UX CASE STUDY
The Eric Carle Museum was in need of a site redesign to repurpose their content and better serve their current users. The museum was looking to maintain connections with people who only visit occasionally by inspiring a lifelong love of art and reading.
My team and I revitalized the Eric Carle's current Art Studio Blog into a digital reference tool for resourceful and passionate educators. We designed a visually-focused and comprehensive section of The Carle’s website with art project ideas for both teachers and parents. The content is inspired by the exhibits, books, and classes offered at the Museum.
The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art is a museum filled with wonderful illustrations from famous picture books located in Amherst, Massachusetts. The museum's mission is to inspire a love of art and literacy through picture books. The current website attracts visitors near and far and the Carle needs to maintain connections with these patrons. The website serves as a portal to events and activities hosted by the museum as well as an e-commerce site for related products. To help the museum craft and online experience as rich as the museum itself, my team and I were tasked to redesign the museum’s current website. In order to do so, we needed to repurpose existing content to make it more useful, discoverable and digestible to better serve the existing user base.
To kick off our project, we wanted to get an understanding of the Non-Profit Museum Landscape and some of its challenges. Through our research, we discovered even big museums like The Met are struggling. They’ve experienced declines in sponsorships, attendance and membership which has put more pressure on them to make a profit. We wanted to understand a little bit more about how these non-profit museums make money, which we learned 60% of a museum's revenue comes in the form of donations and 40% is merchandising, licensing and educational programs. It's important to note that this 40% is a new trend for museums trying to even out the scales.
Since the Carle already has a robust eCommerce and educational offering, we wanted to explore this to see where our opportunities were. We need to balance the needs of the business with those of our users.
We also explored some competitors in the space to see what they are currently doing and how the Carle can differentiate. For direct competitors, we researched the Dr. Seuss Museum, The Norman Rockwell and the NCCIL. They all have exhibits or collections that are heavily influenced by picture book art or illustrated literature. We also looked outside the world of museums and identifies indirect competitors including the Jones Library a local library with a gallery space, The Society of Illustrators a museum focused on illustrations for a older demographic, and Midtown Comics which caters to a very different audience but has a very successful eCommerce business.
We learned that these competitors are all very successful at three things:
But the Carle has a few key differentiators that we can utilize to help it stand out from the crowd.
We wanted to better understand the user's needs to identify similarities and differences. Overall we talked to nine users between 26-70 years old, which was a pretty wide age range. Two of the users had not even been to the museum in person, which we found interesting that users still visit the site just to check things out. All of the users we talked to had ties to education. Many were either teachers or volunteer educators and one was even a student pursuing a masters in Children’s Literature.
The biggest takeaway came when we realized that a number of our users taught at Title 1 Schools. And since we didn’t know much about what that was we did a bit of digging: Title 1 is a federally funded program for disadvantaged students struggling to meet state standards and a high percentage of them from low-income families. However, the funding per student is quite low, averaging about $500 to $600 a year. Teachers who work there are strapped for resources and have to sometimes get a little creative with their lessons and materials.
In talking to users, we quickly found out people were really passionate about the Carle, and many felt its mission aligned to theirs by supporting education, reading and a love of the arts. We also discovered a recurring theme of literacy really being meaningful to users. Many of our users have helped contribute to reading education through their professions, volunteering and causes they donate to.
“I work at a Title I School… We are there to bring students who are falling behind with their reading and writing skills up to a level they should be at… So I’m in the business of literacy.”
We found the Carle Museum’s mission of being an advocate for the arts and reading intersects with our user’s passion for promoting literacy. This is where we saw an opportunity for The Carle to bring their unique and admired resources to those in need, with both the museum and our users having the end goal of promoting literacy.
DEFINING OUR PROBLEM
Based on everything we learned from our users, we built our persona, Susan. She’s a dedicated and knowledgeable elementary school teacher. She’s always looking for resources to help inspire her own children as well as her students.
Based on our interviews, our users were all very involved with education. They also really had a love for art and literacy and supported it among their local communities. Users around the country visited the Carle website for education and inspiration, so we have an opportunity to make these features more prominent and helpful for our users.
From understanding Susan’s goals and frustrations we landed at this problem statement:
Resourceful and passionate educators of young children need a robust digital reference tool to inspire their lesson plans and enrich the learning experience in their classrooms because due to limited funding in schools, they require an essential resource.
We then created four design principles to use as a foundation and guide us in our design process:
Create a consistent in-person versus virtual experience, mirroring the intentionally organized layout of the museum.
The website should reflect the museum's unique, rich and colorful collections. Understand the content and recognize that it is the hero of the story.
The website should reflect the museums unique, rich and colorful collections. Understand the content and recognize that it is the hero of the story.
Create a life-long love of art and reading by evoking memories and emotions from picture books.
Allow people that are not from the area to tap into the museums resources to further influence their personal communities.
Our Persona, Problem Statement, and Design Principles helped guide us during ideation when brainstorming ideas how the Carle can provide a solution that meets Susan's needs. We wanted to keep the Carle's mission in mind and explore how their current resources could be repurposed or improved best serve our users.
We wanted to narrow in on the possibilities so we can create a product that best solves for Susan’s problem. We mapped a day in the life of Susan to get a better idea of how the Carle can help.
After identifying opportunities from the user journey, we began brainstorming for ideation. From our brainstorm, we focused on the best ideas and built four concepts.
From our testing, we got positive feedback on elements of each concept but ultimately we moved forward with the Lesson Planning Resource because it best solved our problem. It stood out during usability testing and our users had so many good things to say about it. They enjoyed how comprehensive and helpful the tool was and especially liked that it was coming from a trusted source like the Carle. They mentioned it was a resource they would frequently visit and best fit their needs.
“If I could go right to that website… attached to the museum… it is a huge help, rather than spending an hour searching other resources.”
From our concept we built, Ideas to Inspire: A robust digital reference tool for resourceful and passionate educators. Ideas to inspire is a visually-focused and comprehensive section of The Carle’s website with art project ideas for both teachers and parents. The content is inspired by the exhibits, books, and classes offered at the Museum. Our final redesign had three main sections; the Homepage, Ideas to Inspire search page and the Lesson Plan page.
The Carle Homepage was in need of a refresh. We did a cart sort to identify a new and improved information architecture that simplified the groupings and made it more intuitive for users to find what they were looking for. We ensured that hours, tickets, and location were most prominent because we received feedback from users that those were difficult to find on the current site layout. The Homepage showcased the events, exhibits, and the Carle's mission prominently because our users were frequently visiting to see this information. Since the museum frequently showcases images on social, we added an Instagram feed to the homepage to keep the beautiful artwork front and center.
The Ideas to Inspire search page is easy to navigate with search and filter functions so our users can find lessons that meet their criteria. Users are able to sort by different categories such as grade level, material/technique, season/holiday and common core standard. The projects cards are prominent and contain images of the final project for users to easily reference when browsing. Our users really enjoyed how easy it was to find projects that were tailored to their needs. They felt this page provided ample lesson inspiration that they could use frequently.
The lesson plan detail page contains easy step-by-step instructions for the art project and images. It also provides a list of materials that are needed to make it easy for our users to gather and links to the Carle ArtKit for the project that users can purchase. There is a list of picture books that utilize collages to reinforce our user's lesson plans. Based on testing, we added the Common Core Standards for our users to reference. Users enjoyed how easy to follow the directions were and took care of the hard work of lesson planning out. At the bottom of the lesson, there are recommendations that link to purchase an Art Kit with everything she’ll need for the activity, explore an Interactive Online Exhibit to show her students how artists are applying collage to their work, or even look into more books that’ll work well with her lesson plan. Users thought this lesson plan was very comprehensive and felt it was a resource they would visit over and over again.
You can check out the full prototype here.
Moving forward we had recommendations on how we can bring this solution to life and also help solve for some of the business challenges the Carle is facing.
I learned so much in such a short amount of time through this project. It was inspiring and exciting to work with a museum that was passionate about serving their community through their mission. One of my key takeaways for this project was to learn from my teammate's strengths. Our team got into the groove really quickly and found we each brought something different to the table from our unique backgrounds. Collaborating with my teammates I was able to learn from them and consider other points of view. We had such a strong partnership because of our mutual trust and understanding of our abilities. We were able to lean on each other's skills to create a cohesive product that best solved for our users.
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