Museums and the Web

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Do you know who your users are? The role of research in redesigning

TitleDo you know who your users are? The role of research in redesigning
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2007
AuthorsMitroff, D., & Alcorn K.
Secondary TitleMuseums and the Web 2007. Proceedings
PublisherArchives & Museum Informatics
Place PublishedToronto, Canada
EditorTrant, J., & Bearman D.
Keywordshuman-centered design, redesign, research, testing, usability, user-centered design

Museum Web sites, like the cultural institutions they represent, must serve the needs of a wide array of users, from elementary-school students to scholars, and everyone in between. How can a museum make its site relevant and, dare we say, compelling, to these diverse audiences? At the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) we have taken a user-centered approach to finding an answer. In spring 2006, we partnered with Hot Studio, a leading user-centered design firm, to conduct an intensive research and strategy project as part of a larger Web site redesign initiative. Our project employed a variety of research methods that are considered best practices in user-centered design, including an extensive on-line survey of site visitors, live interviews with site users and SFMOMA staff, and a think tank with representatives from national and international institutions. This paper, co-authored by SFMOMA and Hot Studio, presents an overview of user-centered design research tools and methods. We present the findings from our own research, and we demonstrate how these findings led to tangible design features in the plans for our new site. Readers will get the benefit of our research findings and come away with a deeper understanding of the value of research as well as some fresh ideas on how to incorporate user-centered design techniques into their own work.