institution: USS Midway Museum
category: Marketing and Promotion
In 2004, the USS Midway Museum opened its doors as a museum and attraction in San Diego, California.
This attraction would prove to be unlike anything San Diego had seen before, becoming not just a destination for visitors to add to their travel itineraries, but truly transforming into a symbolic icon of military service, appreciation, and freedom in the nation.
Today, a mere 14 years later, the USS Midway Museum has become the chosen destination to millions of visitors from around the world, launched several successful STEAM education programs, transformed into a leading special event location, and become part of the fabric of San Diego.
In a small time the needs of our organization have grown in a big way, and after years of discussing a website redesign – in 2016, this project finally began.
About the Redesign
From sitemap restructuring to conceptualizing an all-new style guide to creating an online experience for guests prior to their visit – we made the decision to perform this paramount task in-house.
With a small team of 4 within the Midway’s Marketing and Exhibits departments, we took on an ordinary project and completed it in an extraordinary way.
Through extensive research, we identified the following key areas that guided this project:
- Create unique experiences for each user personas/journeys.
One of our first steps was to identify our stakeholders. This spurred the development of 6 user personas representing our various audiences and their respective journeys on the site.
Our top user was identified as the museum visitor hoping to purchase tickets online for their family and learn about admission hours, parking, directions, and potential events taking place that day.
In response to this specific need, we developed a landing page that appears prominently linked on our homepage titled “Plan Your Adventure” that acts as a one-stop shop for our priority website visitor to find all information they may be looking for.
We added additional features to our homepage including museum hours and a daily weather tool on the header as well as “Buy Ticket” buttons in various locations to quickly convert our website user into an onboard guest.
We treated each persona with the same mindset and improved content and forms that have already made a huge impact on improving the user experience on our site as well as internal processes within our departments.
- Highlight events calendar.
On our previous website, our events calendar required 3+ clicks to locate. We remedied this by adding an “Upcoming Events” tab on our homepage to feature major events.
Our programs have increased in popularity and become a revenue stream for the museum, so it was important to make them visible and easy to access.
- Focus on accessibility.
Being that we are a retired aircraft carrier built in 1945, accessibility is something we strive to improve onboard daily. We incorporated the same mentality for our website redesign project.
We generated a style guide that included elements like color variations, several buttons and text sizes, background shading, and icons to illustrate calls to action for a wide variety of web users. We also implemented Google Translate technology on our top header to cater to our increasing international audience.
One of the largest improvements we employed was a responsive design to cater to users on various devices. We wanted functions like purchasing tickets, making donations, and accessing information to be seamless whether the user was on a desktop computer, mobile device, or tablet.
Our staff and volunteers are a diverse group from all walks of life ranging from teens to seniors, so we chose to lead a small focus group among our internal audience to test potential areas of improvement prior to launch.
Many features that were popular among our less “tech-savvy” users were the easy-to-access search tool in the header, breadcrumbs & side navigation, and strong photo and video assets that lead the user on a visual journey.
- Integrate social media imagery and sharing options.
This project acted as a catalyst for our organization to build a digital marketing plan. Applying this to our website, we focused on content creation that encouraged and increased sharing.
We moved our Ship Historian’s blog from being posted exclusively on Facebook to now living on our website. Each blog shares a new historic story about the USS Midway and features social sharing buttons at the bottom of the page to encourage readers to post on social media platforms.
Social sharing buttons have been added to all event pages and content-rich pages like our aircraft gallery index that provides historical and statistical information about our 30 aircraft onboard.
- Involve each department in the website project.
We used the website redesign project to strengthen each departments connection to the website, inviting them to be part of the beginning phases to encourage ownership of their sections.
We surveyed and met with over 15 departments to identify their user needs and allowed them to provide their input before and after launch.
- Organize, organize, organize – the sitemap and all content.
This process took the longest amount of time, research, and collaboration. A big source of confusion on our previous site was a double navigation bar that felt busy and unclear to the user.
We simplified this area by reviewing over 300 content pages on our previous site, identifying the priority content that would move on to the new site, and eliminating content that was outdated or unnecessary.
- Develop a streamlined process for website updates.
To maintain the integrity of the website moving forward, we implemented a service desk tool that allows employees to submit tickets for website changes and updates.
This software allows us to track the progress of each ticket in one location and has streamlined our website update process tremendously.
- Build a custom backend to improve website editing for Web Team.
Our Web Developer assembled several modules, plug-ins, and shortcuts to develop a custom new website for us using WordPress.
This level of customization has made a huge impact on website updates on the back end and has incorporated automation, scheduling tools, advanced forms, improved SEO, and several 3rd party integrations. Our ability to track website analytics and metrics has increased and will continue to grow.
We completed and launched the new website in January 2018 to hundreds of excited staff, volunteers, partners, and guests!
We focused on creating an experience for our guests online that more closely related to the once-in-a-lifetime experience we see our museum guests have when they step onboard the largest aircraft carrier of the 20th century.
This website redesign project was a great new addition to our online audience but it also acted as the foundation to improving internal processes resulting in a huge impact on the USS Midway Museum as a whole!
Note: The USS Midway Museum Website Redesign Presentation is included in this submission as a video. Here is a link to access this presentation as a slideshow if this view is preferred: USS Midway Museum: Website Redesign Presentation