Case Studies

Smithsonian Institution

Interaction with 1.9 Million Species and Counting

Background

The Encyclopedia of Life (EOL) is a digital initiative whose goal is to provide global access to knowledge about life on earth. EOL acts as an online collaborative encyclopedia with the intent of documenting the 1.9 million living species known to science. For organizations that need reliable and verified information about biology on earth, EOL serves as the most open, available and trusted repository. EOL came to Spire Digital to build a product that could specifically meet the informational needs of EOL’s community of partner organizations. The digital product focuses on delivering curated experiences for the partners’ diverse groups of users.

Goal

EOL is free to access and contains more than 6 million data objects and 1.9 million pages—one web page for each species. The value of the service grows as more people utilize and contribute to the initiative. Therefore, EOL wanted to create win-win-win situations with partner organizations where partners could receive branded access to EOL’s rich data, the partners’ audiences could receive access to relevant and curated species information, and the Encyclopedia of Life could continue to grow through partner and audience contributions. Enter Spire digital product development.

Approach

Spire’s digital product design team interviewed several EOL partner organizations, such as the Wildlife Conservation Society, Smithsonian Institute, Bronx Zoo and Harvard University, to identify the problem-solution fit for EOL’s “themed portals”—or the digital spaces where curated bio data could live and be shared. Spire used these discovery sessions to write a deep backlog of desired functional and non-functional features, then set about identifying and prioritizing what the partners’ needs had in common in order to define the minimal viable product. Through rapid design prototyping and testing with key internal and external stakeholders, Spire was able to help prove the product-market fit of custom portals specific to each user group.

Solution

EOL is able to provide trusted and verified data through a series of APIs and simple modules for use in creating themed and branded portals—made possible through Spire’s digital product development partnership and proven agile methodologies. Themed portals take advantage of the “economics of specialization” by putting the work of accumulating, verifying and grooming data into the experienced hands of the staff at EOL. EOL provides the images, text and media content most valuable to the end user, while partner organizations receive custom collections of web and native applications to seamlessly deliver to their audiences.