Published on November 7, 2008
boundaries on content-rich websites pushing the
My name’s Russ
I work at the Australian Museum in Sydney
… which is located on the evil side of Australia
I’m going to tell you a story about the Australian Museum’s new website
… which will go live in March 2009 - four years after it was first conceived
For some of you, the ideas discussed here will not be new
Hopefully some of our experiences may be interesting or useful
Not all projects are fast. But you can still get there!
The Museum’s website was first created in 1994
The first major version was launched in 1997
Since then, the site has grown enormously…
Currently around 43,000 pages and 16 sites
trouble in paradise
The situation has gradually deteriorated over the last few years
Harder to maintain
Users cannot find content in the site easily
Traffic is gradually levelling off
Users can interact elsewhere more easily
The Museum website is not as relevant any more
time for a change?
Four years ago we went to management with an idea
To build a rich, interactive website
Focusing on four key interaction objectives :
1. Allow authors to communicate more directly and immediately
2. Allow users to communicate with Museum staff and each other
3. Allow users to interact with our content in a variety of ways
4. Allow users to share their own content
What did management think of our idea ?
Initially, there was some reluctance, but now everyone is on board !
how to implement?
There are two main approaches to implementing interactivity on a website
Approach 1: Small steps and test the water
Approach 2: Major overhaul of the entire site
In most cases, “sm all steps” are preferred
You can add components to an existing website without major work
You can test the impact of these changes and adjust as needed
Users can gradually adapt as the site changes
We chose the “ma jor overhaul” approach
Reason 1: Because our current site has so many issues …
Reason 2: The major overhaul will allow us to create an integrated system
Integrated system: allows authors to publish all content via one simple system
Integrated system: allows users to move seamlessly through any type of content
what to implement?
We need a wiki!
It’s very easy to be attracted to features for the wrong reasons
We didn’t want the site to become just a bunch of cool tools
So, during planning, we asked some key questions
Question 1: Will it match our aims and objectives ?
Question 2: Will it add value for users ?
Question 3: Will the feature fill a need ?
Question 4: What are the implications ?
Each feature of our new website has been debated and fought over
Nothing was added simply b e cause it’s cool
how will it work?
The overall site
Every piece of content will be an asset - no more “web pages”
content movies audios events documents…
Users can interact with any asset
share user-content add comments save favourites create sets add tags
What’s in it for users
Comment on any asset
Add tags to any asset
User tags will provide new methods of navigation and richer search
Create favourite sets and share these sets with others
Upload their own content
images movies audios stories
Apply for expert status
help monitor answer questions encourage discussion create content
What’s in it for staff
Every staff member will become an author
Publish assets directly (after training)
Own their assets
Create their own focused, passionate and personal blogs
Microblog instant news
Our team’s role will expand from content creation to content distribution and success tracking
Twitter, Facebook etc used to broadcast content as well as promote content
Video/audio housed on our site but also pushed out to variety of other sites (via tubemogul etc)
During planning we uncovered many questions and concerns
Hopefully these may help you if you’re in a similar situation …
Should staff be allowed to publish directly to the site ? In our case - YES 1
Should we have one voice ? - single corporate voice for some assets - different voices for types of assets - individual voices for blogs 2
Will we moderate user comments and tags? - no, we will use a simple login - then allow all comments tags 3
What if information in comments in wrong ? - authors can comment with authority - experts can step in and correct - community can eventually self-moderate 4
What if a tag seems irrelevant ? - every tag is sacred. - we have no right to judge tag relevance - tags are personal expressions 5
Will we be overwhelmed with questions via comments? - we wish! - we will have to work hard for every comment. - we will also have to accept that commenting may not happen in the way we envisage 6
Will comments occur more frequently on certain types of assets? - yes, we believe so. - blogs are more personal so commenting may be seen as easier. - a lot of this will come down to management of comments. 7
How will we measure success ? - goes way beyond tracking hits and normal stats - internally tracking comments, tags, members, search terms - external search terms - inbound links - tracking social tools such as twitter tracking, feedburner, technorati etc 8
How will we build communities ? In site - comment answering - encouraging feedback and sharing - eventually letting go Out of site - go to other places and let them know - use social distribution tools twitter - push out to niche bloggers etc Start with lots of hard work and encouragement. Gradually pull back. Eventually self-moderate. 9
The journey has been slow and painful
However, it’s also been lots of fun
If you are about to take the journey…
Make sure the features you add have a purpose
Think about all the possible issues before you start
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