Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Indianapolis Museum of Art Launches New Web Site

A little over a week ago I had the pleasure of meeting the Indianapolis Museum of Art's Rob Stein, their CIO, for lunch to discuss the new web site launch and what new design features would become available. During this visit I had a great time as we were able to discuss the general state of affairs in art museum web design, what sites we liked, others we didn't. These were all issues taken into consideration when shaping the new design and building of a site that would be more useful to the public.

The problem I have with a lot of museum web sites is two fold, a lack of visual content and terrible navigation. In each of these areas the old IMA web site was found wanting, but no more. The IMA has just launched a fresh, new web site, completely reconceived and built from the bottom up. Rather than attempting to overhaul the old site and tweak it to make it look nicer, they were smart and started from scratch. What most impresses me about their decision is that they chose not to hire a web design firm for the entire project, instead they chose to cut out the middle man and hire their own, in house, web design staff. Brilliant. A staff devoted to the design and operation of the new web site.

Aside from an all new look, they dressed the new site up with a lot more images of the museum, grounds, and exhibit areas to help give viewers a better feel for the space. Navigation is much more intuitive than it was previously. And in a continuation to keep up with contemporary web trends, the IMA has its own Flickr page, a Myspace page, and hosts several videos on Youtube. The museum will also be experimenting with having visitors and participants tag art works. Tags are words used to describe art in the IMA's collections submitted by participants. These tags will be used to better understand how visitors view a work and options in cataloging images. Click on any tag in the tag cloud, and you will be launched to a set of works with that tag. The best way to understand this feature is to play with it.

One of my favorite new features is the ability to view images of Recent Acquisitions along with details of the pieces including the usual name, date, media, but also including location in the museum, acquisition credit, and the provenance of each work. Recent contemporary acquisitions of note, Gregory Crewdson's, Untitled, Susan Jamison's, Sugar Me Softly, and Guillermo Kuitca's, Everything. [note: I think the image of this work may be turned on its side.]

I think this new direction for the site is a good fit for the goals the IMA has laid out before themselves. And while not all aspects of the site are fully developed there is plenty of content to keep you involved and going back. Well worth a fresh look.

11 Responses to “Indianapolis Museum of Art Launches New Web Site”

Anonymous said...
September 5, 2007 at 3:49 PM


bhorg said...
September 6, 2007 at 1:39 AM

I like the concept, but something feels empty about it.. Maybe it's the upper right corner..

Anonymous said...
September 6, 2007 at 7:44 AM

Well, at least the got the calendar right, so you can see what's going on.

But it's too scattered and strange. Not very intuitive or straightforward and seems more about the web designer than about the museum.

It seems they want the thing to 'feel active' with all those gray scores make the pixels move, but it just seems unfinished and disjointed.

They seem interested in making it interactive, but who really interacts with big corporate things like that? What do you want me to do post that I really like the Van Gogh, or that I think Warhol is neat? Or "tag" these pictures with "neat" and "favorite?"

How about I tag the web page with "corporate clever" and "boring".

Anonymous said...
September 6, 2007 at 8:01 AM

The pixelation thing gave me headache right away. I can't believe they bought into that idea, it is absolutely hideous. I mean seriously. It's the most abominant thing I ever seen since I picture someone with knives in their tongues. EW.


Anonymous said...
September 8, 2007 at 12:12 PM

this museum is so behind the times

John said...
September 8, 2007 at 12:28 PM


* an uninspired ripoff of web2.0 design trends: the squares, the fonts, the coloring, the tags, the flickr, the youtube.

* pixelation? animated pixelation? the movement is functionally useless and distracts from the content.

* important elements - like the search box - move from location to location based on the page. things like that need to stay in the same spot.

* the dynamic elements of the page are below my initial field of view on my macbook. it means that for every single page I have to scroll down. that shouldnt' be happening. it also means that when I click it seems that all I've done is change that huge ass photo.

* why should I have to mouseover to de-pixelate? Mystery Meat navigation died with, well, web 1.0...and for a design that is overly informed with web 2.0, they should know that.

* the mouseovers also mean that I have to dodge the next mouseover to get to the link I want. For example, if I mouseover "Explore" and want to move to "galleries" I end up accidentally mousing over "Art" which means I'm playing a lame game with the page to get to the link I just want to click.

This was built around a trend (flickr+youtube+tags+big fonts=awesome?) and not the content itself. I like the amount of pictures, and I do love blocks...but unless the style is distinctive and original, which this is not, they need to de-emphasize it and focus on content.

* What does that empty space in the center do?

* Why is the calendar a smattering of web2.0 green? What purpose do the differing colors serve?

In fact, you know what would be best? Content. News, every day. Blogs from employees - again, updated almost daily. Pictures and videos posted to flickr of everything that is new in the space. If they have a staff dedicated to maintaining the site this should not be an issue.

Anonymous said...
September 8, 2007 at 10:54 PM

ding, ding, ding. I think we have a winner.

The dude

Anonymous said...
September 9, 2007 at 8:54 AM

john, you nailed everything. nothing left to be said. IMA, call john.

Anonymous said...
September 11, 2007 at 11:49 PM

Ouch, it does not appear that the IMA website is going to get off the mat. Did anyone like it?

Scott said...
September 12, 2007 at 2:03 AM

I for one still think the new site is a much needed improvement over the previous site with the infrastructure in place and plans to make it even better. We must keep in mind that the site is not complete and perhaps the comments here, if well explained and expressed will guide them to make changes that the you feel are necissary.

Anonymous said...
September 12, 2007 at 8:03 AM

I can't argue that the site needed improvement, and all sites have infrastructure, but if that's what they came up with ... I don't know. I can't imagine that they didn't test this on others. Maybe they would pay me to explain and express why it stinks ... lol.

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