Design your Website Like an Engaging Museum

I was strolling through a museum last weekend when suddenly I felt like I was walking through a physical, brick-and-mortar manifestation of a website.

As I walked through the museum, I read the titles, I glanced at the pictures and videos, I skimmed through the descriptions and then I moved onto the next display. Sometimes the next display was through another room that I chose to enter; sometimes it was along the natural path.

This experience was eerily similar to the lens I had adopted earlier in formatting and writing website copy. Since I am not a website coder or designer, I wasn’t thinking in terms of HTML language or the cloud. I was envisioning the user experience to decide how and where content would be accessed; I was thinking about how I typically peruse a website as a member of “Generation Z.”

When I explore a website, I read the titles, I look at the pictures and videos, I might read the text copy, and then I move on. Sometimes the next tidbit of information is through an optional click of a hyperlink; sometimes it is just a scroll away. And sometimes, if the content is not interesting enough, my computer mouse scurries over to the little red “x” in the corner.

When you boil down to the purpose of both a website and a museum, they are the same; they both exist to deliver information to you in an engaging way. However, I also see two main differences between a website and a museum: ease of entry and ease of exit.

An intrigued internet-searcher can click a link to explore your website, whereas a museum-visitor must travel to your brick-and-mortar exhibit to explore your museum; and a bored museum-dweller must walk through a museum to reach the exit, whereas a bored website-browser can click one red button in the corner of the screen and be gone.

As strategic communicators living in an integrated, digital world, we should constantly be asking ourselves how to enhance the user experience of our clients and partners while also trying to increase the time users choose to spend consuming our content. If you model your website after the visual of a well-engaging museum, you may engage people better so they do not click the exit button so quickly. With museum-pursuing being one of the top leisure activities in America for people from a wide range of socio-economic backgrounds, website content curators and designers could attempt to present their content in a similarly engaging way – in a way that people of different backgrounds choose to spend their leisure time exploring.

We live in a world where analytics are at our fingertips and in our favor. Even if the analytics of your website suggest that readership or click-through rates are low, you now have the beauty of knowing where users lost interest. You now can know what pages of your website need extra love or need to be reevaluated for relevancy. These analytics of showing that x amount of users did not click through a hyperlink is data that a museum-operator would love to have, but is difficult to obtain in a physical environment. Analytics give website content writers an advantage in the information-exhibiting industry.

Look at your website and ask yourself if the user experience makes sense. If suddenly your website was transformed into a walk-through museum exhibit, would it engage someone?

User experience is a buzz word in the industry for a reason. To be relevant and engaging, you must think beyond why you think your content is engaging, and deliver your content in a manner that your audience finds engaging. You do so by creating an experience.


Featured photo by Thomas Hawk

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