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Museums and the Web

An annual conference exploring the social, cultural, design, technological, economic, and organizational issues of culture, science and heritage on-line.

Exploring the Relationship Between Visitor Motivation and Engagement in Online Museum Audiences

Abstract

In the past few years, most museums have witnessed a growing number of visitors to their websites.  For the Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA), those online visits easily surpass the number of visitors to the museum’s physical campus. Despite this success, however, very little is known about this audience: who they are, how they engage with the site, and what experiences they might take away from their visit.

Information about online users is available to museums via powerful and easy-to-use web statistics tools like Google Analytics. Recent work by Finnis, Chan, and Clements (2011) describes a set of best-practices and analytical approaches for evaluating online success. However, many of these techniques tend to focus on the technical details of visits to a website, and – used in isolation – do not provide a deep understanding of more abstract information about user needs, motivations, and satisfaction. Without this information it can be difficult for museums to effectively design, promote, and evaluate on-line content and services. 

User segmentation has been the basis of marketing practice for more than 50 years, but has also been one of the most popular techniques for understanding website users, attempting to provide a predictable model of visitor behavior. While more complex analyses that correlates psychographic segmentation - particularly motivation - with actual behavior, are common practice in the visitor studies field, similar methods have not been extensively applied for online audiences.  Prior work by Haley-Goldman and Schaller (2004) at the Institute for learning Innovation and by Peacock and Brownbill (2007) at the Museum Victoria Australia have discussed methods for addressing this kind of audience segmentation. Following up on the work done by these researchers, the IMA is conducting a series of online studies to identify which psychographic variables including motivation have an impact on the way visitors engage with the museum’s website and the definition of segments that can be used as a reference in the evaluation and the development of content and services.

In this paper, the authors will describe the reasons for undertaking such research, the method used for analysis, and the preliminary results of the study. Authors will discuss how these results might provide a reference dataset, and a replicable model for other museums that are interested in better understanding their online audience and in conducting similar studies for their own web efforts.

Haley Goldman, K. and Schaller, D.  Exploring Motivational Factors and Visitor Satisfaction in On-Line Museum Visits, in J. Trant and D. Bearman (eds.). Museums and the Web 2004: Proceedings, Toronto: Archives & Museum Informatics, published March, 2004 Consulted September 27, 2011.
http://www.archimuse.com/mw2004/papers/haleyGoldman/haleyGoldman.html

Peacock, D. and J. Brownbill, Audiences, Visitors, Users: Reconceptualising Users Of Museum On-line Content and Services, in J. Trant and D. Bearman (eds.). Museums and the Web 2007: Proceedings, Toronto: Archives & Museum Informatics, published March 1, 2007 Consulted September 27, 2011. http://www.archimuse.com/mw2007/papers/peacock/peacock.html

Finnis, Jane, Sebastian Chan, and Rachel Clements. "Let's Get Real: How to Evaluate Online Success?" WeAreCulture24 | Action Research. Culture24, 19 Sept. 2011. Web. 28 Sept. 2011. http://weareculture24.org.uk/projects/action-resea...

Type: 

Paper - in formal session

Authors

silviaf's picture
Before joining the IMA as a manger for evaluation and technology-based engagement, Silvia worked for 10 years as a project manager and evaluator for a number of technology based projects in and for museums, including the British Museum, the J.P. Getty Museum, The Centre Pompidou, the Musee du...
rjstein's picture
Robert Stein is the Deputy Director for Research, Technology and Engagement at the Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA). In that role, Stein leads a wide range of activities for the museum including an extensive effort in media, web technology and software. Since 2006, he has played a significant role...