Last Wednesday saw the launch of our 2014 Images of Research competition, open to our research staff, postgraduate research students and academics. Researchers submit an image depicting their work, along with a short description.
All entries are later available to view in a public exhibition in the centre of Bath, showing the diverse ways that research makes an impact on our society and the world.
Issues with our existing galleries
After running the contest for five years, the University has collected almost 200 photos, drawings and diagrams, all of which were also displayed in galleries on the Research site.
Unfortunately our existing galleries were not doing the images justice. Past images were split between three different gallery set-ups: an impenetrable mix of fiddly Flash slideshows, microscopic text and bullet-point lists of thumbnails.
We needed to make it easier for users to discover and enjoy these images, and for the Digital team to make better use of them beyond the competition pages.
For our solution, we turned to Flickr.
Categorising our images with sets and collections
Flickr allows us to place each image in multiple sets, and organise our sets into collections.
This opens new ways for users to browse the galleries and discover images and lines of research which interest them.
The structure of these sets matches the taxonomy used on our Research site. This opens up new ways for us to integrate these photos with the rest of the site, and will help us make use of a great visual resource which had previously been tucked away.
We also reviewed the image descriptions and made a few tweaks to improve readability.
Embedding the galleries in the Research site
We used Flickr’s Flash widget to embed slideshows of the photos into the new Images of Research page.
It’s now easier for users to view the images and initiate the slideshow. Since the slideshow automatically reflects any changes made on Flickr, this simplifies our process of adding or modifying photos and metadata.
Working with a single slideshow widget also unified the design of the galleries on the Research site.
The Flash widget did present us with some problems for iOS devices, which don’t play well with Flash. Unfortunately Flickr doesn’t currently offer an HTML5 alternative for embedding galleries. While we look into alternative plugins, we've included a link to the sets’ locations on Flickr, with visibility determined by media queries.
Reaching a new audience
Flickr’s search and sharing features make it easier for users to discover our research, either through Flickr searches or through sharing on other social networks.
Since we uploaded the pictures to our Flickr account, several users have already followed us and added images to their favourites – the fluorescent zebrafish are proving popular.