Europ.in close-up view of an 'inro' search result. This one is 'Inro lotusbloemen en vogel', a public domain image from the Rijksmuseum. View it in Europeana here.
Europeana preview images come in a range of dimensions, resolutions and file sizes. One of our problems was that some images were too low resolution for our close-up view. Showing only the results of sufficient size discarded too many results and enlarging them resulted in blurry images that did not give justice to the originals. Now, the app displays all results but the size of the search results column has decreased to 150 pixels, so there is less blurring. Better solutions would be to:
- have access to larger preview images on Europeana; or
- for the app to look for larger, higher resolution images on the provider's own website (where digital object licences allow).
We wanted to supply viewers with a steady stream of results whilst keeping image file sizes reasonably small for mobile devices. For larger previews, we used an image-resizing service to convert them and cache them for faster access next time.
Metadata and image licensing
What makes Europeana attractive to applications like Europ.in is:
- a large amount of diverse content
- adoption of the providing freely available and re-usable metadata
The open re-use of metadata creates potential for new, innovative applications and is an important step towards openness. However, in the world where people increasingly expect content that is more visual and engaging than pure text, having free use of metadata may not be enough. As developers, we would like to see more open re-use of item previews. This would perhaps mean previews having a different, more open usage licence than the digital objects themselves.
The main future challenge for Europ.in is making the application more engaging and helping people discover interesting content. Some possible directions for improvement are: adding visual content to the main page; making additional images load even faster; and increasing awareness of the application. We would be glad to receive suggestions for improving Europ.in by email: uldis bojars (at) gmail.com
The Europ.In team at work at the Riga hackathon - images by Hack4Europe! Riga and Latvijas Nacionālā Bibliotēka
* Wookmark JQuery plugin for visual layout of the search result page
* Fancybox JQuery plugin for displaying item detail view
* HTML5 History API for assigning URIs to item detail views
Application source code is available online.