LACMA — lacma.org
UX Research & Design - 2018
Re-envisioning the digital face of Los Angeles County Museum of Art, an LA icon.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) is an icon for LA. Even though LACMA is known for its encyclopedic collection of nearly 140k objects from all around the world, it is more than an art museum to Angelenos: it is where grandparents go to listen to Jazz at summer time, where teenagers go for Teen Night celebrations after school, and where young men take their first dates to impress. So LACMA has a special place in Angelenos’ life because of its dynamic eclecticism and un-intimidating human vibe, which ultimately makes LACMA, LACMA.
LACMA’s website has not been touched since 2010, and as the museum is going through major changes with the new construction, it was the perfect time to re-envision its digital presence and simplify its design to better reflect the museum’s personality and role. So here we were, redesigning the LACMA website after 7 years.
Leading the redesign’s user experience, I collaborated closely with the VP of technology, digital producer, creative director, art director, and freelance visual designers to take this redesign from research and discovery phase all the way to final execution and launch. Here is a list of my responsibilities: timeline management, conceptual development, stakeholder interviews and presentations, user research, information architecture, interaction design, prototype and usability testing, overseeing freelance visual designers, delivering design specs and interaction annotations to the development team, and checking the quality and accuracy of the developed product.
First things first: the user & research.
Before anything, we needed to study the current site interactions and identify our users. In doing so, we studied the site analytics working with USC Analytics grad students, ran a survey on the current site asking about users’ current behavior, and interviewed current visitors on campus to learn about them and their goals. Based on these studies’ results, we created personas to represent the primary users, and their motivations and challenges. Creating task models and journey maps helped us identify users’ pain-points and potential solutions. We also learned from research that users primarily visit the site to plan their visit, see exhibitions, and find events.
Second comes competitors and trends.
In addition to learning about the users, we needed to know what other similar-minded institutions are doing that is and isn’t working. Studying technology trends and how other museums are incorporating them into their visitor experience, both in the digital and physical space, indicates where the industry is headed, which ultimately shapes user expectations.
Then was time to architect the information & interactions.
The “getting to know the user” and industry research did not end just there. This was an ongoing process, which continued in parallel with the start of the information architecture and interaction design process. To start the information architecture, we interviewed museum’s stakeholders to hear their expectations of the new website and define requirements. At the same time, we audited the current site’s content and started to restructure the information. In doing so, we conducted card sorting workshops with various team leads to streamline the content, while having the site’s top three functionalities, mentioned above, in mind. Such conversations resulted in the first draft of the content maps, top level navigation and user flows, with which we conducted usability testing using low-fidelity prototypes.
Rapid prototyping and testing to validate.
Working on campus and being close to museum visitors was a great advantage to validate the new navigation, as I rapidly prototyped the primary site architecture, ran upstairs to quickly test the IA. As we received first hand feedback on the navigations and and architecture of the content, we iterated and tested more to validate the decisions made.
A radically simple solution.
After months of exploring and scrapping ideas, a black and white site with art as the hero was our winner. We designed a radically simple, easily navigable and visually bold platform to browse, learn, find and plan!
While validating and iterating on the interaction design, I collaborated with LACMA’s in-house design studio to ideate on the new digital visual language. In doing so, we studied type and color and explored new concepts for LACMA’s digital look, while keeping the design aligned with our radically simple and visually bold design principles. We structured the site around the top three functionalities, planning a visit, seeing an exhibitions, and finding an event, as we set those factors as focal points, and branched out accordingly.
As the visual design language was being developed, we conducted many rounds of usability testing, using high-fidelity prototypes, with the cross-functional LACMA employees as well as visitors. We iterated on design based on the feedback we received, and continued testing more. LACMA invites visitors from all ages and backgrounds to its campus, so it was crucial to test every aspect of the digital experience to make sure the new site met their needs.
Being responsible for an icon’s digital face was challenging, but a dream come true. As an art history and graphic design double major, I have always dreamed of combining both of my passions into something that thousands get to use, and this project was it! That said, this redesign was a living example of how our initial design assumptions, regardless of how well we think we know the users, might not be true, and how design is truly a process that evolves as we learn more about context and user behavior. An example of this was the top navigation’s architecture, and how its initial iterations failed as we tested with museums visitors and observed their behaviors. So we tested and tested until we landed on a navigation that makes sense to the users while it fulfilled museums requirements.
Other designers on this project: Michael Pourmohsen, David Karwan, Jonathan Gorman, and Gabe Ferreira.