Sites Optimized for Mobiles

2. Launch a cross-platform mobile website that bring collections to people outside of museum walls.

The second prototype integrates several Omeka plugins into a mobile-friendly website. To build a mobile-friendly website from scratch, we created Art in the City<http://dev.omeka.org/artinthecity> to showcase this mobile integration by combining a customized theme with several plugins for a unique mobile experience. There were two distinct steps to launching the collections-based mobile website: organizing and presenting collections, and optimizing the mobile web design, including adding and customizing plugins.

Art in the City homepage

Art in the City homepage

We began by filling our Omeka database with images relating to four sites in Washington, D.C. A person walking around D.C. may access Art in the City from their mobile device and find the Capitol building, for instance, in the list of locations. Once selecting the location, the user discovers images and art from a variety of institutions that relate to the history and use of the Capitol building as a political and cultural icon. One more click takes the visitor to metadata if she or he desires more information about the digital object, and tells the visitor what institution holds that object. By adding fields to the existing metadata, institutions can also tell visitors if an object is available for viewing in a public space. Creating a cross-institutional mobile browser-friendly site offers an out-of-gallery experience, where users can access the resource from virtually anywhere.

To offer a mobile site that rendered similar results in all major mobile browser, we modified a pre-existing Omeka theme, Emiglio. We modified the theme’s CSS by reducing the width and padding of the header, footer, navigation, and columns, and adjusted the font sizes of headings and the body, so that the design fits comfortably within the confines of a smaller mobile browser window. With the design in place, we focused our efforts on the curation of content.

Screenshot of mobile interface

Screenshot of mobile interface

Once we created a small archive for Art in the City, we installed the new Send to Mobile plugin. Send to Mobile allows users browsing the site to send specific information about the artwork in the archive–determined by the project team–to a mobile device via text message (SMS) or email. We imagine two common scenarios incorporating the Send to Mobile feature. First, an individual might visit the website prior to visiting, and choose to text themselves selected objects to view at the museum. Alternatively, once at the museum, a visitor might text a friend or family member browsing in another gallery or wing of the museum to alert them of an interesting artifact or piece of art. Once downloaded to their phone, anyone may access the information in that text, even if cell phone reception is not available within the museum itself. Offline mobile integration provides another way to deliver content to users, and diversifies the options available.

Lastly, we created a BriteKite wall and encourage visitors either to text or tweet using the hashtag, #artincity. The wall is linked from the site’s homepage and encourages anyone to contribute to or follow conversations and commentary related the Art in the City site.

Art in the City offers a prototype that is easily replicable for other museums seeking to pilot their own collections-based mobile site.