After announcing their website redesign, the V&A received a lot of questions from people in the museum field about how their did it. After our takeaways from the MNK and the CMN website redesigns, here is what we learned from the detailed V&A blog post.
Put the objects at the heart of your site
The V&A team worked to inject data from their collections management system into the website. That means that wherever an object appears on the website, the information attached to it comes from the same source and is put together. The data was also enhanced with richer content, like articles and video, helping connect objects with ideas and vice versa.
There are parts that are still a work in progress for the V&A. For example, objects on the collections grids are not clickable… yet, as the digital team is still working on the best way to reveal the content about those object.
Keep your visitors and your staff in mind
Of course, you build your website for your visitors. It is important to know your audience, to segment it and to address all their needs. The V&A identified four behaviours - the general visitor, the enthusiast, the researcher and the inspiration seeker - and aims to create an experience for each of them. Still, as most people visit the website to later visit the museum, it was important to grow this audience and increase the website’s conversion rate, so the V&A digital team focused on them first.
On the staff side, not only were they involved in the building process, but they can also be involved in content creation. The key is to create a CMS simple and flexible enough to ‘give anyone in the museum with a good story to tell the ability to create and manage their own content’. Don’t forget that everyone in your museum probably has something website-worthy, but not everyone is good with online publishing (yet). Make content creation easier for them and you will make content gathering easier for yourself.
Rethink your working methodology
The V&A team built their site in no time: they started in November, finished in March and spent a month or so fixing bugs and adding content. Two factors contributed to that.
First of all, they chose the most important pages and content that really needed to be featured on the new site. Their priority was to offer a minimum viable product with everything visitors they needed to come to the museum: a homepage, exhibition pages, article pages and a page to plan their visit.
Then, the team used Agile methodology to conceive the site, and anyone who wanted to come and see their progress could do so every two weeks in the V&A lecture theatre. Thanks to those meetings, the V&A staff got a chance to be a part of the new website and really shape it.
Prioritizing and involving people outside of the digital team are key to a smooth process.
Enjoy the V&A website, navigate it, get inspired and think about how you can use their experience to enrich yours and your visitors’!