The Housekeepers - An archival crowdsourcing platform designed to record, preserve and celebrate Irish female musicians from the early- to mid-20th Century.
Arts & Culture
UXD, IxD, UID
(website coming soon)
One day myself and a good friend Doireann Glackin asked ourselves: where were all the women in Irish Traditional Music during the last century? Then began a two-year road trip as we attempted to find the answers.
Our enquiries yielded the goods. We uncovered many outstanding women musicians throughout the country. We spoke with their family members and friends as well as figures in the Irish music community and learned that they were well regarded amongst their contemporaries.
However, our conversations revealed that as a result of family commitements and the social norms of the day, their music-making was largely confined to the home. Only a small number had the opportunity to record commercially, and this goes some way towards explaining why many never got the recognition they deserved.
The project culminated in the recording of our debut duet album with repertoire drawn from 5 selected women. While during our research many other women were spoken about (and we know that this was just the tip of the iceberg), we simply did not have the means to acknowledge everyone. A couple of months later during my MA in UXD and IxD, I saw an opportunity to develop a solution to this problem.
Identifying the problem, hypotheses and user groups provided focus and giudance towards an appropriate design solution.
Identifying The Problem
“Female Irish traditional musicians of the early- to mid-20th century have been largely overlooked and forgotten about. How might we design a service to document, preserve and celebrate this under-represented group urgently before their music may be lost forever?”
Identifying The Hypotheses
“Traditionally, it is the role of the archivist to assess, collect, preserve and provide access to archival material. However, this material must be collected urgently and in large masses so it is beyond the means of a sole archivist/small group of archivists. We believe that developing a crowdsourcing model will allow archival material to be collected and preserved more quickly and at a reduced cost.”
“Traditionally, it is the role of the archivist to assess, collect, preserve and provide access to archival material. We believe that extending this role to citizens will make archival material more diverse and inclusive.”
Identifying The Users
1. Family/friends of female musicians from the early- to mid-20th Century. Many of whom are likely to be over the age of 50).
2. Irish Traditional Musicians over the age of 18 with a keen interest in archival material.
A survey using both qualitative and quantitative data was conducted with 20 Irish Traditional Musicians and/or family members of the women.
Key insights: 72% had used ITMA online catalogue before.
90% said they would contribute to the archive by uploading material online / or help others upload material.
Reasons why participants would not upload material are a lack of internet connection (in rural areas), and not feeling confident using technology.
Features that participants would like to use include advanced search, discover, playlists, share content, save content and tags.
80% said that the ability to choose different levels of copyright would be important.
36% said that they would not agree to upload material if it could be downloaded.
Defining Brand Attributes & Values
In a 30 minute session, brand attributes and core values were defined. This exerceise allowed me to quickly discover and refine the look, feel and tone of the archive and begin to consider its functionality. During the course of the project I returned to these definitions to ensure I was designing consistently.
Traditional yet contemporary
(An image from a brainstorming session exploring brand attributes and values.)
Personas were developed in order to emphatise with different users, prioritise features and inform the UI Design.
Minimum Viable Product
Features were prioritised according to identified user needs. They were tested first and as early as pssible, minimising project waste.
Search & Advanced Search, Discover Page, Musician’s Profile Page, Upload Widget
I quickly sketched out paper prototypes and experimented with various forms. I decided to design for mobile first and then scale up to different devices.
Having settled upon one option, I translated the design into Figma and carried out user testing with 3 participants.
Wireframe in Figma
I acquired important insights through early user testing that informed the medium- and high-fidelity prototypes.
User testing confirmed:
1. There was too many entry points on the home screen which was confusing and overwhelming.
2. The search feature is confusing and could be simplified.
3. It is not clear where to find the advanced search
on certain pages.
4. Spacing was too close together in some instances
(especially the alphabet).
5. Users enjoyed swiping on the discover page.
Medium-fidelity prototype in Figma.
Having determined the full functionality of the website, I then focused on developing the UI and Interaction design. After numerous rounds of usability testing I scaled to fit various devices.
The Result:The result is an intuitive, attractive and refreshing platform that aims to compliment the official archive by collecting and preserving the lives and music of female musicians that have been largely overlooked. As family members and friends are getting older it is critical that this material is collected promptly. Usability testing confirmed that it is enjoyable and accessible experience that meets the needs of the three target users stated above. However, there will still be a problem acquiring material from those who are without reliable internet connection and those who are reluctant to use technology.
Solution going forward:
One solution to this would be to hold archving sessions at popular music festivals in rural areas, where family members/friends are likely to attend. They could be asked to bring the archival material and volunteers could help them upload the content there and then.