As part of our shiny, new Explore the Collections (which Kati has written about in detail), we have redesigned and rebuilt the Object Page (here’s a favourite example). We want to bring together all the information we hold on an object in one place to encourage onward journeys and getting lost down rabbit holes (in a good way) of lovely, connected content. Last, but not least, at the end of the page, we have a feature that really embodies this.
Enter You May Also Like.
You might recognise this mechanism. It’s used on shopping sites to show you other items you could be interested in, from cowboy boots in different heel heights, to that cheeky glue gun which promises to be the last missing piece in your purchasing puzzle. We have reworked this idea and gave it some sparkle to create a new visual experience for Explore the Collections.
Fondly nicknamed YMAL by the team (for obvious reasons) and pronounced “ya-mil” (not to be confused with YAML) it cuts through the collections to show you other potentially relevant objects. This is achieved using specified facets from the V&A’s Collections Management System. These objects are a random selection, but must have a photograph accompanying it. We wanted this experience to encourage unexpected, serendipitous encounters – and lead people to explore.
We designed this with our users in ‘Explore’ mode in mind; people looking to get inspired and be exposed to new ideas. It is an image led experience where the objects are the stars of the show. The importance of imagery was something that came up again and again in our user research. Imagery is key. So we made sure to showcase all the beautiful photography we have of our objects.
As well as encouraging onward journeys linked to what you are looking at, YMAL is also there to delight. You are able to shuffle through objects as well as slide across to see other linked categories. This interactivity is what makes this delightful (we hope!). The micro-animations are fun, whimsical and also quite useful (even if you don’t consciously notice them). Drawing inspiration from the real world, they are designed to imitate physical motion. For example, we’ve now added a cheeky little rotation on an object hover. This movement emulates a scrapbook where one haphazardly chucks images in without worrying about them all neatly lining up. This also helps our user know which object they are interacting with, and adds that extra va va voom to the experience.
However, although we have intentionally designed YMAL to reference real-life, I believe it goes a step further to provide alternative perspectives. In the museum, you aren’t able to see these combinations of objects displayed together. They are confined by their position in the physical space. YMAL allows you to create visual patterns and draw new connections that are not available in the museum. This is something we are finding increasingly pertinent in these ‘unprecedented’ times. Digital is no longer a support act for the real world, it is an opportunity to create new and alternative narratives that aren’t limited by the confines of the physical.
So in preparation for our upcoming exhibition, Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser, I invite you to have a play for yourself and get lost down a rabbit hole or two.
It’s worth noting that we work in an Agile way and this is a first iteration. We are now fine tuning and iterating the design and specified facets with feedback from our user testing and data analytics.