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Do you know who your users are? The role of research in redesigning April 12, 2007 Museums and the Web Dana Mitroff, SFMOMA Katrina Alcorn, Hot Studio Hot Studio Introductions San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) Dana Mitroff Head of Online Services Hot Studio

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hot studio

Do you know who your users are?

The role of research in redesigning

April 12, 2007

Museums and the Web

Dana Mitroff, SFMOMA

Katrina Alcorn, Hot Studio

Hot Studio


San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)

Dana Mitroff

Head of Online Services

Hot Studio

Katrina Alcorn

Principal, Director of User Experience & Content

  • How do we know who our current users are and what they want?
  • What we’re going to cover today:
    • How our project came about
    • Why user research?
    • Our approach
    • What we did
    • What we learned
    • What we’re doing about it
why a redesign
Why a redesign?

SFMOMA home page today -- current site design is almost 10 years old!


Project goals

We had some big questions to answer

  • Who really uses our site?
  • Should we think of our Web site as a destination unto itself?
  • How knowledgeable are our current site users about modern and contemporary art?
  • How much detail do people need about our collection and exhibitions? Do they even understand the distinction?
our approach to research
Our approach to research

turn it into a great idea

  • We believe that research should be more than simply an academic exercise
  • As designers, we focus our efforts on research that can improve design
  • Research = science + a good listener
  • Research yields real information, but it takescreative insight to turn it into a great idea
quantitative vs qualitative
Quantitative vs. qualitative

turn it into a great idea

  • QuantitativeResearch = Information presented in numeric form.
    • When should you use it? When you need to generalize about people’s specific responses.
  • QualitativeResearch = Exploration of people’s behaviors, attitudes, opinions, and belief.
    • When should you use it? To gain deep understanding of the mindset of your target audience.
what we did
What we did
  • Four months of research that included
    • Museum Web site “think tank” session
    • Best practices and heuristic evaluation
    • Interviews with new and returning Web visitors
    • Interviews with SFMOMA stakeholders
    • Online survey
what we learned
What we learned

The majority of users:

  • Come from a surprising variety of professions and backgrounds
  • Are interested, but not necessarily educated, about art
  • Are fairly passive about Web 2.0-type features
  • Don’t understand the difference between exhibitions and collections
  • Are not aware of the breadth of programs and content we have
  • Want to plan a physical visit to the Museum
how we used this information
How we used this information

Our research revealed many detailedfindings.

Some of these findings led toinsightsabout what the target audience really needs.

These insights inspired new and creativedesign ideas.

example 1 what s going on
Example 1. What’s going on?

Finding: Most of our current users don’t differentiate between exhibitions and the permanent collection, and they aren’t even aware that the Museum programs events.

Insight: Users just want to find out “what’s going on”—whether it’s a temporary exhibition, the permanent collection, or a public program—so they can plan a visit to the Museum.

example 1 what s going on cont
Example 1. What’s going on? (cont.)

Design Idea: Create a one-stop section called “Exhibitions + Events.” De-emphasize the collection in the main nav, and make it part of the specialized auxiliary navigation.

example 2 breadth and depth
Example 2. Breadth and depth

Finding: Our audiences aren’t aware of all we have to offer, both onsite and online.

Insight: We have an opportunity to showcase our public programs and rich online resources.

Design Idea: New promotional areas and lots of cross-linking.

example 3 web 2 0
Example 3. Web 2.0

Finding: Our current users expressed surprisingly little interest in Web 2.0 features.

Insight: Any features we incorporate into the site can’t rely too heavily on user participation. We have to keep in mind that our ultimate goal is to make the artwork more accessible.

Design Idea: Bring in informal, outside voices and perspectives that can succeed with minimal user participation.

example 4 layering information for diverse users
Example 4. Layering information for diverse users

Finding: Our audience is incredibly diverse: how can we serve their needs?

Insight: General site visitors are looking for very different information than scholars and academics. We must serve both well.

Design Idea: Add detailed information in tabs and layers.

  • Conclusions
  • Just four examples of many of our findings
  • Research methods can be applied in your own institution
  • There are low-budget ways to do this yourself
  • Please take a hand-out!
  • Thank you
  • Dana Mitroff, SFMOMA,
  • Katrina Alcorn, Hot Studio,