Since you're all being so nice to us, I’ve taken my lurker hat off and here are some thoughts for you on the new Science Museum website:
(1) Not one website but a set
The Science Museum Group is five museums and we were keen to move them all to a single shared platform so that future enhancements to one site would benefit all. A rising tide raises all ships and all that. This is achieved through Drupal’s multisite thing.
Also we wanted design continuity across everything as user journeys might cross multiple sites as there are shared group-wide elements.
You’ll see the new design on three of the museums so far:
One question: there are clear benefits to this but does this make regression testing (checking that new features haven’t broken old ones) really onerous. Hopefully not.
Another question is whether encouraging people to move between sites they might not know are connected makes sense or is confusing … something we'll be testing
A few people commented on the navigation. We really worked hard to simplify this as far as possible and keep a user focus, and there were many discussions on the main navigation and the sub-navigation. We wanted to strike a balance between something simple and critically not making all the deep content impossible to find (which I think a few recent redesigns have suffered from). I think we got it about right. But I fully expect we’ll continue to tweak this in the coming months based on real world usage and some more testing.
There was some discussion about if Learning should to be in the top navigation. In the end I pushed for this as the museum has the highest number of school visits for any museum in the UK (or so I am told).
(3) Mobile and touchscreen
Obviously. On Tony’s question on why it is not responsive “up” to big studio monitors, I think this is just a reflection of time. I totally agree that it should be considered. Especially for things like online collection “lightbox” views. Rich Barrett-Small and I used to discuss this at Tate and then I didn’t do it there either…
This is on a subdomain https://collection.sciencemuseum.org.uk as it is a group-wide collection rather than just the Science Museum. The collection draws from both the collection system (Mimsy) and the archive (Adlib) and images from the digital asset management system (Mimsy). The middleware is Knowledge Integration’s CIIM product. The frontend is open sourced so you have a play:
It has a pass at level 5 for the kittens test: https://collection.sciencemuseum.org.uk/search/images?q=kitten
There’s a huge volume of content going to be digitised as it is moved from Blythe House so the online collection will be awesome in a couple of years. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blythe_House
If you get a chance to visit Blythe House before then definitely do.
(5) Video - loads of it.
We were really keen to try and capture the experience of visiting the museums and so we shot loads of video to give a sense of the experience and to reflect that the collections are largely 3D and move and do things - even if they don’t anymore.
This is also used to distinguish object galleries (videos of objects) from interactive galleries (videos of people interacting).
Next on the list is to get a short 3-4 minute curator introduction for each gallery + an intro video for each gallery for teachers visiting with a class.
We were lucky to coincide with a rebrand project and so were able to work on new photography. With all that new photography we could then take the best of the old photography and we we’re in pretty good shape. I’d recommend investing in this area.
(7) Under the hood
Drupal 8. There was a bit of discussion on 7 or 8, but we settled on 8 for reasons I now can’t remember year later (“It’s one louder” perhaps). If anyone’s interested I could dig out my notes.
On the Wordpress vs Drupal argument the thinking was:
i) We wanted editor authentication via active directory / ADFS so that the site could be edited easily outside the museum’s network.
ii) There’s occasional chatter about user logins which we’ve resisted in this stage but we wanted to ensure that we could have the capability later if needed.
Feel free to chip in that both of these things could be done in Wordpress easily. You’re probably right. :-)
Various other sites are Wordpress, Tessitura, Blubolt, and other bits and bobs.
Technical integrations were kept as few and as simple as possible so we didn’t disappear down the “this is waaaaay more complex than we thought” rabbit hole.
Articles that include collection works generate reciprocal links with the collection. I’m not sure how this works but can find out if anyone’s interested.
Probably the most complex part is the calendar … which anyone who’s worked on a museum calendar will understand.
The collection is a custom build.
(8) Existing content
The Science Museum has so much great content much of it dating back 10+ years. We’ve prioritised the visiting-the-museum journey, and lots of the old content is still around in the old design. We’ll be working through this over the coming 8 months or so.
We’ve revisited a few of the star piece of content and updated them notably the games Rugged Rovers and Launchball.
(9) Yikes ... so much Flash
The old site is awash with Flash in places. We’re going to have work through this bit by bit.
We did update Launchball as a trial Flash-to-html5 to see how that went https://launchball.sciencemuseum.org.uk and I think it’s fair to say that it went brilliantly.
Happy to answer questions...
Science Museum Group