eMPaRT is an Art Gallery Platform app, designed to create an equitable art marketplace and accessible and welcoming space for the uninitiated art collector to explore. eMPaRT was created to empower artists and give them control over their voice and their access to a client base.
The commercial art market is built to suit wealthy art dealers and collectors instead of those who make art.
To design an app that supports independent artists and welcomes the uninitiated general public to discover their tastes and participate in patronage.
UX generalist, designing an Art Gallery app.
Conducting interviews, paper and digital wireframing, low and high-fidelity prototyping, conducting usability studies, accounting for accessibility, and iterating on designs.
I. Understanding the user
• User research
• Problem statements
• User journey mapping
User research: summary
I conducted interviews and created empathy maps to understand the users I’m designing for and their needs.
My main goal with User Research was to better understand what needs collectors and pre-collectors aren’t being met.
My research bolstered the mission of creating an intellectually accessible, welcoming environment for folks to discover and develop their love and support of art/artists.
The interviews also underlined the need for an equitable and transparent art market for artists to conduct business within.
User research: pain points
Consumers are wary of a gallery or platform's practices, and how much of their investment makes it to the artist (more often than not <50%).
Consumers are hesitant in purchasing art without knowledge of an artwork’s context, and rarely have access to ask questions easily.
With representation comes unsolicited advice from gallerists who have power over them, especially if they are resigned to contract terms.
Personas and problem statements
Cory wants to make sound investments in Art that he enjoys but fears purchasing problematic or derivative art.
Sarah wants to support herself with her practice but without gallery representation, she can't access the art market or promote her work.
She feels isolated and without community.
II. Starting the design
• Paper wireframes
• Digital Wireframes
• Low-fidelity prototype
• Usability studies
These were the first five versions of the collector-side home.
I began building out from my paper prototypes, considering user needs, wants, and UX heuristics.
The biggest problem I faced here was differentiating between what users needed and what I wanted (I am a visual studio artist and may have an axe to grind).
Digital Wireframes II
I worked to strip away any distracting elements, leaving home with less than a dozen possible interactions
Using the completed set of digital wireframes, I created a low-fidelity prototype. The primary user flow I connected was sign up, tour, search, and messaging features.
I conducted a usability study that largely focused on accessibility.
How easily can users find art that appeals to them?
How easily can users contact artists?
How can we create a usable and inviting marketplace?
How can we avoid the use of jargon?
How can we make users feel at ease and excited about our content and tools?
Participants ranged in age from 30-68, 60% female, 40% male.
One Artist participant, one art-hobbyist participant and three collector participants.
Users were interviewed before and after a series of tasks which required them to interact with low-fi prototype.
Search criteria is too elaborate
The home screen is confusing
The options presented by default to the user for search criteria is too complicated and ambiguous
There may be too many option on the home screen and the issue is compounded by unlabeled icons
Default text within the compose-message box is too small. Text cannot easily be enlarged.
III. Refining the design
• High-fidelity prototype
Following the direction that early research suggested, the prototype began to take form, although, as you will see, this iteration is far removed from the current model.
The second usability study that I conducted led away from an icon-heavy, social networking model, to a model that more closely resembled status quo consumer apps.
The hi-fi prototype has dynamic functionality including, sign-up/in, comprehensive search, messaging, favorites, and check-out.
This system approaches the fine-art market with a people-before-profit motive that doesn’t exist in the commercial sphere. From my own experience in the commercial art field and from my relationships with nonprofits and other artists, this model has the potential to truly liberate artists from the yoke of wealthy dealers.
What I learned
Pay attention to heuristics. Even if I can relate to my user, I am not my user. Accessibility has many meanings and they are all paramount.