What makes a good museum website?

Manuel Charr
Original paper on MuseumNext >

A website offers the chance to bring the essence of a museum to a virtual platform, but what can be done to ensure that nothing is lost in translation?

Museums are havens of knowledge, experience, and emotional resonance. Nothing quite beats the sensation of walking through a museum’s inspiring halls, but this can make projecting what makes that museum special onto a digital platform somewhat challenging.

When done well, a museum website can be hugely beneficial. Like museums themselves, these online presences should be a feast for the senses, a hub for user-generated content and an experience that showcases creativity.

It’s important for museums to ask themselves the right questions when it comes to creating a digital platform: does it reflect our identity as an organisation? Does it appeal to visitors? What does it need? What trends should we be considering and which should we ignore? What would make this site more appealing? And, of course, what mistakes should we try to avoid?

Factors like target audience, area of expertise and location can all have an impact on the way a museum website works. And while each institution’s web presence should undoubtedly feel fresh and unique, there are some things that every good museum site should do.

Let’s take a closer look.

Exhibition and collection promotions that are exciting, with direct CTAs

It’s important to think ahead when it comes to curating a museum’s website. For that’s essentially what a museum website is: an online curation; one that reflects exactly what it is that makes a particular establishment so special.

In order to do this successfully, exciting and interactive elements are necessary. Take the Yorkshire Sculpture Park in Wakefield, UK as an example. On their website, users are encouraged to take part in their interactive Sculpture Cam – allowing them to explore works from every angle and then create and share their own 3D animations.

Meanwhile, the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago website features an online gallery of tagged social media images from visitors. Website users can hover over an image and learn more about a particular exhibit, with a direct call to action (CTA) that promotes ticket sales.

CTAs are a vital end point for online content. Research by Grow & Convert suggests that powerful calls to action can increase website conversion rates by as much as 25%.

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