Museum Websites Make
I love visiting museum websites. Good thing, because in the course
of my work I have to visit a lot of them. Many knock my visual
socks off with the creativity and artfulness of their designs,
but I also see some all too common -- and frustrating -- marketing
mistakes. Is your website guilty of making any of them?
No Location Listed on the Front Page
Hmmm . . ."The Salem Museum." Let's see, is that in
Oregon, Massachusetts, Illinois or India? At many websites I'm
four clicks in before I find out. This is by far the most common
marketing mistake I encounter. And it's one of the most frustrating.
Your website reaches a global audience, not just the people in
your hometown. Be sure your location is prominently listed on
your opening page.
When people surf the Web they leave their patience at home. No
matter how impressive all those snazzy graphics are, if a page
takes more than 10 seconds to load, frustrated surfers are likely
to give up and move on to another -- faster -- site.
Gee Whiz! Technology
Just because it can be done doesn't mean it should be.
Many people are still new to the Internet or are surfing with
older browsers. They may not be able to access flash or splash
pages, for example, or they don't have a clue what to click on
when links don't look like links. And then there's my personal
favorite -- home pages with the little message that says, "This
site is designed to be viewed with Browser xxxx. (And, ha! You
don't have it!) Download it here." If I wanted to download
it, chances are I already would have. Besides, how do I know
your site is going to be worth all that trouble?
You've spent a lot of time and hard work developing content for
your website. Make sure your visitors can find it once they're
there. Links should be obvious and every page needs to contain
a navigation bar.
This is especially important in light of the fact that many
of your visitors won't be entering your site from your home page.
If they find you as a result of a search engine query, for example,
they're likely to enter on an interior page that matched their
search phrase. Once they arrive, though, they'll probably want
to explore other pages of your site as well. Don't strand them
in navigation hell with no way to do that. At the very least,
include a link back to "home" on every page.
You offer rug hooking classes. Great! Oops . . . that was in
1999. Coming in 2000 is your new HarvestFest event. Wonderful!
But where is this year's schedule?
While I've not actually kept count, I can safely say that
the vast majority of museum websites I visit contain information
that's out of date. Besides being frustrating, update neglect
can also be bad for business. Consider this: A recent study done
by the Travel Industry Association of America (TIA) found that
the majority of trips planned online are planned two weeks or
less in advance -- with a full 20 percent being planned less
than a week ahead of time.
Please keep the operating-hours and event information
on your website current. You wouldn't advertise an event in the
newspaper after it was over, would you? So why do it on your
If you don't have a webmaster who can promptly do updates
on an as-needed basis, then do them yourself. Your Web designer
can design an easy-to-update page that only requires you to make
text changes, not graphics or layout modifications -- and in
a matter of minutes you can learn how to make those changes and
No Map or Driving Directions
Another interesting fact revealed in the TIA study
is that the number one thing pleasure travelers look for online
are maps and driving directions. And they get frustrated when
they don't find them. Enough said.
Not Selling Memberships Online (or
making them an afterthought in the online store offerings)
Sell me a membership right now, while I'm at your website
and excited about it. And wow, if I purchase a membership right
now I can actually use my member discount immediately? Well,
then, I might as well visit your online store while I'm here
. . .
Not Collecting E-mail Addresses
E-mailing newsletters, website updates or notices of upcoming
events to your site visitors who've registered/subscribed to
receive them is one of the least expensive and most important
forms of marketing you can do. In fact, if truth be told, the
ability to collect e-mail addresses -- which will then allow
you, over time, to convert some of those website visitors into
donors, members and volunteers -- is probably the most important
reason of all for having a website in the first place.
Yet in a study
of 900 nonprofit organizations done earlier this year, the Gilbert
Center discovered that 64 percent of those surveyed don't collect
e-mail addresses at their websites and 71 percent don't publish
In summing up the study findings, Michael Gilbert wrote: "Despite
the overwhelming role that email plays in the success of the
online marketing efforts of the for profit sector, despite the
importance of email to users of the Internet, nonprofits have
not integrated email into their communication. . . Instead, nonprofits
have fallen prey to the lure of the stand alone web site. Over
80 percent of our respondents had websites, but nearly 80 percent
did not have an email strategy, even as an afterthought."
Asking for Too Much Information
Just as bad as not asking for any information is asking for too
much. If you want people to feel comfortable about signing up
to be on your e-mail list, ask only for their e-mail address
(and perhaps their name). Asking for any more than that scares
visitors off and discourages them from subscribing. If you want
to use your site to collect demographic information, great. But
provide a completely separate form for that somewhere else on
For links to other articles and resources on website marketing
and design, visit the E-Marketing
and Website Development
pages of the Museum Marketing Tips Links Library.
Copyright © 2001 Katherine Khalife All rights
For reprint permission, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Katherine Khalife is a writer and consultant specializing in
museum and Internet marketing, customer service and heritage
cultural tourism. See the Services
section for information about her workshops and other services,
or e-mail her at email@example.com