The Challenge

CAS’s mission is to promote the artworks it holds within its collection, as well as the artists that have work either with CAS, or who have donated works to CAS or other museums.

To make promoting these works and artists easier online, CAS wanted to enhance its corporate website and display its collections through its website for the first time. This data naturally needed to be presented in a visually engaging way.

Each aspect of the CAS digital collection needed to portray the story of the specific piece of artwork, including where it is located now, who may have been involved in purchasing or donating it, and the people involved in creating it.

Amanda Matthews, Project Manager, Un.titled.

The Solution

The Un.titled team ran Discovery sessions with the guys at CAS, initially looking back over the work we did around UX design.

Our team then set about developing an impressive collections and corporate website solution. We oversaw a website migration from WordPress to the Drupal platform, and the new website now also hooks up to CAS’s database system, Qi. This universal content and collections management solution is built by a company called Keep Thinking, and is used by a number of organisations in the arts industry.

CAS has nearly 16,000 records in Qi, comprising 14,000 individual objects, people, artists, organisations and museums. Un.titled oversaw integration work between the CAS website and the Qi database, mapping out the data transfer.

CAS and Un.titled felt that with so many records present on the new website, it was important to avoid having a setup which saw every single record pull data through every day. This would slow down the website for users, negatively affecting their experience.

Instead, Un.titled developed a system which uses time stamps for the records within the CAS collection. If a record has been changed, then data is pulled through. If it has not been changed, then the record is left as is. This has helped reduce the amount of requests being made and ultimately supported CAS’s ambition to enable the website to operate at a suitable speed. In addition to improving the website speed, making fewer requests also lowers the carbon factor.

As part of this effort, something CAS is now doing within Qi is pulling through information for artists from their Wikipedia page. Un.titled has enabled this Wikipedia integration, becoming the first work of this kind that we at Un.titled have completed for a client.

A major part of the project was the decision to use the React.JS framework. The previous CAS website had about 2,000 pages. But the new version, which includes the full CAS collection, has 18,000 pages. We therefore needed to ensure the site remained quick and responsive, and that viewing and searching for pages was a speedy process for site visitors, as the new site is only likely to grow over time.

Our development team selected React due to its component-based design and modular fit. React is very flexible and adaptable, and also enables us to work with CAS in the future easily if they wish to develop their search offering.

React is also a lot more robust than some alternatives. Additionally, the way that the search works with React means it breaks down into four separate indexes. This means React can access data super quickly.

One of the challenges within this project was around accessing the correct data. In some instances, the Un.titled team had to look across different records. For example, CAS’s artwork has copyrights associated with them, which are held on the artist of the artwork. The only reference to the artist on the actual artwork page was through a link. This meant the Un.titled team needed to do multiple lookups, initially looking at the artist and then the record in Qi to define the statement type required. With five core statements of copyright depending on the artist criteria, our team had to do a lot of lookups across multiple records to make sure the right one is being presented to the user. This was a laborious challenge, with information then having to be relayed to our development team. Ultimately though, this work was completed without a hitch.

The feedback from CAS has been very positive and the project has been a successful one. Un.titled is also providing ongoing digital marketing services to CAS.

Our new website represents such an enormous advance for us as an organisation. It has been a hugely complex process to bring such a wealth of information into the public domain in a way that is lively, engaging and easy to navigate. We could not have had better partners in this than Un.titled.

Caroline Douglas, Director, at Contemporary Arts Society