Thursday, June 21, 2012

Why most museum websites are terrible (at achieving mission)

Museum Next (Jim Richardson) 

What is the main aim of a museum website? Browsing the internet, you quickly conclude that this is to promote the institution to potential visitors. This is of course a worthwhile aim, museums would not exist without an audience, but I believe that museum websites can be much more.

The starting point for all digital activities within a museum should be it’s mission, this is likely to be to educate, to inspire, to preserve and to share (or similar). Visitor figures have a role in a museum, but these should be a way to measure how many people we are reaching, not the reason that the institution exists.

The solution I believe is for museum websites to become hubs for ideas, publishing platforms which allow institutions to pursue their missions by sharing knowledge and inspiration with the public.

Walker Art Center recently did this, becoming a digital hub for not just contemporary art which is hanging in their institution, but for contemporary art as a whole. The result was a 40% increase in traffic to their website and a digital experience which seems to ties in more closely with their mission.

Old attitudes

For the Walker Art Center website to grow beyond being primarily a marketing tool they had to invest in the team who produce their website, adding members of staff to manage and produce the huge quantity content needed to keep this ideas hub constantly changing.

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