Who reviewed this?! A survey on museum Web publishing in 2018

Susan Wigodner, The Field Museum, USA, Caitlin Kearney, The Field Museum, USA

Abstract

In publishing content for the Web, museums rely on a range of staff, tools, and processes—some clearly defined, others less so. Developing a workflow and editorial review process can help organizations stay on-brand, consistent, and credible, yet many (including the writers’ home institution) are still working to develop publishing models that consistently produce high-quality content appropriate to their online audiences. This paper explores the results of a survey conducted in late 2017/early 2018 on how teams in museums and other cultural organizations edit, format, publish, and manage content for their organization’s websites. As this was a small, non-representative survey of 32 institutions, it shouldn’t be considered definitive research on Web publishing in museums. However, the results begin to highlight differences among processes at large and small museums, as well as some potential trends in how museums organize their workflows. The responses also point to opportunities for institutions to exchange knowledge in specific areas, like sharing code or CMS resources and implementing accessibility standards. Though different museums have varying needs, this paper takes a first look at how some are currently approaching content workflows and structures.

Keywords: web publishing, digital content, content management, editing, blogging, workflow

Introduction

The Field Museum has a distributed approach to Web publishing, with more than 100 people on staff who can create content for its website, fieldmuseum.org. Most of those staff members can publish their content live without others having to review it. The lack of a formally governed content review can cause problems in consistency, formatting, and accessibility, as well as staff communication. An opportunity to rethink our Web publishing processes arose in 2017, when the Field Museum started a website redesign and an institutional rebranding, both scheduled to launch in spring 2018.

Wondering if others were considering similar challenges and how they addressed them, we decided to develop a survey. While some may question what we at a large institution like the Field can learn from smaller museums who may have less expertise in Web publishing, we agree with Seema Rao’s take: “In order to maintain and grow audiences, museums of all kinds should be looking to others to see what is working… The desire to share collections with visitors is greater than anything that separates us” (Rao, 2018).

Many of the questions asked in this survey are directly related to challenges we are attempting to address at the Field Museum. However, we strived to make them broadly applicable—and therefore, useful—to a wide range of museums. We make occasional references to the Field Museum in this paper to share experiences others may find relevant.

Challenges of examining Web publishing

In this effort to streamline our internal processes, we first looked to other museums. Though we were able to identify online content that outwardly appeared well-produced and appropriate to the museum’s audience, we found less information about the behind-the-scenes processes that made such content possible. The Content Marketing Institute (http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/), Contently (http://www.contently.com), and GatherContent (https://www.gathercontent.com), all Web platforms that provide tools for managing and reviewing content, share a broad range of resources. While we still sought examples of proven processes in action at museums, these organizations provided a starting point.

We had the chance to talk with Robert Mills, Content Strategist at GatherContent. To augment their product, a platform designed for teams to produce Web content, GatherContent provides online resources including articles, e-books, and webinars. Launched in 2012, GatherContent continues to define their own production process with a small team, but works to provide resources to organizations of all sizes. Mill pointed to some strategies that scale regardless of the size or type of organization:

  • Someone should own the content production process. It’s important to have a point of contact who understands and manages your workflow. Without an owner, you risk inconsistency, lack of focus, and content not getting developed at all.
  • Define your editorial strategy. Who is your content for? How is it supporting your organization? Where will it live? Answering these questions will help you create content (or tell you when developing a particular piece of content isn’t worth your time).
  • Having a basic style guide is better than no style guide at all. You don’t have to answer every potential question right away. But make sure you find ways to communicate the essentials, potentially as part of the onboarding process for new staff, and tell everyone where they can find it.
  • Give your reviewers the information they need. Are you asking a subject matter expert to review facts or asking a colleague for general proofreading? By specifying what you need, you’ll help your reviewers focus and keep your content production process moving. (Mills, personal communication, January 10, 2018).

Plenty of materials provide theoretical discussions of how organizations should consider content workflows, but very few are explicit about putting theory into practice. How many staff members are involved in a publishing process? Are those dedicated staff members, or many people spending a small percentage of their time? Not only do organizations have style guides, but also, what do they look like?

To get at what peer institutions actually do, we made the choice to collect survey responses from as many museums and associated organizations as we could get to respond. While conducting interviews might have provided greater depth on some topics or more defined recommendations for how a process should function, we first wanted to reflect the current state of Web publishing in museums. We do not claim that this is a statistically significant sample. Rather, we hope the results that follow will provide a starting point to consider additional questions about Web publishing in museums and how we might advocate for institutional change, distribute knowledge and resources, and consider working more effectively across the field on shared challenges.

Survey methodology

The survey was developed to collect details about staffing models, publishing privileges, review processes, and training. Working with colleagues with backgrounds in audience research, Web publishing, and digital engagement, we refined the survey to 25 questions, some qualitative and some quantitative.

In Content Strategy for the Web, Second Edition, Kristina Halvorson and Melissa Rach highlight two “people components” of Web publishing strategy: workflow and governance. They define workflow as “What processes, tools, and human resources are required for content initiatives to launch successfully and maintain ongoing quality,” and governance as “How are key decisions about content and content strategy made? How are changes initiated and communicated?” (Halvorson & Rach, 2012). In our survey, we focused primarily on workflow and the human and technical resources needed to maintain a museum’s website, rather than higher-level content strategy.

Figure 1: getting the word out on Twitter

After publishing the survey on Monday, December 11, 2017, we shared the survey regularly on Twitter, as well as Facebook (via the Museum Social Media Managers and Emerging Museum Professionals groups) and the Museum Computer Network (MCN) listserv. We also reached out to colleagues directly. One-quarter to one-third of responses received came from direct outreach, though the holidays hampered response times. We closed the survey on Saturday, January 6, 2018, having received 35 individual responses from 32 museums and associated organizations.

Survey respondents

Results discussed below consider the responses provided by 32 institutions. When there were multiple responses from a single institution, we considered those responses to represent the single institution in the aggregate.

Geographic distribution

The majority of responses came from museums in the United States (81%), but we also received responses from museums in Canada (1), Germany (1), Spain (1), Sweden (1), and the United Kingdom (2).

Type of museum

Museums were not asked to self-identify by type, but we assigned type categories later based on how the American Alliance of Museums categorizes its member organizations (http://www.aam-us.org/about-us). Responses came from approximately 40% art museums, 20% history museums or historical societies, 20% science and/or natural history museums, and 20% from others, which included larger organizations, multi-disciplinary museums, archives, and one children’s museum.

Staff size

Pie chart distribution of "How many people total does your institution have on staff?"
Figure 2: institution staff sizes as reported by respondents

Nearly 30% of respondents work at institutions with fewer than 50 staff members; some mentioned having just a few in free-response comments. Eight museums represented (25%) have more than 300 staff members, and included in that number, the Field Museum is one of just four museums represented with more than 500 people on staff.

Departments

Web publishing is most likely to be managed by some sort of digital-specific department (12 respondents, nearly 40%), or Communications (19%) or Marketing (19%). Respondents from smaller museums indicated their websites are managed by the executive director or staff responsible for operations or general administration. One response referenced a recently implemented “Content” team responsible for managing content across exhibitions, Web, and social media.

Interestingly, 54% of art museums indicated that a “digital-specific” department is responsible for their institution’s Web presence. Only one out of seven history museums represented chose digital-specific, and one out of eight natural history or science museums. A possible explanation is that art museums have been dedicating resources to digital for longer, with highly visual collections increasingly made available online.

Loic Tallon of The Metropolitan Museum of Art drilled down more specifically into the nature of digital-centric departments and work at art museums, noting that while their motivations for creation were similar, “little is shared across digital departments in…their scope, organisational design, job titling, reporting structure, and even their name vary greatly” (Tallon, 2017).

Ten of the 12 art museum digital departments that Tallon examined manage Web content, but only five of the 12 provide “editorial services for online content.” Perhaps, while greater structure in Web content publishing processes is needed, this organization shouldn’t necessarily come in the form of structuring people into discrete departments. Rather, how can processes flow across departments?

Content management systems

Pie chart distribution of "What content management system (CMS) are you using to manage your site?"
Figure 3: content management systems in use by respondents

Drupal was by far the most common content management system (CMS) in use by respondents (nearly 50%), followed by WordPress (11%). Interestingly, only one respondent’s organization uses the most recent version of Drupal (Drupal 8), released in November 2015, which is perhaps indicative of the challenge of investing in digital infrastructure updates.

WordPress tended to be in use by smaller organizations or those with smaller publishing teams. Organizations with fewer staff members are more likely to use a less common CMS. Other than Drupal and WordPress, no two organizations cited using the same platform; others mentioned include ProcessWire, Perch, Magnolia, Ektron, Typo3, and Concrete5.

Staffing

We asked questions about numbers of staff with Web content creation or management as a primary job responsibility versus secondary responsibility, as well as the number of developers on staff. We also asked respondents to share if any non-staff members were involved in managing or creating Web content.

Staff involved in publishing

Generally, museums with larger staff sizes have more staff members focused on managing and creating Web content, but often still just a few people. Only 12% of respondents indicated their museums have four or more staff members who consider managing or creating Web content as one of their primary job responsibilities, and half of those are large organizations with multiple affiliated sites.

Museums with larger staffs (more than 100) are more likely to have staff who manage or create Web content outside their primary job responsibilities. However, only a small number of respondents (20%) have more than 10 other staff members involved in Web publishing using the CMS, and a very small percentage (10% of total) have more than 50 staff members with publishing privileges. Museums of various sizes also have volunteers and interns who contribute to managing and creating Web content.

Software development expertise

Fewer than half of museums surveyed (47%) indicated they have one or more developers on staff who work on their website. Unsurprisingly, no museum with fewer than 50 staff members employs a developer. In museums with 50 to 100 staff members, we started to see developers added, particularly in art museums. Art museums are also more likely to have multiple developers than non-art museums of similar size. Only two museums, both in the UK, had more than three developers—both of those organizations are using or moving towards using more complex content management systems (either a custom CMS or headless—a backend-only CMS that can be used to make content available across a range of front-end platforms using an API).

Publishing privileges

Prior to this survey, our team at the Field started considering a “funnel system” that would allow for many website authors but few publishers. In the context of survey responses, we found that the Field Museum is an outlier in sheer number of publishers: it is the only institution that has 50+ people able to publish live to the website. The most common answer, with 47% of responses, was that two to three people can publish content to their institution’s live website. About a quarter of museums represented have four to seven publishers.

On the whole, institutions with four to seven people who can publish live have larger overall staff sizes than do those with two to three people who can publish live. This suggests a correlation between overall staff size and number of people who can publish content live to the site: smaller staff size relates to fewer publishers.

But how does the Field Museum’s number of live content publishers (50+) compare to other institutions of similar overall staff size (500+)? Three other responding organizations have 500+ staff: one has 25 to 49 live publishers, one has eight to ten live publishers, and, in stark contrast, one has only two to three live publishers. The Field was the only organization of this size without a style guide (though we do have one in development), and where Web publishing is not managed by a single digital-specific department.

Drafting privileges

The survey differentiated between publishers and authors—those who can draft but not publish content live to the site. A third of respondents indicated that “anyone who can draft content can publish it.” Institutions with smaller Web publishing teams—those with seven or fewer people who publish as part of their jobs—nearly universally allow all authors to publish. About 20% said that two to three people can draft but not publish; 19% said that 11 to 24 people can draft but not publish.

Generally, we saw a higher number of drafters than publishers and found that it’s common for publishing privileges to vary by type of content (60% of responses), something the Field Museum does not currently do. This supported our initial thinking that a system with more authors and fewer publishers might be something for us to consider. It’s important to ask, though, why museums might trend toward having this funnel-style approach: Is this a legacy model that comes from museums’ struggle to decentralize authority and embrace a more open sharing of ideas—i.e., are some museum staff not trusted to produce content? Conversely, should all staff who want to write for the Web be trained in creating public-friendly content, or is that an inefficiency to be avoided?

One of the New Media Consortium’s 2012 “Metatrends” in education technology was that of “Openness”: concepts like open content, open data, and open resources, along with notions of transparency and easy access to data and information” (New Media Consortium, 2012). It seems that an ongoing question is, how do we balance the desire for open information sharing and multiple voices/authors while also ensuring consistency in certain aspects of Web content?

As this survey did not directly address content development, it did not explore a user-centered approach to design for content. This is a challenge we face at the Field Museum: We have many publishers with deep expertise in their areas, but no mechanism for ensuring that content is crafted with the goal of serving a specific audience. We don’t want to dilute expertise, but we do want to apply a layer of user-centered strategy across content, as well as a layer of consistent style.

Certainly, how museums are perceived externally by their online audiences is one of the many complex factors for consideration in how content workflows operate internally. If institutions like the Field want to formalize Web publishing workflows and review processes, we should consider creating integrated teams that are able to comprehensively address such multifaceted criteria.

Staff with drafting access

In a free response question, we found that staff in departments or areas “outside of a dedicated publishing team” are able to draft content. Thirteen out of 28 responses mentioned education as being an area outside of a dedicated publishing team that can draft content. Others responses varied from “music staff” to “research and collections” to “development.” The survey did not explore motivations for allowing drafting privileges in certain areas but not others. For example, are education staff more free to draft because they have a clearly defined area of expertise? Or is it because the information they’re sharing is considered utilitarian and less up-for-debate than more interpretive content?

We also didn’t ask respondents to define their “publishing team” in any way—whether it’s a contained department, an organized team that cuts across multiple departments or disciplines, or an informal group. Some responses suggest a more organized system of determining which staffers can draft content—“A few specific Comms staff can draft and publish content in certain areas of the website, like press releases and news articles”—while others appear to operate on a case-by-case basis: “If anybody wants to contribute content…then we’ll try to figure out a way to let it happen.”

Distributed publishing teams

In the 2015 Museums and the Web paper titled “Divide and conquer: Strategies for decentralizing Web content management,” Mandy Kritzeck outlined a Web content workflow involving “Power Users”; staff in different departments at Corning Museum of Glass who can draft or edit content types depending on area(s) of the site that specifically relate to their jobs. While Kritzeck argues that distribution of Web publishing responsibilities has been effective, she reflects on the challenges of maintaining long-term expertise and engagement outside the dedicated digital team (Kritzeck, 2015). Kritzeck’s experience is supported by survey respondents, who mention staff members who are uncomfortable using the CMS, use the CMS infrequently, or whose work requires fixing after being published.

Survey responses showed a more limited spread of departments when it came to publishing without review from anyone else. Out of 24 free responses, four stated that there are no content areas that do not require review, implying that a clear review process is in place. Others indicated specific content areas that do not require review, from the blog to events to press releases, indicating a similar level of definition around reviewing content.

Review process

We sought to gain insight into both editorial review of content as well as formatting (technical or functional) review. We hoped to better understand whether content review is systematized, and if so, how (technically enforced, editorial workflow implemented, other)?

Tools and platforms used for review

In response to the multiple select question “What tools or platforms do you use to review/edit content?”, about 66% of respondents indicated they use their CMS as a tool to review and/or edit content. About 63% indicated they use Microsoft Word documents to review and/or edit content, and about 49% use Google Docs. It’s clear that these different tools can be used for different types of reviews: a CMS might check SEO, analytics, and Web accessibility, while a document-based platform may be used for copyediting and editorial review.

Pie chart distribution of "Is your CMS configured in a way that requires content to be reviewed by specific people in a specific order?”
Figure 4: content management system use in managing review process

In response to the question “Is your CMS configured in a way that requires content to be reviewed by specific people in a specific order?”, 56% of museums indicated that they don’t have a formal review process. More than half that group, however, also cited that “Anyone who can draft content can publish it.” Of respondents who do not enforce a formal review process, the Field was again an outlier, with more than 50 publishers not subject to a strict review process. Museums with higher numbers of publishers were more likely to have a formal review process, whether or not that process was formally enforced using a CMS.

Editorial review

Style guides provide a means of standardizing editorial content review. In conjunction with our new brand identity, the Field Museum brought together people from different teams—Marketing, Digital, Public Relations, Institutional Advancement, Exhibitions—to solidify a museum-wide editorial style guide, a process that is still ongoing. In response to our survey, 43% said that they have a style guide but their staff could be better about using it, and 23% do not have one but are currently developing one.

Review considerations

To help define different review factors, we asked “What do you value when reviewing and formatting content for the Web? Here, we listed eight areas and asked respondents to select “We currently consider this” or “I wish we considered this more” for each one.

Chart showing responses to "What do you value when reviewing content?"
Figure 5: qualities considered in reviewing content

It may not be surprising that given the binary nature of the question, the results are very nearly inverted. The factor currently considered most is “grammar, misspellings, and general copyediting”; something that’s easy to review objectively, especially with a style guide in place. The most wished-for is “ensuring content meets accessibility standards,” an area that many museums (including the authors’ own) struggle to implement, especially when many content creators are involved. This is a key area for potential knowledge-sharing among museums. For example, the Carnegie Museums openly discuss their Web accessibility updates and provide a resource for others (http://web-accessibility.carnegiemuseums.org/).

Since we knew the eight review factors we outlined were not comprehensive, we provided a follow-up question, asking respondents to explain other factors they consider “when reviewing or formatting content.” Responses included SEO and analytics; opportunities for hyperlinking; image crediting; relevance; and meeting expectations of guests, among others. These responses further illustrate the varying components of review, some of which are technical and some of which may be more editorial or strategic.

Training and resources

We asked survey respondents to provide information about training processes for staff who draft and publish content, as well as about ongoing training and communication. All museums represented either provide no up-front training or a limited amount (anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours). Only a very small number of respondents have documented training materials for staff, either written or video.

Screenshot of The Getty Iris: 5 Guidelines for Authors
Figure 6: the Getty’s blog guidelines for authors, as shared with MCN attendees in 2016

One seemingly rare example of publicly available training materials for staff is the Getty’s guidelines for blog authors, as well as their guidelines for editors and production staff. Annelisa Stephan shared resources from the Getty with museum community members in a workshop at the Museum Computer Network Conference in 2016 (Stephan & Byrd-McDevitt, 2016). While guidelines ultimately need to be specific to each institution’s staff and mission, one organization’s review framework could certainly be useful to others as a guidepost.

If ongoing training or communication is provided to staff, it tends to be about particular questions, or in response to new features or changes in protocol. At the Field, we found the initial hour of training we provided did not result in confident content creators or effective content. With many content creators with different needs, our team started hosting biweekly office hours to work one-on-one with other staff (some content creators, some without publishing privileges who needed our team’s help to make website updates). In the first year of office hours, we hosted more than 50 staff members for more than 70 visits. While the in-person conversations have helped facilitate more effective content creation and CMS use, our team expends a significant amount of time assisting and communicating with staff in other departments—perhaps more than we might creating content on our own or making changes only when requested.

In survey results, there were no obvious correlations between the amount of training received and whether those institutions’ staff make use of a style guide effectively. It seems likely that the effectiveness of an institution’s style guide is less directly linked to Web publishing practices, and perhaps more closely related to an institution’s overall use and enforcement of style guide policies.

Learnings and future Considerations

Survey reflections

As we take a step back, we can see holes in our approach to tackling the question of how museums manage Web publishing. Thirty-two museums is a tiny sample, and we could have explored certain topics in much greater depth. Though none of the survey results surprised us, we gleaned a number of valuable insights—many of which are actionable for both the Field Museum and museums at large. The challenge is not in defining an ideal process or best practice, but the day-to-day work of structuring a Web publishing process. Looking at the results holistically, we considered topics or questions that, retrospectively, may have been useful additions to the survey:

  • We did not specifically call out a distinction between editorial review (style considerations or copyediting) versus a more technical review (CMS formatting, SEO, accessibility, etc.). As institutions have varied structures and roles, these duties may occur in different departments (e.g., some have editorial teams or an institutional editor who might not be involved in publishing Web content, and vice versa). We mainly solicited responses from those with Web publishing as a primary job responsibility, which may have excluded relevant responses from others who manage Web content more informally.
  • A few respondents indicated in free-response answers that they’ve recently updated their CMS or relaunched their website. It may have been interesting to ask questions like “How recently was your website updated?” and “How recently was your brand updated?” A website redesign does not necessarily require reconsidering publishing privileges, but we’ve found in the Field Museum’s own website redesign and rebranding project that the process brings up a range of questions to solve.

Small vs. large museums

Perhaps one of the clearest trends among survey responses is that there are Web publishing staffing and process differences related to overall organization size. Smaller museums typically have fewer staff (if any) devoted to Web publishing, as employees likely take on a wider range of duties and don’t have the resources to focus specifically on Web publishing. But the percentage of staff who are in some way involved in Web publishing—either as a primary or secondary job responsibility—is not necessarily predictable in relation to overall staff size.

Generally, smaller museums seemed to have less formal review processes. In response to the question “Is your CMS configured in a way that requires content to be reviewed by specific people in a specific order?”, about two-thirds of organizations with 200 or fewer staff said they did not have a formal review process. In contrast, about a third of organizations with 200 or more staff did not have a formal review process. Is a review process necessary? Perhaps not in some organizations, especially those with few staff members. When large numbers of staff are publishing, however, a review process can help ensure greater consistency and accountability.

The existence of and adherence to an editorial style guide seemed more varied in relation to size. One-third of museums with 100 or fewer staff indicated “We don’t have [a style guide] or short-term plans to develop one.” Only one museum out of 19 with more than 100 staff that did not have a style guide indicated their institution has no plans to develop one. Style guides and editorial workflows, like many other elements of a publishing process, seem to present a catch-22 for museums of all sizes. Small museums may have less of an immediate need for one, with fewer people informally agreeing upon certain guidelines. However, it might be easier to implement and formalize editorial style guides and workflows when staff sizes are small. As an institution grows, a pre-existing process could become something that’s deeply ingrained in institutional practices later on. Larger institutions like the Field Museum may find that structure is more of an immediate need—but it can be more difficult to broadly implement unifying policies across many staff members with various engrained and sometimes siloed ways of reviewing content.

Museums of all sizes may consider looking to organizations outside our field to to find guidance on how to implement editorial workflows. In an article on Contently.com, a technology company that creates software products for brands to manage their content, sums up this idea in for-profit terms: “A big bank producing a blog post could have a very different workflow than an educational startup putting together a 30-second explainer video. But regardless of the differentiating factors, there are ways you can simplify your publishing process” (Nelson, 2016). Though resources clearly play a determining factor, non-profit cultural institutions of different sizes—and with different missions—should take editorial processes seriously. Workflows can save museum staff members time and frustration, and ultimately make us better communicators and educators for our audiences. As some museums tackle creating and implementing editorial style guides and workflows, we need to look for ways to share them with other institutions.

Resources and information-sharing

One-hundred percent of our survey respondents were willing to talk further with us about their publishing process. In this survey, as well as anecdotally, we find our museum community colleagues to be an open and giving group of people. However, when asked “Do you have resources for staff content creators that you’re willing to share with us?” only one of our respondents was able to share a resource. Others cited, “We don’t have a training resource” or “none that we can make public, institution confidential.”

Developing training materials and style guides, again, are likely to be greater priorities for larger institutions whose Web publishing teams may have more staff dedicated to these tasks. While many museums, the Field included, develop training materials specific to their content management systems, are we missing an opportunity to develop basic resources that can be shared across institutions?

We think there are likely other ways to collaborate based on infrastructure needs. In our survey, smaller museums were somewhat more likely to be on WordPress or a less common CMS, while midsize to large museums often use Drupal. Might CMS user groups provide opportunities for collaboration and sharing of tools or modules that have been developed? Can larger museums develop standards or code repositories that can be adapted by smaller museums? Are there greater opportunities to consider employing a digital staff member, particularly a developer, across multiple museums, a la the Studio at Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh (https://studio.carnegiemuseums.org) or the Balboa Park Online Collaborative (http://www.bpoc.org)?

Web-based information sharing has been successful for the Museum Social Media Managers group on Facebook, where members—who are often the only staff in their roles at their institutions—can draw on others’ similar experiences (www.facebook.com/groups/musesocial). We can’t conclusively say our survey demonstrates interest in developing a similar mechanism for Web publishing staff to collaborate, but we do have a better understanding of some challenges, which might enable us to try.

Continuity challenges

Lack of formal training and documentation on Web publishing brings up concerns about institutional continuity. Especially in teams where perhaps just one or a few staff members create and publish web content, the departure of one person can leave an enormous hole in terms of knowledge on how the CMS works or how information is communicated. Particularly as the museum field as a whole considers why staff leave museum jobs (Erdman et al., 2017) and museum staff who work in digital advocate for salaries more competitive with their for-profit colleagues who do similar work (Koch & Maniam, 2017), the ongoing maintenance of museum websites—which are generally seen by more people than the number of visitors who walk through our doors—is highly susceptible to deteriorating over time.

Field Museum next steps

At the Field, we are in the midst of a rebrand and associated website redesign planned to launch in spring 2018. While this moment has provided unprecedented opportunity to reconsider institutional strategy and resources, the scope of work and timeline is such that we anticipate making iterative changes to our website and publishing process over the course of the next 12 to 18 months.

We plan to make changes to our publishing structure to have fewer publishers and more authors, supported by survey findings that our current approach (with many publishers) is something of an outlier even among large museums. Publishing privileges will likely become more specific to content areas rather than sitewide, and most content areas will require review by a member of our Digital Communications team prior to publication. We feel strongly that we must review new content for accessibility considerations and against our institutional style guide (at least for the foreseeable future after launch). Our team expects this will lead to more up-front conversations and time spent formatting Web content on behalf of other departments, but less time spent reviewing and updating content that has already been published.

We must also do a better job of providing resources and ongoing training to staff who remain involved in Web publishing. With dozens of content creators with different needs, it’s hard to identify systemic problems versus individual issues. We hope to take a cue from Robert Mills and the GatherContent team and think about how we can start with some basic Web content best practices, and scale our resources as we refine our site and publishing process over time. We will look for ways to separate content best practices from instructions on how to use our content management system in hopes that our resources can be of use to other institutions.

In spite of our imperfect process, we are heartened by the sense that survey responses and online articles clearly view Web publishing as rapidly changing and iterative. Rather than considering this paper the end of a survey project, we invite discussion about how we can work together to produce the best possible content for our museums’ online audiences, and advocate for the internal resources needed to do that.

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank all survey respondents for their participation—we look forward to your feedback and hope you find these results useful! Special thanks go to Patience Baach, Erin Blasco, and Julia Falkowski for their thoughtful feedback on how we could make this survey better and relevant to the broadest possible museum audience. And a shout-out to Brad Dunn, for supporting our plans for this paper, transparency in our work, and our frequent schemes for iterative improvement at the Field.

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Cite as:
Wigodner, Susan and Kearney, Caitlin. "Who reviewed this?! A survey on museum Web publishing in 2018." MW18: MW 2018. Published January 16, 2018. Consulted .
https://mw18.mwconf.org/paper/who-reviewed-this-a-survey-on-museum-web-publishing-in-2018/