How the V&A’s new website was designed

The Victoria & Albert Museum has worked with Made by Many to create a new website, which treats individual museum objects as “atomic units of content”.

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The Victoria & Albert Museum has launched a new website, designed by Made by Many working with the V&A digital team, which aims to “bring the V&A to life online”.

Made by Many was appointed to work on the project following a tender process in 2014, and the redesign is the V&A’s first major digital upgrade for five years.

V&A head of digital media Kati Price says: “We want our digital experiences to live up to the V&A’s physical presence as a vibrant, active, continually changing place.”

The previous design
The previous design

She adds: “Our aspiration is to offer a seamless transition from browsing your iPad on the sofa at home, or searching on your desktop at work to turning up to visit the museum.”

Price says the website is “where many journeys to the V&A begin”. She says that in 2014/15 there were 12.7 million visits to the V&A website, which led to just over 1 million visits to the museum – a conversation rate of around 8%.

Price says: “We saw a big potential for us to increase this conversion rate – we wanted to turn more online visits into physical visits.”

She adds: “Reasons for improving our website were reputational as well as commercial. But in thinking in this commercial way, were gave a very convincing rationale for change.”

The new website is based around a bespoke CMS, which has been designed to be simple and flexible in order for V&A staff to be able to upload content.

The CMS is built around the idea of using individual museum objects as “the atomic unit of content”.

The object as "an atomic unit of content"
The object as “an atomic unit of content”

This means, Price says, that the website will have “a single source of truth” about each object. They can then appear in the context of an article, gallery, virtual collection and exhibition simultaneously.

Price says the functionality “gives us the freedom to curate objects online in a way that’s conceptually similar to how we do it in the museum itself.”

The new design is initially rolling out on “a focused number of pages”. Price says: “Starting small means we have a better chance of reaching the pinnacle of the design hierarchy of needs. We feel that overhauling the entire website would result in less time to build features that are truly delightful, as well as feasible, valuable or even usable.”

Price says that upcoming developments will look at areas like the online shop, calendar and event listings.

She adds that a search functionality is currently under development, saying: “Some might argue that a search box is a lazy option for poor site hierarchy and navigation. And, since we knew that only 5% of sessions involve search, designing and building a new search experience was de-prioritised for launch, but we are working on it.”

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