UX Design for DH Accelerator Program

UX Design for DH Accelerator Program

The UX Design for DH Accelerator Program supports faculty researchers in a team-based, collaborative process for co-creating websites, digital exhibitions, databases, and other digital projects. The Accelerator team includes a UX Designer, DH Developer, and CDHI team members with expertise in research design, ethics, and project management, as well as divisional digital scholarship librarians.

This program takes the faculty researcher past the threshold of “consultation” with experts and into team-based collaborative making. The Accelerator team meets weekly with the faculty member and collaborators weekly, moving from project planning and prototyping to testing and implementation. Faculty members will leave the program with documentation and plans for next steps.

The UX for DH Accelerator Process: It spans 8 weeks with 2 additional weeks for development handoff. In the first week, the Accelerator team learns about the project, and then goes into ideation in week 2, by guiding the research team through a goal-setting workshop to set development goals for the collaboration. Using the output of the workshop, in week 3, the structure of the digital project is set, and the visual preferences are decided. Weeks 4 through 7 involve multiple rounds of iteration on designs and review. The research team needs to provide at least one of each type of example content based on the decided structure of the digital project. As soon as the designs are finalized, they are handed off to the developer. Throughout the process, sustainability of the project post accelerator is kept in mind. 

Process Image Infograph for UX for DH Accelerator

UX Design for DH Accelerator: Summer 2023 & Fall 2023

After a successful pilot program in 2022, the UX Design for DH Accelerator Program is back for 2023, co-funded by CDHI and the Collaborative Digital Research Space (CDRS). Parita Patel was the first UX Design Co-op student hired for the pilot project in May 2023.

The UX Design for DH Pilot Project will support seven projects.

UTSC History Project

PIs: Christine Berkowitz (Associate Professor, Historical & Cultural Studies, UTSC) and Leslie Chan (Associate Professor, Global Development Studies, UTSC)

Struggles of identity are integral to the history of UTSC – the desire to establish a unique institutional identity with a degree of autonomy from the parent institution as well as the struggle of marginalized groups within the institution to find their place and voice. The aim of Struggle for Identity is to complicate the traditional narrative of progress and growth by inviting members of the community to tell stories of their lived experience. The Accelerator team redesigned the project website and revised its information architecture, ensuring that the project’s PressBook and the digital exhibits are seamlessly integrated and intuitive to explore and navigate. Our team also helped the team try different visual styles and identify what represented the project well. Communication consultations provided the team with the tools and methods to best promote their book launch and website launch.  

Listening to Kensington Market (LTKM)

PI: Farzaneh Hemmasi (Associate Professor, Ethnomusicology, Faculty of Music)

The Listening to Kensington Market is a community-engaged ethnographic project investigating the post-pandemic auditory environment in Toronto’s most famously “hyperdiverse” neighbourhood. Since 2021, the KMSS research team has undertaken ethnographic research to access, describe, and communicate diverse KM community members’ experiences of sound, music and “noise” alongside community members’ different understandings of relationships sound and physical, cultural, and economic “health” and “recovery.” The Accelerator team helped the team to explore and define the visuals, design, and website structure which represented their research. A high-fidelity prototype was created, along with a custom theme in WordPress and documentation for implementation.

Italian-Canadian Foodways

PI: Teresa Lobalsamo (Associate Professor, Italian Studies | Undergraduate Program Coordinator, Language Studies, UTM)

The Italian-Canadian FOODWAYS project focuses on the history of the Italian diaspora in Ontario and the change in Italian-Canadian culinary traditions in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). It is a cultural heritage preservation project initiated by Professor Teresa Lobalsamo from the University of Toronto (Mississauga) that will create a digital archive of Italian-Canadian culinary artefacts illustrating the evolution of Italian-Canadian food pathways in the GTA since the early 1900s. The Accelerator team streamlined the Foodways digital collections by bringing everything on to a single platform – Omeka. Their current Omeka website was redesigned, taking into consideration the type of questions the PI Teresa Lobalsamo would ask in her course, and identifying how to better integrate the Omeka portal, Quercus and Experiential Learning Opportunities. Out of this discussion came the idea of “Stories from the Kitchen” – an experiential learning assignment whose outcomes will be student blogs added to item sets in Omeka.

Project ONLOCK

PI: Mark Campbell (Associate Professor, Arts, Culture and Media, UTSC)

The intended impact of project ONLOCK is to provide access to visual artists (in hip-hop culture) to the tools that will help them protect their artistic works, with the aim to reduce their marginal social relations when it comes to leveraging copyright protections. The Accelerator team designed the Knowledge Portal which primarily will be an educational foundation for artists seeking intellectual property support. Secondarily, the Knowledge Portal will feature content about ONLOCK, the team’s licensing engine. Working with the research team, we helped them consider critical questions about organising all the information on the knowledge portal, and how to interlink the Knowledge Portal and ONLOCK.

Landing Page with Artwork at the back and Flourish Collective as a page heading

FLOURISH: Community Arts and Social Wellness

PIs: Andrea Charise (Associate Professor, Health & Society, UTSC) and Natalie Leduc (Assistant Professor; Curriculum, Teaching, Learning; OISE)

 FLOURISH is an arts-led, community-engaged initiative that explores how creative arts engagement enriches social connection and wellness across the life course. The accelerator team redesigned the current website of the FLOURISH project. The major feature updates included adding an engaging and interactive timeline to showcase their work chronologically. Using user centred design principles, core user groups were identified, and the different sections of the websites were redesigned to make the experience intuitive and interactive for them. The pages for showcasing project outputs and past and upcoming events were updated.

Remediating the Mound Builders: Networks of Knowledge and Memory around the Great Lakes

PI: Pamela Klassen (Professor; Chair & Graduate Chair, Study of Religion, FAS)

Building Inclusive Cities

PI: Irina Mihalache (Associate Professor, Faculty of Information)


“I appreciated how the CDHI team pushed us to identify necessary and less vital elements, how willing they were to experiment with different ideas and layouts, and how they were ready to learn new things…. We need this [program] on our campus, and I’m so grateful for it. ”

— Farzaneh Hemmasi

Associate Professor, Ethnomusicology, Faculty of Music, Listening to Kensington Market

The program inspired renewed interests in areas of research that we had left unexplored for some time. The research team is also motivated us to explore additional (new) areas of research and to better harness the Foodways project as a pedagogical tool.”

— Teresa Lobalsamo

Associate Professor, Italian Studies | Undergraduate Program Coordinator, Language Studies, UTM, Italian-Canadian Foodways

Despite being part of a university with a reputation for innovation in teaching and research, we have struggled for over 4 years to find people with the right skills/talents to assist us in making our vision for our multimedia digital humanities project a reality.  The CDHI Accelerator Project has provided us with much more that simply assisting in a redesign of a website.  They have not only contributed the necessary expertise and tools, but inspired and encouraged us to expand that original vision and left us with the confidence that we can move forward to both maintain and continue to refine this new approach on our own.” 

— Christine Berkowitz

Associate Professor, Associate Professor, Historical & Cultural Studies, UTSC, UTSC History Project

UX Design for DH Pilot Project

The Accelerator Program was piloted in Summer and Fall 2022. The UX Design for DH Pilot Project was co-funded by CDHI and the Collaborative Digital Research Space (CDRS). Peter Luo was the first UX Design Co-op student hired for the pilot project in May 2022. DH Developer Matthew Lefaive joined the team in September 2022.

The UX Design for DH Pilot Project supported seven projects.

Sexual Representation Collection Page Redesign

PI: Patrick Keilty (Associate Professor, Faculty of Information)

The Sexual Representation Collection page on the Mark S. Bonham Centre website is the digital presence of the physical Sexual Representation Collection Archive. It serves both to provide contextual information around the collection, but also a way for interested researchers to browse the collection’s finding aids online and contact the PI for a physical viewing. Through the six-week project timeline, the Accelerator Program reorganized the content in a more intuitive way, made the page more graphically interesting, and redesigned the Finding Aid section to be easier to use and more accessible for user groups less familiar with archives or the Collection.

Decolonizing Archives of Water

PI: Bhavani Raman (Associate Professor, Historical & Cultural Studies, UTSC)

The Decolonizing Archives of Water is a GIS based project that seeks to create a website centered around a Story Map called “Lifecycle of a Storm” that showcases a Chennai based fisherman’s traditional knowledge and interpretation of wind, water, currents during monsoon season. The website will also contain a section that allows users to layer historical maps over the current map of Chennai, as well as provide additional resources surrounding the subject matter. Through the six-week project timeline, the Accelerator Program helped explore and define the visuals, design, and contents of the different website sections, and created high fidelity prototypes for both desktop and mobile as a handoff for future developers. Through discussions with the international research team, the designs were catered to meet the narrative, ethical, and political concerns of the research team. Significant thought was also put in to ensure the design met the needs of both English and Tamil speaking users.

Pussy Palace Digital Exhibit

PI: Elspeth Brown (Professor, Historical Studies, UTM)

The Pussy Palace Digital Exhibit is an oral history project that seeks to create an interactive, immersive digital exhibit website to showcase the Toronto Pussy Palace and its history from 1975 till now. Throughout the 16-week project timeline, the Accelerator Program helped take an initial idea of allowing the user to explore an illustrated version of the palace in first person, to a fully fleshed out design and prototype for the website and its multiple content sections. In particular, the program was able to define exactly how users would interact and navigate around the palace to consume the oral history content, and how users would learn about the palace’s history in the website’s other sections. Through discussions with the research team, designs were modified to ensure the right message and experience would be delivered to website visitors. Efforts were also spent on usability testing to ensure the website is intuitive and pleasant to use, and feedback was collected to improve the website’s interaction and interface.

Borders, Boundaries, Bodies

PI: Anna Korteweg (Professor, Sociology, UTM)

Borders Boundaries Bodies is a research project centered around European Women who joined the Islamic State, what happened to them and their children, the media discourse surrounding their citizenship, and the effect this discourse had around other Muslim citizens in Europe. Through the 13-week project duration, the Accelerator Program helped create a standalone website that showcases the findings of the research team, provides extensive resources and bibliographies on the subject matter, and illustrates the journey of key figures in an accessible and interactive way. Efforts were spent on making large amounts of information and data clear and easy to consume.

homepage of the Dancing Black in Canada website

It’s About Time: Dancing Black in Canada, 1900-1970

PI: Seika Boye (Assistant Professor, Centre for Drama, Theatre, & Performance Studies, Faculty of Arts & Science)

It’s About Time: Dancing Black in Canada is an exhibit that showcases archival records of Black dance in Canada and additional artistic discourse around these records in our modern lens. Throughout the Accelerator Program, the focus was on improving the website of this exhibit, particularly around improving its usability and reorganizing its contents that better communicates the message and intentions of the exhibit.

Asexuality & Aromanticism Bibliography

PIs: Liza Blake (Associate Professor, English, UTM) and Jenna McKellips (PhD Candidate, English, Faculty of Arts & Science)

The Asexuality & Aromanticism Bibliography is an online searchable bibliography that provides a much-needed tool for researchers to browse through many resources surrounding the subject. During the program, focus was put on improving the bibliography’s usability but also making it as accessible as possible to a wide range of user groups. This involved redesigning and reorganizing various pages of the site, and implementing new PI-requested features.

Sealings and Lives of Maresha homepage

Sealings and Lives of Maresha

PIs: Boris Chrubasik (Associate Professor, Classics, Faculty of Arts & Science | Associate Professor, Historical Studies, UTM) and Chris Young (Head, Collections & Digital Scholarship, UTM Library)

Sealings and Lives of Maresha (SLiM) is a searchable, online collection of clay seal impressions from the Iron Age city of Maresha, located in The Shephelah, Israel. Seals were used to mark and authenticate documents, or prevent interference in packages/envelopes, and through examining the impressions left behind by these seals, SLiM aims to tell the story of the lives of the people of Maresha. Through the accelerator program, the goal was to design and ideate on the project collection’s website, with a focus on colour-pallette, typography, page layouts, and overall sitemap.

“We started out with far too much focus on text, then in interaction with Peter, the UX designer/developer, and the rest of the team figured out ways to manage the information and add visual interest. This made a huge, positive difference in how the project developed. We created a beautiful website that I’m really proud of.”

— Anna Korteweg

Professor, Sociology, UTM, Borders, Boundaries, Bodies

“Peter heeded acutely to all our requirements for the website and he was also very quick to adopt the changes in the design according to the progress of our research. We certainly recommend this program to other researchers.”

— Bhavani Raman

Associate Professor, Historical & Cultural Studies, UTSC, Decolonizing Archives of Water

“Peter and Matthew had different skillsets and goals, so it was almost like we had two months of help! We also thought the form of the collaboration (weekly meetings, and spreadsheets to keep track of things we wanted done) was really useful and productive. We also appreciated the way that the program included a whole team, and so was also a way of networking with people in DH-related fields and programs across the university.”

— Liza Blake & Jenna McKellips

Associate Professor, English, UTM & PhD Candidate, English, Faculty of Arts & Science, Asexuality & Aromanticism Bibliography

Current Co-op Student

Parita Patel

Portfolio: https://www.paritadesign.com/

Parita is the CDHI UX Designer for Summer 2023.

Previous Co-op Student

Peter Luo

Portfolio: https://www.peterluo1.com

Peter Luo was the CDHI UX Designer from May 2022 through January 2023. Peter worked on: Sexual Representation Collection Page Redesign; Decolonizing Archives of Water; Pussy Palace Digital Exhibit; Borders, Boundaries, Bodies; It’s About Time: Dancing Black Canada, 1900-1970; Asexuality & Aromanticism Bibliography; and, Sealings and Lives of Maresha.