The digital generation goes mobile
Abstract: Professor David Nicholas, Dr. David Clark and Professor Ian Rowlands (CIBER Research Ltd.) have published on September 2011 the ‘Culture on-the-Go’ report about Europeana usage. The report investigates about user’s behaviours and in particular about mobile access to Europeana resources. The ‘Culture on-the-Go’ analyses the Europeana access and navigation logs and explores how Europeana is used by online visitors. The report addresses to questions such as: How is changing user’s access to information (and thus to Europeana resources) and content fruition? How Europena can improve its services and interfaces to best serve its users?
This article explores the report main aspects and evidences some relevant considerations which may support PATHS project activities.
The digital generation goes mobile
The new generation, named ‘digital natives’ as well as the previous generation named ‘digital immigrants’ (those who were born before the digital era but now using massively digital media and devices), use more massively mobile smart-phones and tablets. The usage is pervasive to new habits: taking pictures, recording videos and writing personal blogs. These generations will mostly use tablets and smart-phones which are always connected. Such devices have completely different ergonomics than the traditional personal computers and fixed platforms: the screens are smaller, different viewing resolution and quality, they are touch, simple and intuitive applications are installed, in general they are ‘smarter’. The industry of new generation devices have application stores selling all kind of software: games, business tools, news, e-learning podcasting, etc.
Mobile technologies are expected to dominate in the coming years: people will search for knowledge on the place they are (at the restaurant, in the trains, during journeys, at the stadium, everywhere) using their portable smart phones. Smart phones offer more active and place aware sensors (GPS, NFC, digital compass, etc.) and thus more applications (such as augmented reality and smart searching and sharing services) can be channelled to the end users. Furthermore, users request new approaches to access content: interactivity, surface navigation (not deep navigation) of resources, entertainment.
Users expect the smart phone to be smarter and push relevant and interesting information out. They do not like traditional search engines which require effort to write the query string or use complex searching features.
Methodology followed by CIBER: Deep Log Analysis
Culture on-the-Go Report is based on analysing the user behaviour through digital footprints (such as cookies) created while users navigate through the Europeana web site and user tracking tools. The full of these logs (more dense than the ones offered by Google Analytics) provide huge and vast information such as real user navigation sequences (pages viewed), terms used by the users to execute queries and sequence of actions performed.
Results and key points
Europeana is best visited (and thus is more used) through tablets (in particular IPads), much more than smart phones. This is probably due to the fact that Europeana is a library (pictures and text) and its resources are best accessed on good quality screens enhanced by web browsing modes.
Growing number of users access to Europeana through personal mobile devices. Peaks of accesses have place mid week and week ends: mainly out of the office time.
Big potentials to be better exploited
Since Europeana was launched (November 2008) 25 millions cultural pages have been accessed (57% through Google redirecting) but only 6% of the users stay relatively long visiting Europeana pages (10 mins) with research-intensive sessions (characterised by 4.5 searches and viewing 12.7 pages) the remaining 94% remain on Europeana pages less than 2 minutes (52% of users just visit a single page only). We can thus say that the potentiality of mobile users channelled by Google are wasted or these users were looking for something they did not find on the very first page (it is hard to believe that users found through Google their topics if they stayed on the page less than 2 minutes, not enough to read the page).
Three million visitors in one year is huge but needs consolidating, just being surface browsers means that refinement of services is needed enhancing opportunities of personalized paths along the Europeana resources.
Room for improvement
The report evidences that “France is the second largest provider of Europeana content (after Germany) with 2.7 million records ” and “French content is exceptionally popular for Europeana’s mobile users, occupying four of the five top slots in terms of the most popular collections “ thus other counties contributions should be supported and promoted.
Innovative interfaces are needed: the IPad model navigation and menu should be analyzed deeper (news agencies could be taken as best practice for their matrix information visualization and side menu bars ). These innovative interfaces should be the same for fixed and mobile platforms as duplicating interfaces is cost effective and generates discrepancies and system misbehaviours.
Typical mobile derived activities are the social and networking communication among users: effectively blogs and social sharing platforms (Facebook) could activate cultural discussion rooms forwarding further users to visit Europeana and generate meaningful new material which Europeana could even evaluate to use or refer to.
Furthermore, evaluating the usage of the users, growing mobile and personalized, having peaks in the weekends, we envisage Europeana to have capturing opportunities if offering dynamic content and edutainment content aggregation.
As far as mobile accesses increase on digital contents (let it be images and videos too) there could be a good access increase if the mobile costs are flattered and Roaming costs are reduced: this would also allow further mobile applications related to cultural tourism.