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5 Methods to Improve Your Museum Website

Whether you already have a killer website or are just dipping your toes in the web presence waters, there is always room for improvement. People often visit museum websites to find practical information about visiting hours, exhibitions, programmes and collections. However, you can entice visitors to stay and become more involved in what your museum has to offer by reeling them in with engaging content like social feeds, blogs and photo galleries.

Having killer SEO (search engine optimization) is also crucial is setting your site up as a cut above the rest and making it into the first page of Google searches. All of the following methods will help to improve SEO-ranking, but optimizing your site for search engines with alt tags and loading speeds is a whole subject of its own. That’s why we’ve dedicated an entire article to it here.

The tactics we will go over in this article are applicable for small and large institutions. You’ll learn about the value of these methods as well as how to implement them within your own organisation.

1) Ask for feedback

Have you worked out your target audience? Spend some time thinking about who will be visiting your website. Because of the physical nature of museums, many websites highlight useful information for visitors like parking and exhibitions. It’s important to consult with visitors and members of your museum to see what they think about the usability and relevance of your site and where they could see improvement. The following methods are effective ways to invite members of the public to be a part of improving your website.

  • Focus groups – Once you target your key audiences, you can aim to invite one person from each audience group to come to the museum to test out the new site with an inventive of free tickets or specialized tour/programme.
  • Survey – This is a great method for organisations that are sending out regular e-newsletters. Offer your readers/visitors an incentive like a discount in the café or tickets to an event in exchange for filling out a survey about your website. SurveyMonkey and GoogleSurveys are both free (to a certain point) and very easy to use. They also offer users the option to manipulate data into helpful visuals at the end of the survey period.
  • Social media – Put out an all-call! Again, you could offer participants an incentive like discounts or tickets for providing website feedback. This could be through DMs, a survey, or even participation in a focus group as mentioned above. Social media has tendrils in all aspects of society so chances are that your followers will be from various key demographics. Use this to your advantage by casting a wide net!

2) Easy navigation

Your website may look flashy with eye-catching pictures and gripping text, but if your visitors can’t easily navigate the site to find what they need, they will get frustrated and quickly leave. What’s worse – you may get bombarded with phone calls about how to use your website which is a waste of your time and frustrating for the user.

The absolute best way to get back to basics when thinking about website navigation is to reimagine your sitemap. This is where a giant flip-board or whiteboard with some markers can come in really handy. Establishing a visual path that your visitors will follow when visiting the site will allow you to prioritise certain areas of the website and create gripping paths for your website visitors to venture down; maximizing their time and experience on the site. 

A very basic sitemap looks something like this: 



A sitemap that emphasises hierarchy according to importance (which is good for SEO!) looks like this:

Use visitor/follower feedback to inform the structure of your sitemap as well as the categories that should be prioritized. Remember to keep navigation names short and sweet – there is nothing more discouraging than text-rich primary and secondary navigation bars. We also religiously follow the “three click rule” – it should never take more than 3 clicks to navigate to any one page on a website. Keep this in mind while mapping out the structure and hierarchy of your website. Make sure it is easily navigated by people who are familiar with the organisation and people discovering your institution for the first time. 

A properly mapped out website gives visitors the information that they came looking for, but it also encourages them to stay and poke around; seeing what your organisation has to offer.  This leads nicely into our next website improvement method, “sticky sites”. 

3) Sticky site

When people visit your website, do they find what they need and click out? Or, do they find themselves going deeper and deeper because of all of your amazing engaging content? A “sticky” website is one that encourages visitors to keep clicking and spend a healthy amount of time exploring what your museum has to offer. The amount of time that people spend on a website is called “dwell time” and websites with higher dwell times have better SEO-rankings. As cited above, a streamlined sitemap can entice visitors to spend more time engaging with your digital content. 

Here are a few ways to increase dwell time and make your website stickier than that gum you stepped in last week. 

  • Blogs – Allow visitors to your site the chance to learn something new on a regular basis by creating a blog. Ideally, visitors will return regularly to your site to read new blog posts and engage with the content (they will have been reminded by your social media we hope!)
  • Hyperlinks – Don’t make your visitors copy and paste web links. Take advantage of hyperlinking to provide your visitors with clean, streamlined ways to navigate to other pages of your site and externally as well.
  • Clear copywriting – Keep your copywriting clear and to the point! This is a good rule of thumb for digital marketing in general, but it’s exceptionally important in encouraging visitors to dig deeper on your site and not get frustrated by flowery and illustrious copy.
  • Videos and infographics – Watching a 30-second video or reading a helpful infographic is infinitely more appealing to website visitors than reading several paragraph’s worth of messaging. Take a good look at the copy and content you have/are planning to put on your website. Identify opportunities for video and infographic creation. This will increase usability and will provide more opportunities for auto-tags and alt text which can increase your SEO-ranking. 

4) Social feeds

Does your museum have social media channels like Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest? If not, please refer to our week on social media for some great tips on how to wade into the social media waters. If so, they really should be connected to your website. In our week on social media, we encouraged you to create content that links back to your website and mission. Here, we recommend that your website links back to your social media so that visitors can have a full-circle experience of your mission and brand. 

Don’t be daunted by the idea of manipulating your website to include social feeds. You can do this on your own – we promise!

  • Twitter

         To integrate Twitter, there are 5 different embedded timeline widgets available. Once you’ve chosen one, the process is simple. Go to https://publish.twitter.com/# – enter your timeline or moment URL you’d like to embed, choose the design specs and then copy and paste into your site’s HTML code.

  • Instagram

Sadly, Instagram does not offer widget creators or generators to create custom HTML code. However, there are several third-party generators that we recommend: Lightwidget, Instawidget and Stadget. The snapshot/polaroid look of Instagram posts is perfect for feeding into the bottom of a website – a gallery! 

  • Facebook

Here, you are offered a handy plugin generator which provides a custom link to embed tailored to your organisation’s URL and height and width of the website. https://developers.facebook.com/docs/plugins/page-plugin/

  • Pinterest

Similar to Facebook, users here are offered a widget builder which helps to create custom buttons or widgets to add to websites and apps. It asks for the specific URL and size requirements and then generates code which can be added easily to the backend of your website. 

Don’t be tempted to use integrating social feeds into your website as a marketing opportunity by posting too much event information. There is nothing more heartbreaking than a museum/gallery that squanders the opportunity to use social media as a change to deepen their relationship with audiences, choosing instead to repurpose event graphics and information like a broken record. Your audiences will feel more connected to you if they feel the feed is authentically generated rather than so singularly focused. What a nice segway into our next topic, consistent branding!

5) Consistent branding

This step goes hand in hand with integrating your social media into your website. Users like the familiar and having clear and consistent branding across your digital presence is a win-win for everyone. Users will know it’s you! Standing out in user’s feeds is important and that means just as much when they go from clicking on your post to being redirected to your website. Make sure the overall design of your site matches your social media accounts as much as possible with the same colour palette, font and messaging.

Whether you are improving your current site, or creating an entirely new one, it’s important to notice the minor details that can make or break you when it comes to brand consistency.

Use the following list as a jumping off point for looking into your museum brand consistency:

  • Logos – Make sure that you have logos that are brand consistent for every platform including several different iterations including horizontal, vertical, tagline, no tagline, icon etc… For more information on how to make sure your logos are sized appropriately, please refer to our module on brand consistency in week 1.
  • Colour palettes – You may have been given this or have it already as part of your branding kit, but if not, it’s still important to establish which colours your organisation will use regularly in both print and digital marketing. For more information on how to create your organisation’s colour palette please refer back to that good ole brand consistency module again.
  • Buzzwords – The “voice” you use for social media may different from the “tone” of the website, but they should be related if you catch my meaning. It’s certainly okay to be a bit more casual on social media as the playful nature of the platforms do call for a certain level of authenticity, but it’s important to keep your organizational messaging and mission consistent. 

Describe your organisation in 10 words – GO! What did you come up with? Those words can be used on their own or stretched out into descriptive phrases that should crop up in all of your digital marketing! If you use certain words and phrases on social media, integrate those into your website so that the authenticity of the social messaging is echoed in the organizational website. Why doesn’t like getting crafty with it? Making a visually-pleasing WordArt chart is a great way to create a cache of your favourite words/phrases. 

  • Redirects – Don’t let carefully created content sit on a dusty internet shelf. Seek out every opportunity you can to link similar content on your website. If you are creating a page to promote your youth programming, link to an archive of past programming and/or a blog article from one of the youth panel participants. This is a sure-fire way to make your website extra sticky!
  • Regular updates – The only way to keep people coming back to your website consistently is if you offer them a reason to keep coming back. Give them information about upcoming exhibitions, but pair this with a blog posting by the curator and/or a new gallery of photos from the exhibition opening. Get creative about capitalizing off of certain events/regular updates to spread out the marketing potential. 

Now, GO FORTH AND OPTIMISE!

Phew, that’s a lot of suggestions! Don’t let your head spin, we’ll do a quick debrief. We discussed the following 5 methods to make your website better in this article.

1) Ask for feedback

2) Easy navigation

3) Sticky site

4) Social feeds 

5) Consistent branding

You can integrate any of all of these tactics into your digital marketing strategy. There is never a bad time to take a look at your website and re-examine priorities and audiences. Regular updates are part of the game when it comes to keeping a fresh and engaging digital footprint. 

For more of the nitty gritty on SEO, read this article.

About the author – Devon Turner

Devon Turner is an Arts & Culture Writer. She has worked extensively in arts marketing for both the visual arts and performing arts in the US and UK. Now living in London, Devon works in the arts and culture sector and enjoys traveling to visit museums.

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