The Museum of Life and Science

What was the problem?

With all organizations, the creation and maintenance of their website can be a huge undertaking! What CMS did they pick? What level of customization did the organization plan for? What team members and skills did they have access to?

The Museum of Life and Science faced a set of challenges that certainly aren’t unique, but can be very frustrating to both end users and internal clients. Their current CMS is a proprietary software, and the company who designed the website also hosts it. They’ve restricted access to some key functionality (the homepage, the footer, the header, and stylesheets) and prompt users to submit tickets if those things need changing. On top of that, the theme used to build this website is running on an outdated version of Bootstrap and the Jquery library. To add to the challenges, the Museum (during this time) had multiple POS software that didn’t play well together, and can’t be integrated into the current website.

What was the solution?

While the solution for each individual page is detailed more thoroughly in the caption, the main fix regarded UI and UX. I focused on streamlining processes and creating mobile-centered designs by stripping down a lot of unhelpful, gimmicky options. Tabbed browsing wasn’t optimized for mobile devices, and neither were the accordion widgets, so as pages needed their yearly updates, I took those modules out and substituted them either with responsive, clickable, sort-able info-cards, or an entirely new nested page.

Knowing that all significant conversions happened on outside sites that they can’t integrate into their own tracking efforts, registration button clicks are used as my key metric, but not conflated with the current number of sales because I couldn’t promise where each click was coming from without access to a complete behavior flow. The other solution was to educate key stakeholders about the nature of tracking metrics and how individual sites interact with one another.

What role did I play?

I played the role of project manager, as well as primary producer for web pages. I didn’t supply the copy, but I did selectively edit, collect images, and set the page up for its final presentations.

For all new pages, I met with the internal stakeholders and worked out three things: what’s the driving story, who’s giving me the copy, and who out of the group do I get my final approval from? It helps to know who has final decision making power when you work in a group.

Depending on how fleshed-out the story is, I might walk the group through thought exercises to help them figure out their needs and expectations. I would get everyone together in the same room, and I’d spend as much time as possible learning the background, ideals, and needs for the new project. After that, I would break away and create wireframes, timelines, and a prospective budget (if needed).

Once everything is approved, I would work out a rough-draft that has as much of the copy as I can get. There’s no focus on image selection yet, and I’d try to keep the colors limited to black and white, because I find that a lot of clients can get stuck in “fixing the details” before we get the bones taken care of. I would then get the working team together, when the rough-drafts were done and walk them through how the page functions. I invite them to click around and play with it. With a group document set up, we’d decide a deadline for feedback and I’d leave the approving team to their work.

When all of the feedback had been collected, that’s when I’d start on revisions. This is the stage where I make initial image selection and color choices. I’d collect finalized copy, selectively edit it, and lay it into the page. With every major stage, I bring the team back together to have a chance to look at things, ask questions, and explore how the site flows with people and away from people. This presentation and feedback cycle is where we finalize images, colors, and other brand essentials. Before the page is set to go live, I pass around the page one last time and get final approval, before publishing the page.

What was the outcome?

Compared to metrics used before I started working there, the bounce rate of the website went gone down 9.97% (That means fewer people are getting to the website and then fluttering off into the internet ether.) The exit rate dropped by 4.69%. (Fewer people exited our website from the same page they came in on.) Time spent on our website was up by 4.8% and the number of pages visited went up to 5.6%.

Considering we got over a million hits in a year, this is a definite improvement!

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