You should not judge a book by its cover, but visitors may judge a museum by its website.
The National Museum in Kraków (MNK) has very well understood it and launched a branch new website last year right before Christmas. As written by Joanna Zawierucha-Gomułka on the MNK’s blog (in Polish), replacing the 8 eight-year-old website was crucial for the MNK to stay among top museums in Poland and Europe: what image does it gives if the online experience does not match the on-site experience?
But as the blog post explains, the new website could not have been achieved without some thorough thinking and planning. Here are 6 thing we can learn from their experience.
- Use your own visitor experience
As a digital and museum professional and a cultural institution aficionado, you probably visit a lot of websites, and there are things that you love and things that are kind of a drag (those are usually the easiest to spot). Use your own experience to figure out what works, what does not and what features are missing. It will help you define the functional characteristics of your website and find the right balance between graphic design and technical options to fit people’s needs.
- Don’t build from scratch
If you already have a website, you already have content, visitors, a Google ranking. They should not be lost in the launch of a new website. If you’re changing your URL, think about redirecting visitors that still use the old one, find a way to keep your SEO, reuse all the content that can be reused. Also, use your analytics to figure out what is the most important for your visitors, how they arrive on your website and what they can’t find, it will tell you what should be placed in shortcuts and what content and page you need to keep.
- Create meaningful tools
The feature that the MNK is the most proud of is the Visit Planner, that plans routes within the museum according to what a visitor wants to see. You can choose artists, topics and famous exhibits that you don’t want to miss during your visit and the Planner will find the best route to see it all, tell you how much time you will need and in which buildings the exhibits are located. The MNK teams has understood that planning a visit goes way beyond opening hours and ticket prices, but can be a way to bring real added value to future visitors. What will be your cool tool?
- Go mobile
You certainly know that smartphones are a visitor’s best friends. But how does it translate in your digital strategy? Is your website responsive? Is your content easy to use on mobile? Do you use your website on mobile yourself to check what works well and what doesn’t? Your content should be always simple to use, whatever the visitor’s device is.
- Create content
Keep your audience excited with content about your collections and exhibitions. Stay relevant by creating content that matches what users want to see and discover. Video is very big right now, why don’t you create interesting series about your exhibits? Why don’t curators create small exhibition tours especially for the web? Why don’t you allow users to see how your teams work with behind the scenes videos? The MNK has for example created a video series on the conservators’ work for one of their major exhibitions on Olga Boznańska.
- Always keep those lessons in mind
So you launched your website? Do you think you can now rest? Well, you can’t. Don’t forget that your visitors’ habits and needs keep changing and that your website should follow those evolutions. Of course, you won’t be redoing the whole structure every month, but your website is a constant work in progress and small changes will help you staying on point.