Title:Visitor-first, mobile-first: Designing a visitor-centric mobile experience
Authors:Marty Spellerberg, Elise Granata, Sarah Wambold
Publication:MW2016: Museums and the Web 2016

We will present the research, process, and results of the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History homepage redesign to illustrate a visitor-driven, mobile-first design approach to museum projects.

Led by Executive Director Nina Simon, the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History is a Participatory Museum. Everything from our programming to our communications is premised on an understanding of the needs of our communities; we start with the people and work back to the museum. So in redesigning our homepage, we asked, “How can we use knowledge of our visitors' motivations to deliver a focused, user-focused mobile Web experience?”

In his book “Identity and the Museum Visitor Experience,” John Falk outlined a predictive model of visitor experience designed to help museum professionals better meet their visitors’ needs. Through research with dozens of museums and thousands of visitors, Falk established his predictive model of visitor experience. This work is widely shared expertise in the field, but most of his suggestions apply to facility and exhibition design. We took it to the Web.

Falk’s framework identifies museum visitor motivations as: Experience Seeker; Explorer; Facilitator; Recharger; and Hobbyist/Professional. We will demonstrate how this research was applied to our homepage redesign project, adjusting the visitor archetypes to fit our local audience. Our fleshed-out personas included descriptions of how each intrinsic motivation tracks to museum programming and engagement opportunities; and what kinds of messaging and imagery they may positively respond to. Each identity was then mapped to a section on our homepage, where it informed the visual and content strategy.

We will also share the research and analysis that informed our streamlined information architecture and how the visitor-motivation model is being woven into decision making and communication across the museum.