Waving Hand

We’re hiring

Join our award-winning team

University of Edinburgh

Online exhibitions platform

Edinburgh, Scotland

  • A showcase demonstrating the richness of stories in the university collections
  • Elegant design showcasing rich and detailed exhibitions
  • Multiple deep-zoom interfaces powered by IIIF
  • Seamless editing experience with live preview
  • Fully accessible to (WCAG) 2 Level AA

The University of Edinburgh’s varied collections are packed full of stories just waiting to be told. In partnership with the university Digital Library and Centre for Research Collections teams, Cogapp has created a flexible online exhibitions platform that empowers the university team to create unique digital exhibitions that capture the imagination.

Using deep-zoom imagery, interactive slow-looking experiences, and image-led, deep-dive storytelling, the university’s breadth of knowledge is expressed in an elegant user interface. Designed specifically for this project the interface is equally rich on both mobile and desktop devices.

“Cogapp were creative and brought a great range of ideas to the table which ensured that our final product stood out and had a quality feel and experience for users.”
Head of Digital Library, Deputy Director Library & University Collections

The University of Edinburgh online exhibitions platform from Cogapp on Vimeo.

Building a better online world for The University of Edinburgh

Intuitive content management system

Built on the Craft content management system, the site affords non-technical content editors the ability to create online exhibitions of the highest quality with minimal effort and zero technical intervention. Drag-and-drop components, rich text editing, and live preview, all combine to make the editing experience a joy to use. The user-friendly CMS enables content creators to concentrate on their area of expertise, the exhibition content.

Standards-based, IIIF-enabled, future-proof

Great work has been undertaken by the team at the university to publish the university collections using the International Image Interoperability Framework. Our Craft CMS implementation integrates with this (and other compatible IIIF) infrastructure; the exhibitions platform works in tandem with the university’s strategy of IIIF adoption. The platform is finely placed to take advantage of future developments in this area and is an example of how projects such as this can be developed with long-term, lasting value in mind.

Building a better online world for audiences

The site makes the most of the university’s IIIF-enabled collections. There are several IIIF-powered components that can be utilised throughout any given exhibition.

Slow looking

An immersive online experience that allows a site visitor to sit back and enjoy a collection image as it is slowly panned across in fantastic detail. This passive experience provides an opportunity to pause and really appreciate the beauty of a given object from the collection.

If you would like to try slow looking with your own images read more about our slow looking experience here.


These components take a site visitor on a curated journey around a given object in the collection. An image is annotated with details to give the visitor a deeper understanding of the object in question. As the visitor explores the object they are zoomed and panned around the image with new details revealed at every step.

If you’d like to create your own stories or simply find out more about our free Storiiies tool here.

Deep-zoom imagery

High-resolution imagery is displayed prominently with zoom controls for the site visitor. A visitor is able to examine objects at high-resolution and in fine detail. The ability to focus on the details that catch their eye gives a deeper appreciation of what are often one-of-a-kind objects.

Examples of high-resolution IIIF images from the platform displayed on mobile devices
Zoom into high-resolution IIIF images to see them in intimate detail on mobile as well as desktop


It’s more important than ever that our digital world is as inclusive as it can be. With accessibility front of mind in all Cogapp projects, we aim to make our sites as usable as possible for the diverse range of audiences that our work serves. The exhibitions platform is fully accessible to (WCAG) 2 Level AA standards across all devices with hints and tips in the editing interface to help content editors ensure this level is maintained.

Creating an environment where everyone can do their best work

This project took place entirely during the COVID-19 pandemic; it was a given that communication would be more difficult than usual. In a project such as this, personality and aesthetic play a crucial role in how collection objects and their stories are delivered. It was imperative that we institute a project management structure that is strong enough to guide the project but flexible enough to foster the creative spirit required to deliver a world-class exhibition platform.

The Cogapp Agile process has served us well for many years with clients as far afield as Los Angeles and Qatar. Our experience working in this iterative manner with remote clients meant that risks were managed and a creative process which included stakeholders and user testing ensured we delivered on time, on budget, with all parties excited to share our work with the public.

The initial phase of the project was dedicated to discovery. This consisted of several strands that when brought together gave us a shared view on direction for the project.

UX and Design discovery

This took the form of desk-side research into such questions as “how could we improve on existing online exhibition experiences?” and “what elements of existing solutions do the university team like/dislike?”.

We also held virtual workshops to explore stakeholder requirements and audience needs. We spoke with the collections team to understand metadata requirements and opportunities to enrich this information.

In terms of design, this phase of the project took into account current university branding as well as a proposed new brand that was under development. We explored directions and validated these with the university team.

Accessibility was a key deliverable for this project. We explored the intricacies of this and explained how Cogapp’s general accessibility processes test and ensure all work adheres to (WCAG) 2 Level AA.

Technical discovery

Our expert team formed a close partnership with the university information services team. Through this partnership we formed a clear delineation of roles and ensured that all decisions of note we coordinated and, of course, documented accordingly. The information services team were involved throughout the project and now manage the hosting of the platform.


With our direction set, we moved through the project in two-week timeboxes. We planned and oriented our team at the beginning of each work period, or sprint as we call them. We then implemented the planned work and demonstrated progress at the end of the two week sprint. These demonstrations allow stakeholders to feedback on progress and influence future direction. All of these meetings were virtual with any demonstrations being recorded for those who could not make it along to the call.

All of our project management tools are cloud-based with access being granted to anyone who wishes to be involved. We believe in transparency of communication, our tooling and process supports this.

Since launch

Since successfully launching the project we have worked with the university team to refine a few elements of the site. In response to user feedback, analytics, and newly created exhibitions content, we updated the navigation of the site to ensure that exhibitions are explored in a less linear fashion.

Having evaluated the content added since launch it became clear that images could benefit from being displayed on different coloured backgrounds. Here we introduced the ability to define the background colour for images. This tweak allows images to really shine through as key elements on the page.

We have also made various design tweaks and added a combined image and audio player to accommodate content such as oral histories. This gives content creators the ability to frame an audio clip by for example pairing it with an image of the speaker or an image of where the audio was recorded.

We enjoyed working on this project enormously and can’t wait to see what’s next for this fantastic resource.

We play a useful part in our community and help to enable the urgent changes needed to ensure a sustainable future

We look forward to future collaboration with the university team. We hope our work to showcase these collections inspires others to explore them and even compare and contrast objects with other IIIF-enabled collections. By supporting projects that use IIIF we hope to enable a more sustainable shared infrastructure for the presentation of cultural and historic collections online.

The University of Edinburgh Online Exhibitions Platform


Find out more

If you would like to find out more about this project, or speak with us about any aspect of your digital programme, we’d love to speak with you about our work, please get in touch.