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Final prototype picture

Streamline the information and navigation

Merchant's House Museum's website redesign
​Client:

Merchant’s House Museum, the only 19th-century landmark in New York City that has been preserved intact with the original family furnishings and personal belongings.

​Case Study Overview:

​Merchant's House Museum is a historical landmark in New York, but its website navigation can be confusing compared to other museums of similar levels.

We, four user experience designers, conducted a thorough analysis and interviews with potential users to better position the demand for this website. We utilized various research and testing methods to understand the user’s perspective and make the website more user-friendly, as well as to improve the process of information retrieval.

​My Role:

As a member of the team, I actively participated in user research, ideation, testing, and prototyping. Share and communicate the information I obtain with my teammates to help our team refine ideas and produce the final prototype.

​Timeline:

​Sep - Dec 2023

​Scope:

Research, Information Architecture, User Testing, Mid-fi Prototype

​Challenges

What causes the current website inefficient?

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Information Overlap

​When the user browses the site, several pages with different links contain similar information. This structure confused and misled users.

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​No Responsive Design

​The site had exactly the same format on different sizes of platforms. Users had a hard time accessing it on phones.

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​Readability

​The site had similar font sizes for different types of information. Users needed to read carefully to find time and other detailed information.

​Kickoff

​Get to know our potential audiences

We contacted 6 interviewees who fit the description of “young adults with an interest in museums” and conducted well-organized interviews to learn about their past experiences visiting museums. By using an affinity diagram and empathy mapping for analysis, we got very helpful insights to answer the following 3 goal questions:

01   What is the primary motivation that drives young adults to visit a museum? 

By asking our interviewees to describe their reasons for visiting museums in the past, we found that target users enjoy discovering inspiration and learning about culture and history during the museum experience. The most unexpected discovery we made was that 3 of 6 interviewees mentioned special collections bring them memorable positive experiences.

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02   What factors influence whether a young adult has a positive or negative experience during a museum visit?

​Our potential users clarified that the quality and uniqueness of the museum collections are the most important components for them to gain a positive experience.

​Conversely, poor accessibility and poor instructions are two huge red flags for museum experiences. As interviewee Bryan said:

"Most of the museums I went to didn't show the areas closed due to construction on their website. I didn't get the information before I got there. I bought tickets for four exhibitions, but only two opened at that time. "(Bryan)

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03   How are young adults finding museums they’re interested in?

​Almost all interviewees looked for others' comments on the museum, word-of-mouth, or social media posts, before deciding to visit.

4 of 6 interviewees searched for details of what's on display on the museum website before deciding to visit. As the interviewee Carol said: 

"I'll search what's on display on the museum website and look for social media posts about these. I don't want to figure out that I'm not interested in the things on display when I reach the museum." (Carol)

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​Persona

Our potential young adult users: “The Learner”

Based on the above data and conclusions obtained from the interviews, I conducted a persona that combined the outstanding characteristics of the interviewees. This persona determines the design focus of this website and will play an important guide role in subsequent in-depth research.

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​Competitor Analysis

Learn and differentiate our site from other places “the learners” might go

To cater to our target audience who frequently visit museums while traveling, we researched and analyzed 8 competing destinations in New York and other parts of the world where our potential users are likely to plan a visit during their travels.

​Things to learn

01   Responsive design for different screen sizes.
02   Choices of font styles and sizes.
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​Example from: Metrograph

​Example from: Whitney, MAD, Met

03   Balance layout with use of pictures
04   Ease of using top navigation.
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​Example from: Louvre and Metrograph

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​Example from: Metrograph, Met

​Things to avoid

01   Lack of descriptions on the event detail page.
02   No accessibility information at all.
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​Example from: Metrograph

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​Example from: Metrograph

Keeping things we learned from our competitors in mind, it's time for us to restructure our website toward our design goals: user-friendly navigation and streamlined information.
​In order to do so, we need more testing data to tell us, how our users navigate things.
​Card Sorting

​Users have their own content grouping guides in mind

With 12 participants, we conducted 9 groups that have appeared most frequently in the results as our rudiment of the information architecture. We found another helpful result is the similarity matrix that tells the relationships between contents.

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9 most grouped

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​Similarity matrix

​Tree Testing

Finding answers for the uncertainties

Only card sorting by itself is not persuasive as there are still contents ungrouped or have few similarities. Tree testing with another 12 participants is a good opportunity for us to evaluate and revise the draft information architecture we got before.

Among our 10 tasks, 8 of them experienced great success, 1 appeared problems with the way we asked the question and 1 appeared a full failure. We made one decision based on one failure:

Add "Free Downloads" under " Book a Tour"

We made the decision based on that no participant got this task right and majority of them went down to visit and book a tour to look for this content.

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Site Mapping

Visualize our information architecture in Figma

After we visually organize and present the data and conclusions in Figma. We have some basic knowledge and ideas about the next wireframe and prototype. We realize that this site map is the cornerstone of our entire redesign. The solid foundation laid in the previous research will play a role in the subsequent design.

​Link to view high resolution: Site Mapping

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​Task Flow

Two most important things for our users:
​What exhibition is on and tickets purchasing.

Task 1 Find an exhibition you are most interested in.

User story: “As an art/history lover, I want to know what exhibition is on, so that I can decide whether to go to the museum or not.”

Task flow: Home > What’s on > Exhibitions > Upcoming exhibitions > Choose one exhibition > Read exhibition details

Task 2 Add two guided house tour tickets to your cart.

User story: “As a young couple, we want to see what types of tours are offered, so that we can buy general admission tickets for our second date.” 

Task flow: Home > Visit > Buy tickets > Select date> Choose guided house tour > Add two tickets into cart

User Testing

Users helped find 3 things to improve for final prototype

Based on the above two task flows, we drafted an initial prototype. We knew that in this user-centered project, we needed to get some user feedback to make sure we were on the right track before moving forward. As expected, three main issues occurred during the first user testing.

01   Inconsistent categorization.
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Upcoming sections are not categorized by exhibition, events and tours. Not so cohesive with hamburger menu navigations.

02   Overlapping contents.
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The content "Reservation and tickets" has overlap function with "Book a tour".

03   No way to get back.
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Breadcrumbs are too small to click. Users cannot understand how these works. Need to find another way with the function back to the previous page.

​Final Prototype

​Design decisions towards user needs.

In the improvement of the draft prototype, we solved three problems that appeared in the early stage with new design decisions we made. We as a group, in the end, want to highlight some design decisions we made throughout the whole process influenced by all our previous research and tests to reach our design goals.

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Next Step:

Usability testing for the final prototype and high-fidelity building​

This project is still in progress and we will present more updates in the near future.

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