Our websites have come a long way since they were glorified internet brochures. We now feature just about every aspect, service and function of our organisations online, from visit planning to academic research to retailing.
And web users have come a long way too. They are far more sophisticated, and have ever-growing expectations of the content and usability of our websites.
Too many arts and culture sites are still institution-centric rather than user-centric: they adopt their internal departmental structure and nomenclature as an unintuitive site navigation structure and then require the user to understand that public events might be hidden behind the 'Learning' or 'Education' tabs; that an 'Exhibition' is not the same thing as a room full of exhibits from the 'Collection'; that searching for an object might produce thousands of rather dull accession records; or that just because there's a review of the latest play on the site doesn't mean there's anywhere for you to leave your own.
As part of our website evaluation and development work, we help our clients to define the many different User Modes that visitors to the site may be in on any given visit. This provides a clear segmentation framework to plan both the content and the navigation for the site.
Each User Mode is then developed into a detailed 'user journey’ from the visitor's first entry point to the site (increasingly not the home page) through each of their likely choices of menu options and content to ensure that these are not only logical and efficient (usability testing) but also rich and rewarding with relevant contextual links and content that they were not looking for.
We believe that defining User Modes is essential to the development of our increasingly complex websites.