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“This is like Shazam but for images” – testing Culture Cam

April 15, 2015

A couple of weeks ago we took Culture Cam to two collaborative workspaces occupied by artists and designers of various fields. The agenda of the day was to get the designers to try out Culture Cam, and to test it’s usability. During the sessions we wanted to cover both UX testing and also to talk about the tool’s suitability to be included in the design practices of the testers. There was another similar testing session happening in Barcelona the same day, organised by Platoniq, our fellow Europeana Creative partner.

Testing sessions consisted of few different exercises followed by open discussion. The testers didn’t know anything about Culture Cam before testing, apart from it being a search tool, but very quickly they were able to start using it. They tried out the tool eagerly and commented throughout the sessions.

“I’m always using several search methods at once; I might find a keyword from somewhere and then continue with that in some other service.”

We opened up the sessions by discussing about testers search practices in general. It seemed to be a topic no-one hadn’t given much thought before, that doing different searches is something they just do, even subconsciously. After some pondering more and more examples started to come up.

“I take visual notes with my mobile phone”

Many said that they are for example looking for alternatives to Google image search, which they considered too commercial, when looking for inspiration or reference images; most of the testers pointed out that they already use Pinterest actively and also other search engines, especially when looking for something more specific. When looking for general inspiration the designers simply just look around, watch movies, browse magazines and books – and hopefully also Culture Cam after the sessions, as it was stated being a great tool for getting inspired but also to gain more knowledge about art history, artists and different eras.


“It is impossible to look for something very specific with visual search and results can be anything. This is for browsing.”

Overall the Culture Cam’s usability was considered good, the testers commented it being intuitive which has been one of the key ideas behind developing it. Testers being able to use the tool without too much help also told about the ease of use. However, it was interesting how many testers ended up trying to use a laptop computer like a touch screen device when taking a photo for search; trying to tap on the camera icon on screen. That might however tell more about the fact how much people use touch screen devices, than about the usability of the tool.


“I would like to upload an inspiring image I found in Pinterest and then continue the search here.”

Culture Cam also got some valuable development suggestions and critique. The current small amount of content in Culture Cam was noted, as the same images kept showing up. That is something we are currently working on; the aim is to get a lot more freely useable, variable public domain content into Culture Cam to get better search results and to inspire the users even more. Also uploading user’s own works or images found elsewhere was considered a feature that would be useful.


“I’m really careful with copyright issues, and basically never use any ready made material in my works, as the whole issue of copyrights is so confusing and difficult and I don’t want to get into trouble with that.”

The whole issue of copyrights was considered difficult, and that’s why Culture Cam with it’s open content got such an enthusiastic welcome. Also many reuse ideas for the content were found during the sessions, from basic printmaking to collecting moodboards and reference images for clients, using in collages and illustrations and so on, there surely is more to come when the testers get to know the content and it’s possibilities even more deeply.



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Neea Laakso
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