From Tech-Centred to User-Focused: A Transformed Humanities Research Platform


The Time Layered Cultural Map of Australia (TLCMap) is a set of tools that work together for mapping Australian history and culture. Our team worked to support the redesign of the TLCMap based on user consultation. It was led by the University of Newcastle and funded by an Australian Research Council LIEF grant. We collaborated with six Universities, supporting humanities researchers to analyse data, visualise results and reach a wider audience via digital mapping.

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Image: Workshop / Asymmetric Innovation
Image: Understanding our users
Image: Understanding our users
Image: Redesigning the homepage
Image: The old homepage
Image: Workshop / Asymmetric Innovation
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  • TLCMap's draft user interface and workflow was based on research without user consultation and was untested. Target user groups were not clearly defined. TLCMap was seeking clarity on who the broader user groups could be, focusing on the user's capabilities, needs and how to make workflow from the web entry point intuitive and engaging for them. Our team worked to support the redesign of the TLCMap based on user consultation, through exploration of its current and potential user base, and design of a user experience that is accessible, engaging and supportive for users of all skill levels

  • Meeting with the broader research team, we sought to understand how TLCMap was currently working, and how users might want it to work in the future. After an initial in-person design workshop (pre-covid) with researchers, we designed a user-testing program that researchers could lead independently, generating 20+ responses. We recommended data management and UI/UX redesign to change the look/feel of the platform, offering a communications package to support adoption. Reframing 'here are the tools' into 'what do you want to do?', TLCMap is now user-friendly and future-focused, capable of providing value to a broader user group.

  • Redesigning TLCMap's UX, we supported the research team to consider a more diverse user base. With 'how-to' guides and a supportive interface, more people can engage, developing a deeper understanding of our histories, country and cultures. The research projects that can be delivered thanks to TLCMap share important insights of our environmental, economic and legislative histories, which can inform design of enhanced social, economic and environmental policies for Australia. Commercially, TLCMap delivers powerful tools that save days/months of researchers' time and expense in data collection/analysis, increasing their capacity to create impact and share research with the community.

  • Throughout the project, we supported the research team to enhance their user design, prototyping and testing approaches. From testing design requirements and gathering feedback, we transitioned to training the researchers in UX testing capabilities. The arrival of COVID dramatically changed our project approach - and what had been planned for in-person prototyping and UX testing, was redesigned to be facilitated online - through interactive surveys, online interviews and digital prototyping materials. We supported the researchers in this digital domain and made continued progress with the project. Having a first-hand understanding of user requirements, researchers were empowered to put their findings into action. This transition provided a foundation for the research team to effectively continue their UX design activities into the future and envision effective approaches for bringing the TLCMap systems, and their own research, together.