Previous posts have reviewed museum digital visitor types and expectations, the top four things a museum should know about digital visitors, and how a museum’s online presence is critical to maintaining income streams. We now have a baseline understanding of who museum digital visitors are, their expectations, and why meeting those expectations is directly tied to museum finances. As a result, we’re ready to dive into methods of improving the museum digital visitor experience with museum online content.
There are five main methods for improving the digital visitor experience:
- Construct the museum’s content infrastructure with practicality as a priority
- Create opportunities for visitor immersion within the museum’s content
- Implement accessibility measures to meet all abilities and consider an age-inclusive digital design
- Guarantee a mobile version of the museum’s website is available and automatically selected with each user’s device
- Enhance search engine optimization (SEO) on the website to better direct museum digital visitors to the content they’re seeking
Unfortunately, the vast majority of museum websites are bloated with too much content, have poor navigation, and were not created with the digital visitor in mind. Can a digital visitor get where they want to go within your website in 3-clicks or fewer? Probably not. Attention should be paid to how the digital visitor navigates the museum’s website and how it can be improved. When re-envisioning what the museum website can look like, focus on a practical, straightforward infrastructure, consolidate content, and have obvious directions on where content can be found.
This is an area where a museum can be creative. Too often museums rely on the collections management system (CMS) to do all the heavy lifting when it comes to showing museum objects. However, a CMS (or at least its content) can be presented in more dynamic ways that would provide museum digital visitors with a more immersive experience. Additionally, by including immersive elements such as sound, story, or visual demonstration a museum can provide further context surrounding an object – allowing the visitor to engage with both tangible and intangible cultural heritage.
A museum’s online presence (and especially its website) must be accessible in order to provide equitable access to its content. In addition to the museum’s new, practical, easy to navigate infrastructure make sure to implement accessibility tools to support all abilities, including age-based abilities. The museum’s website needs to adhere to accessibility standards so that access tools can easily read and convey the museum’s online content to the digital visitor in an accurate and compelling way.
This is an obvious statement, and yet, there are still many museum websites that are so bloated and outdated that they don’t provide (or it’s impossible to provide) a mobile-friendly website. Given that people spend on average 3.3 hours a day on their smart phone, it’s time to make sure your website really is mobile-friendly. Mobile-friendly means that the website can automatically transform from a desktop view to a mobile device view while still maintaining content visibility and an accurate navigation structure.
This one may seem less obvious, but it’s imperative that the museum’s website have good SEO (search optimization). SEO is what helps digital visitors make their way to the museum’s website. Content tags, headlines, permalinks, clear navigation, internal linking, and accurate page descriptions will all work together to help deliver museum digital visitors to the correct spot on the museum’s website based on what the visitor was searching for via a search engine. And bonus: improved SEO will also increase your museum digital visitor traffic!
It’s important to start somewhere and be committed to the overall change and improvement of a museum’s online presence. Even if you implement these methods one at a time it will still help to improve the digital visitor experience.
Rachael Cristine Woody
This post is focused on how to choose the right software for your museum digital project work, specifically a DAMS versus a CMS.
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