One Click or Less: Redesigning the National Archives Museum Website

The National Archives Museum website has a new look! The main goal of the redesign was to develop a mobile-first website that serves the needs of visitors with fewer clicks, helping people to quickly understand what they can see and do during their visit to the museum in Washington, D.C. The refreshed website is infused with new media assets thanks to our in-house creative team, including new photos of exhibitions, a welcome tour video (including American Sign Language), and detailed images of the Founding Documents (Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights) and the Faulkner murals on view in the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom. The project also included an infrastructure overhaul: we moved the site to the open source content management system, Drupal 8, and applied the U.S. Web Design System to align the look and feel with other National Archives and federal government websites.

The in-house project team applied a user-centered framework to planning the redesign. After interviewing museum visitors and reviewing web analytics to understand current website visitors, the team put together a set of goals and features for this first release. The website design and development was completed using an agile/scrum methodology, enabling the team to develop code and content quickly, put prototypes in front of stakeholders and museum visitors frequently for feedback, and iterate the product based on that feedback to better meet user needs. One of the first user-centered design tasks that was undertaken was a card sorting activity. This method ensured that the information architecture and navigation of the website reflects the needs of museum visitors and that the language used makes sense to the audience. Museum visitors were asked to create categories and sort cards (representing discrete pieces of web content) into groups. They were also encouraged to rename pre-written cards if the language was not clear to them. This low-fidelity testing with a small group of users enabled the team to build a site that matched visitor expectations and mental models.

Example of an early “card sort” arranged by a museum visitor.

In addition to the card sort activity, other user-centered design methods implemented by the team included paper prototype testing of the mobile design and beta website testing on mobile devices. In each of these tests, museum visitors were asked to identify their top information need and then asked where on the design or beta site they would click to find that information.

The team’s goal was to ensure visitors can get to the information that they want in one click or less. We optimized the website for mobile devices first, since over 40% of our visitors access the Museum website on a mobile device. Our user testing found that we were able to achieve our usability goal and we’re excited to now have the site live and ready for additional feedback.

Launch the Website

Organization: National Archives and Records Administration

Audience: museum visitors, history enthusiasts

Role: Product owner and supervisor

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