The University of Melbourne - Museums & Collections

Cultural Collections Discovery Portal

Making The Universities Cultural Collections more accessible through a single access point which enhances it’s use as a learning, teaching and research resource


The University of Melbourne boasts an impressive array of 40 distinct collections, featuring a diverse range of over 1 million items, valued at a staggering $381 million AUD. These collections encompass a wide range of items, from botanical specimens to electronics, sound, and film, as well as visual arts and Indigenous material culture. The collections are the core of the University’s Cultural Commons.

Despite the considerable value of these collections, the absence of a single access point poses a significant challenge for researchers, educators, students, and members of the wider community seeking to access, search and discover items across the collections.

User Research Analysis
Design Strategy
Design Leadership
Discovery Workshops
Persona mapping
User journeys
Content strategy/mapping
UI Design
Usability testing


The Universities Cultural Collections are currently not accessible through a single access point which limits its use as a learning, teaching, and research resource. 

How do we maximize the visibility of the cultural items of the University and enable greater accessibility and use of the collections as part of teaching, research, and learning?

How do I discover and engage with collection content across all the University’s collections related to my specific needs?

Limitations of the current state

  • Disparate collections search with no single access point
  • Inconsistent presentation and metadata
  • Limited search, reuse and share functionality
  • Lots of great data available hiding behind an unfriendly UI/UX


  • Established a product vision and a common understanding amongst stakeholders of the different user group's needs, frustrations & motivations
  • A highly detailed Proof of Concept (POC) not only validated our assumptions, informed the product roadmap and funding needs but also shaped the detailed data model and technology solution architecture.

  • A presentation that created consensus amongst 30+ stakeholders.

  • Successfully secured $6.55 million AUD in philanthropic funding to further advance the product's development.

An overview of the current state

An overview of the proposed future state

Role & Responsibilities

In my role as the Principal Innovation Facilitator and Product Designer within the University's Operational Performance Group, I spearheaded the ideation, design, and validation of a proof of concept (POC) for the Cultural Collections Discovery Portal.

To initiate the project, I delved into analyzing and synthesizing two years' worth of user research and benchmarking conducted by KPMG. I conducted interviews and facilitated discovery workshops with key stakeholders, allowing us to gain unique insights and context.

This collaborative effort shed light on multiple stakeholders' perspectives. Ensuring that we all started on the same page was crucial, preventing any working assumptions and laying the groundwork for a successful project.

This also helped to

  • Share a cohesive vision.
  • Set clear goals
  • Establish milestones
  • Prioritize tasks.

Following the project's discovery phase, I played a pivotal role in the design process. This encompassed various tasks, including creating personas, Jobs-to-be-Done, storyboards, shaping content strategy, crafting wireframes, designing the user interface, developing prototypes, conducting usability tests, and presenting to stakeholders.

“Mike and I worked closely on our Cultural Collections Digital Discovery Portal. His work was key in successfully securing $6.55 million AUD in funding to further productionize the product. Mike led numerous innovation workshops, fostering consensus among stakeholders and catalyzing innovative product ideation. Mike is very approachable and meshed seamlessly with the enterprise-wide team that came together for this special project.”

- Allison Holland

Product Owner Museums & Collections,
The University of Melbourne
Melbourne, Australia

Above a map with Key stakeholders, other stakeholders with whom I collaborated directly included collection owners, curators, academics, educators, students, and the general public. In total, there were 30+ stakeholders involved.

Scope & Constraints


  • Designing and defining the user experience and user interface of a discovery portal prototype for product concept validation that demonstrates the experience and workflow across two or more collections using a single access point by collection users.
  • Testing and validating with users to ensure the intended solution is desirable and meets their needs.
  • A stakeholder presentation that will help to secure philanthropic funding to further develop the collections discovery portal.


Budget: $130k for the PoC Discovery, UX/UI Design and Usability testing


This project embraced a design and user-centered approach, which enabled us to:

  • Prioritize the user's needs, leading to a more successful product.
  • Foster innovation and experimentation.
  • Save time and resources through early identification and resolution of user feedback and design flaws.

The double-diamond design thinking framework

For this purpose I applied the double-diamond design thinking framework, which facilitated:

Focus on User Needs
The model emphasizes understanding the user's needs, goals, and pain points before developing any solutions. This approach ensures that the final product meets the user's requirements, leading to greater user satisfaction.

Iterative Process
The Double Diamond model encourages us to explore multiple design options and iterate through the design process. By testing and refining prototypes, designers can identify and address design flaws and improve the final product's functionality and usability.

The model promotes cross-functional collaboration between designers, stakeholders, and users. This collaboration ensures that all perspectives are considered, leading to more creative and effective solutions.

Risk Reduction
By testing and validating design concepts early in the process, the model reduces the risk of developing a product that does not meet user needs or fails in the market.

I've spearheaded the innovation and design journey, navigating all four phases of the Double Diamond, and maintained a close collaboration with key stakeholders every step of the way. Below, you'll find an overview of some of the key deliverables I’ve worked on.

User research

Prior to my involvement, KPMG had conducted 2 years of comprehensive consulting work, including digital collection benchmarking studies and user research, providing a solid foundation of data for the project.
I synthesized the research and used this as the project's foundational dataset.

Users & Audience

By facilitating a persona mapping workshop with stakeholders, I was able to confirm the following use cases:


Key goals and needs

  • Inspire and engage others with collection items

  • Package metadata and export it in different formats

  • Ensure teaching & learning outcomes

Key pains and constraints

  • Metadata relevant to their search does not exist

  • Time is limited

  • Tools do not exist to personalize searches, compile and export metadata in a variety of formats suitable for teaching
  • CMS metadata cannot be accessed from LMS (Canvas)


Key goals and needs

  • Observe test and verify hypotheses

  • Use collection material to create new knowledge/data

  • Inspire and engage others with their findings

Key pains and constraints

  • Collections contain a large number of items

  • Metadata about the items is not sufficiently detailed or does not exist

  • Searching for relevant items to study takes time

  • Compile metadata into lists for analysis

Civic Audience

Key goals and needs

  • To use metadata to find collection items easily (visualisation is a priority)

  • Learn (about themselves and their community) through the collection items

  • Inspire and engage others to learn

Key pains and constraints

  • They are not familiar with searching

  • They are not sure what they are looking for specifically

  • Their access to bandwidth is unreliable

  • Their access to technology may be limited or outdated

  • They are not able to access the collections at UoM venues

What we know about our users:

Essential insights emerge from this workshop where we use sticky notes to visualize and
define user personas, a vital step in user-centric design


During this workshop, participants collaborated in a structured approach to understand the needs and motivations of users through the Jobs-to-be-Done (JTBD) methodology. The workshop focuses on identifying the outcomes that users seek to achieve, rather than just the features or characteristics of a product or service.

Above is a screenshot from the Jobs-to-be-Done Workshop canvas. This highly collaborative workshop includes participant voting, as evident from the voting dots on the right. Having key stakeholders actively engaged in this workshop helps to align objectives and achieves consensus early in the project.


During this workshop, participants collaborated in a structured approach to understand the needs and motivations of users through the Jobs-to-be-Done (JTBD) methodology. The workshop focuses on identifying the outcomes that users seek to achieve, rather than just the features or characteristics of a product or service.

I've used storyboards to visualize user journeys to provide additional context to our teams and stakeholders. Using images makes the story quick to understand at first glance and easy to remember.

Content strategy & mapping

By creating a content map in collaboration with the collection digitization & discovery manager we were able to ensure that the prototype felt realistic and showcased the diversity of items available in the cultural collections. Additionally, the content map helped us plan for different scenarios and user journeys, leading to a more comprehensive and intuitive user experience.

Involving 30 key stakeholders, encompassing collection owners, curators, and subject matter experts (SMEs), content mapping played a vital role in crafting a true-to-life prototype. This ensured that the prototype provided an authentic representation of the actual collection pieces. It guaranteed that all objects featured in the prototype were meticulously associated with the correct data and established accurate relationships among them.


By creating wireframes I was able to ensure that everyone involved in the project understands the features, scope, and intended user experience of the portal before visual assets are created or code is written. By creating wireframes, we can identify potential issues early in the design process, minimizing the risk of costly rework further down the track.

A selection of wireframes showing some of the key features from the various user journeys within the product. The black-and-white choice ensures our conversations are centered around functionality, preventing distractions from color and design elements at this stage of the project.

Prototyping and early usability testing

Early prototyping with wireframes allowed us to explore and test different ideas without investing too much time or resources. By creating low-fidelity wireframe prototypes we were able to focus on the overall layout, navigation, and functionality of the product without getting bogged down in details.

In addition, early usability testing with these wireframe prototypes is crucial because it allows us to identify and address potential usability issues before they become more difficult and expensive to fix later in the design process.

A glimpse of the prototype. This rapid prototype was built in just one day, serving as a valuable tool to unearth numerous pain points at an early stage, avoiding significant expenses related to design and engineering costs further down the track.

Insights gleaned from remote, unmoderated user testing sessions that I facilitated.

User Interface (UI) design and high-fidelity prototyping

Once we worked on the revisions based on the first round of user testing, we moved on to User Interface (UI) design and high-fidelity prototyping. Using the insights gained from the previous stage, we created designs that reflected the needs and preferences of different users. We also incorporated branding elements and visual design that aligned with the overall look and feel of the Collection Discovery Portal and The University of Melbourne branding. I aimed to maintain the University's brand identity while directing the spotlight onto the collection objects. This was achieved by introducing a neutral ambiance reminiscent of a gallery, characterized by a palette of whites and gray tones.

The high-fidelity prototypes allowed us to test and refine the design further. By adding more visual details, we could simulate a more realistic experience and identify any remaining usability issues before the final product was built.

A selection of high-fidelity screen designs from the Cultural Collections Discovery Portal

Key Takeaways

The Proof of Concept (POC) played a pivotal role in generating consensus and enthusiasm among over 30 diverse stakeholders, ultimately leading to securing a substantial funding of $6.55M AUD to further productionize the Cultural Collections Discovery Portal.

This milestone underscores the pivotal role of a Proof of Concept (POC) in showcasing a project's potential and securing essential financial backing for its ongoing evolution. Through this project, I had the opportunity to underscore my dedication to delivering innovative and impactful solutions that align with the requirements of diverse user groups and stakeholder business objectives.

From a personal standpoint, this project strongly resonated with my vision and passion for working on initiatives within Arts & Culture that create a meaningful social impact. My favorite contribution is the "Constellation view" feature I came up with. This unique feature resembles an endless space to intuitively discover items and unveil previously unseen connections between various items across the entire collection.

The Constellation view of the Cultural Collections Discovery Portal

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