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Redesigning Your Museum’s Web Site: A Surviors’ GuideBill Kummerow on Monday, April 20th, 2009 at 10:43 am
Allegra Burnette, The Museum of Modern Art, USA
Charlotte Sexton, The National Gallery, United Kingdom
Joanna Champagne, National Gallery of Art, USA
Dana Mitroff Silvers, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, USA
Still on a high from the previous Pimp My Website session, I was looking forward to this session also on redesigning your website. What was nice about how this session was set up was that the panel included people from four separate museums who are in different stages of the redesign process: planning, mock up, implementing, and after-glow.
They all tended to agree that if the redesign process has taught them anything, it was that you need to be an effective leader and communicator in order to get things done. There is a lot of apathy towards the website at first and it becomes a hard sell to management and curatorial staff. You really have to be tenacious and truly believe in what you are doing. The first step is always the hardest.
Even if you have a million pages, it is the home page that is the most important. The National Gallery spent 8 months on just the homepage mock ups. Dang… Makes sense, however, this is the page that is your face to the world. This is when things began to get complicated for some of the museum redesign teams. As good employees of the museum, they present the mock ups to the staff for comments and feedback. This is where things started to go to hell. Especially in an institution of people with a good sense of design, as in most museums, everyone had an opinion–a passionate opinion. They learned that you need to keep the committees small and then present the mock up to the staff only after the committee has approved it.
Planning. This took a while for them to get to, as I thought that this would be an obvious one to prevent a lot of headaches. Outline your internal capabilities and resources. I think this is more important for larger institutions than smaller ones such as ours. It is just me after all. I know what my capabilities and resources are. Specify initial tech requirements, define your requirements, be flexible, and finally, think long term.
Content. During the redesign process, the majority of these museums also implemented a CMS solution which entailed either adding their existing content from their static web pages into the CMS or migrating from their old CMS into their new one. Either way, it was an excellent time to get some content editors to go over what they have and make any changes that they deem necessary. Sometimes even the design can affect how the content reads. Most of the websites went to a larger format and wanted to make sure that the content was not getting lost in the new design.
Good suggestions, but I could not help but think how different their “Survivor’s Guide” is compared to one from a small to mid-sized museum. MOMA has a team of seven web people. They felt pretty good about doing a lot of the work themselves. SFMOMA had a $400,000 budget over four years for “Phase 1″. This allowed them to bring in a design company and a search engine optimization consultant. They also brought in temp workers to do some of the heavy lifting of putting it into a database and creating a CMS as well. Must be nice. I am trying not being flippant here, I know that this was still a terribly stressful and difficult job. I would like to see more resources and ideas of how small museums have done it with little to no money.
They were asked how often they plan on redesigning their websites. They all seemed to be on that 3-5 year cycle, but they were not very excited about doing it. I can bet. It is a heck of a job.