The University of Oregon’s Museum of Natural and Cultural History (MNCH) is the state’s premier repository for historic, man-made and natural treasures. As a museum and center for research and education, MNCH relied on its digital presence to support its aims of promoting public programs and collections in order to drive investment and attendance. Further, as an educational institution with several exhibits and countless artifacts, it is imperative that their information is always navigable, presented clearly and organized logically to visitors.
As an institution that serves the University of Oregon campus community, K-12 students and educators in addition to the wider public, it was essential they got the fundamentals right for their digital presence. From their collection of hundreds of thousands of human artifacts and biological specimens to their year-round programming, transmitting information effectively through digital means was essential to connecting with their audience and supporting their mission.
While MNCH’s existing website, launched in 2010, was serving the museum well as a stark improvement over its predecessor, it was well out of date by the time OPIN was tapped to support the museum’s new digital initiative.
MNCH’s mission was to enhance their digital brand with a newly redesigned website that is easy to maintain and would provide increased traffic, intuitive structure and navigation, clear cross-referencing, coherent logic, and improved search engine optimization.
The digital agency MNCH would select needed to deliver an easily manageable digital solution that would appeal to various stakeholders. These include University of Oregon students and faculty, scholars and researchers, K-12 students and educators, as well as the Oregon general public and beyond. All of these groups use the website for different purposes, so designing an information architecture that would support all of these groups concurrently is key.
Additionally, to better connect with their audience the updated user interface must convey information in a way that compliments the museum’s physical offerings, with a lighter, more visually stimulating look and feel. For example, the web galleries now available on MNCH’s website showcase samples of their vast array of specimens for site visitors to get a taste of the museum’s collection from the comfort of their screen.
An easy-to-use, easy-to-update content management system (CMS)
Not only is the new site thoroughly optimized with search engine optimization best practices, but it is also an intuitive, logically structured information architecture, with no more than three levels of menu hierarchies
MNCH selected OPIN to build a solution that would accomplish their technical goals and support their wider mission. Drawing upon their past experience with museums, heritage institutions, and universities, the OPIN team successfully built MNCH’s site using Drupal 8, the latest version of the popular open source CMS.
OPIN’s Drupal solution was attractive to MNCH for a number of reasons. Drupal 8’s scalability and flexibility were invaluable to MNCH, who needed a platform that would serve their needs well into the future as requirements change over time. The OPIN team was able to leverage Drupal’s flexibility as a software to fully integrate the CMS with social media and e-commerce, as per MNCH’s objectives. As an open source software, Drupal comes at no license price to the university or the museum, who took full ownership of the system after the project was completed.
Drupal 8 was built with mobile top-of-mind, making it an ideal platform to accomplish MNCH’s goal of building a website that can be accessed seamlessly from any device. OPIN’s expertise in the higher education and government sectors ensured that all accessibility standards were met by the new site.
OPIN’s dedication to the Agile development methodology proved indispensable to project success. Agile project management emphasizes consistent client-agency collaboration by giving the two organizations the flexibility to readjust priorities, testing deliverables and acting on client feedback during the development phase. OPIN committed to weekly touchpoints and status reports with clients while building features in real time for museum staff to test, ultimately resulting in a higher quality product and higher customer satisfaction.
OPIN’s design objective was to produce “at a glance appeal” for the museum’s considerable online resources to further engage their diverse audience. OPIN’s award-winning design professionals kicked off the project with discovery sessions that helped steer the visual and user experience design direction. They used precise analytical tools and techniques to correctly identify the specific requirements for different user groups, including university students and faculty, K-12 educators and their pupils, researchers and scholars as well as the general public.
OPIN’s data-driven design approach ensured the most important information was always readily accessible and the look and feel of the website were sleeker and more inviting while staying on-brand.