The Clyfford Still Museum is located in Denver, Colorado and houses the collection of American Abstract Expressionist painter Clyfford Still. Sarah Wambold serves as the museum’s Director of Digital Media.
Sarah spoke to me about the challenges and opportunities of working at a small museum with a singular focus. One of Sarah’s main tasks is ensuring that the museum website communicates the experience of the museum. Sarah stated that her main challenge is making sure the experience is always fresh since she has to draw on the same collection.
In order to communicate the experience of the museum to a web audience, Sarah explained that the first step is to figure out what the audience wants. This can be done through a community archive, crowdsourcing, or other initiatives that will give the voice back to the community.
Sarah and I both agreed that the main point of a museum website is to facilitate a visit to the museum. But how do we get visitors from the website into the museum? To do so, we have to understand visitor motivations in order to convert online visitors into on-site visitors. Sarah tackled this topic along with Marty Spellerberg in a Visitor Motivation Survey research study that focused on John Falk’s Predictive Model for Museum Visitation. The study used Falks’ identifications as User Personas which had not been done before.
Several times throughout the interview, Sarah mentioned not getting bogged down in data. In the Visitor Motivation Survey as well as in the regular reporting of web analytics, Sarah stressed the importance of viewing data as a whole, rather than as a singular factor, in order to see the larger picture.
Even though she has a background in graphic design, Sarah does not design the web content and website for the Clyfford Still as she takes on a project management role. The museum does not have an in-house designer and so Sarah taps into freelance designers. This process is made easier with the use of the museum’s identity guidelines and brand standards to create a cohesive look and feel, no matter the project or designer.