Senior digital & visual designer
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National Museums Scotland

Bringing the collections to life online.

 National Museums Scotland (NMS) wanted the user experience of visiting their website to be like a visit to one of their museums, which welcome 2.4 million visitors through their doors annually.  I worked closely with NMS to scope, prototype, test and re-design the Explore and Collections sections of their site. These new sections provide an immersive experience using long-form ‘stories’, online games, films and educational resources, alongside access to the NMS database of 450,000 records.

National Museums Scotland (NMS) wanted the user experience of visiting their website to be like a visit to one of their museums, which welcome 2.4 million visitors through their doors annually.

I worked closely with NMS to scope, prototype, test and re-design the Explore and Collections sections of their site. These new sections provide an immersive experience using long-form ‘stories’, online games, films and educational resources, alongside access to the NMS database of 450,000 records.

Background

Background

Previously their website put a lot of emphasis on using the site in conjunction with a museum visit. But they realised there was an opportunity to tap into a growing audience who didn’t physically visit - hence a key objective was formed to bring the museum to life online.

Over time they had amassed an eclectic selection of online resources about objects in their collections. Alongside the fact they had a restrictive CMS, this meant they were having to ‘shoe-horn’ in content to templates that weren’t fit for purpose. So while NMS content was interesting, fun and popular with website visitors, it lacked coherence. NMS needed a robust, user-friendly hub providing a web equivalent to a physical museum visit.

The strategy

The strategy

Rather than re-design the entire site, we set out to deliver a realigned ‘Explore’ section that focused on users as well as giving careful consideration to back-end CMS for ease of maintaining and adding content.

This staged approach was not only more budget friendly but allowed us to redevelop and launch in a much shorter time. It also meant we could take any learnings to inform the redevelopment of the rest of the site.

 An in-depth examination combined Google Analytics data and audience surveys to give a detailed view of how the website was being used: what users wanted, what they didn’t want, and which topics, themes and content were popular.  This research, as well as a scoping workshop, allowed us to come up with priorities for improvements. Alongside these recommendations we put together a proposed site map, wireframes and user journeys to validate against.  The key recommendations were:  · Improve the findability/browsability of content  · Improve signposting in general  · Improve the design and flexibility of content itself

An in-depth examination combined Google Analytics data and audience surveys to give a detailed view of how the website was being used: what users wanted, what they didn’t want, and which topics, themes and content were popular.

This research, as well as a scoping workshop, allowed us to come up with priorities for improvements. Alongside these recommendations we put together a proposed site map, wireframes and user journeys to validate against.

The key recommendations were:

· Improve the findability/browsability of content

· Improve signposting in general

· Improve the design and flexibility of content itself

Visual design

Visual design

After rigorous testing, we brought Explore to life through a new visual design based on our recommendations, which included:

· A flexible ‘filter grid’ of engaging features to encourage easy browsing

· Creating a clear hierarchy by dividing content into distinctive sections

· A collections feature to browse and search direct from the landing page

· Long-form story-telling pages in a component-based structure rather than a fixed template, allowing the CMS editors more flexibility

· A seamless responsive experience for delivery across any device, making the most of the browser width

· An audit and redesign of their UI to make it more user-friendly

Improvements

Improvements

Not only did we develop a hub and improve the user experience, we enabled curators to create engaging and immersive long-form stories – delving into the history and provenance of objects. We also developed a ‘chapter’ functionality allowing curators to connect objects by themes.

 The main interface uses simple filters to access material through intuitive labelling with user-friendly tags to avoid confusion. Long-form templates enable experimentation with layout, dividing content into chapters with embedded media to create an experience that displays responsively on all devices.  The collections database now offers easy access via search filters, with clear presentation of object information and hi-resolution imagery, as well as incorporating new features like 360 degree photography.

The main interface uses simple filters to access material through intuitive labelling with user-friendly tags to avoid confusion. Long-form templates enable experimentation with layout, dividing content into chapters with embedded media to create an experience that displays responsively on all devices.

The collections database now offers easy access via search filters, with clear presentation of object information and hi-resolution imagery, as well as incorporating new features like 360 degree photography.

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Results

Results

The newly developed Explore site has succeeded in making the collections accessible to many more people by bringing them to life online. NMS now have an immersive experience for a worldwide audience.

Awarded Best Digital/Social Media Strategy at The Drum Scottish Creative Awards 2016; and Best Exhibition and Collection Extension at the GLAMi Awards 2017.

View the live site

nms.ac.uk/explore →

Designed at LEWIS.