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Two kinds of users — Part 2: Researchers by profession or by personal interest

by manifesto

Twokindsofusers Part2

Online collections on museum websites are visited by art historians, curators and other professionals, right? Well that proves to be slightly different: yes there are professional researchers, but there are twice as many personal researchers.

Through the pandemic, we've been working on an exciting new website for Royal Museums Greenwich. A key part of the project was integrating their collection, archive and library into the main website. So of course we wanted to know for whom we were doing it!

When we looked at the user research, it confirmed what you can read in this blog post by the V&A: not professionals, but personal researchers are the most active users. People whose family worked in a factory, the merchant navy or the army. Or people who are all into royals or 18th century clocks.

What this means for your website

With this in mind, collection pages need to be very visual and very clear. Avoid starting with too many details and instead provide just an overview and the context.

We suggest avoiding jargon or complicated language — instead, the description and image should be clear and concise. People who are interested will be scrolling, so details can be at the bottom, and they don’t need to be above the fold. We know that despite the hundreds of artefacts museums have in the vault, people are generally interested in the highlights so start with these.

Personal researchers will usually be looking for one thing, but we can offer side roads to encourage continuation of their journey: ‘similar objects/materials/styles’.

There are some online collections that even allow people to search by colour!