In this lightning talk we present a nationwide online Visitor Motivation Study conducted across two dozen institutional websites in 2015/16.
Based on research by John Falk, we used his predictive model of visitor experience outlined in the book as the framework for our survey. In Falk's book "Identity and the Museum Visitor Experience," he identifies five key types of visitors who attend museums and the internal motivations that drive repeat visitation: Experience Seeker; Explorer; Socializer; Recharger; Hobbyist / Professional.
The technical implementation is similar to the one used in a website visitor motivation survey by the Indianapolis Museum of Art. That survey was presented at MW in 2012.
Our project includes simultaneous surveys on 24 museum websites, pairing an IMA-style Google Analytics-powered backend with segments adapted from Falk’s motivation framework. Since the IMA’s presentation at MW 2012, studies following IMA’s methodology have been reproduced at various institutions. Our work is distinct in that it looks at the data in aggregate. Seeking to identify patterns or trends across the sector, we hope to understand the similarities and differences in our audience segments by region, population density, etc, and test Falk’s research as it applies to online audiences.
My name is Sarah Wambold and I am the Director of Digital Media at the Clyfford Still Museum. And this is Marty Spellerberg, Principal of Spellerberg Associates.
We are conducting a study with two dozen museums and cultural organizations across the country.
The project surveys the motivations of visitors to museum websites, based on the framework of visitor motivation developed by museum researcher John Falk. The quantitative data is collected through each institution’s Google Analytics account.
In his book Identity and the Museum Visitor Experience, Falk identifies five key types of visitors who attend museums and the internal motivations that drive repeat visitation. These motivations are Explorer, Facilitator, Experience Seeker; Professional/Hobbyist; Recharger.
This is what the survey looks like. It appears on every page of the website, pinned to the bottom of the window. Users click it and it opens up.
The survey options are consistent across every institution. But the fonts and color are customized to match the individual site’s design.
The technical implementation is similar to the one used in a website visitor motivation survey by the Indianapolis Museum of Art. That survey was presented here at MW in 2012.
We have a version of the code packaged as a WordPress plugin, and a version packaged as a Drupal module. The underlying survey code can be adapted to any platform.
When the visitor chooses a motivation, it sets the Custom Dimension. This is a text string indicating their choice. And that’s the extent of the additional info we’re collecting. The rest is standard Google Analytics. The response is retained for the duration of the browsing session.
Participants are using the data to better understand how visitors are using their website and inform their work at their individual institutions. Here’s a report I ran for the Clyfford Still Museum.
This is website visitor sessions, broken down by motivation. The red area represents the “facilitators,” people who are planning a visit for a group.
One of the things that really resonated with me from Falk’s book is that most museums’ marketing is based on the exhibition schedule, but that most museum visitors have little if any prior knowledge of what’s on. This is particularly true of the Facilitators group, which prompted me to suggest to my institution that our next marketing campaign should be, “Look smart to your friends. Come to the Clyfford Still.”
One of the other advantages of this study is the ability to compare data across institutions. Here’s that same “sessions by motivation,” but for all participants. This allows us to spot trends.
In this chart, the “facilitators” are, again, red. As you can see, there’s a fairly consistent breakdown of audience in this way, with Facilitators taking the largest slice of the pie.
But there are also some outliers, which raises interesting questions about what makes those websites unique and what conclusions we can draw from that. We’ve only just begun to unpack the data.
We had such a great response since we launched this project. This is not just a research study, but a community of museums who are looking to better understand their online audiences.
In order to facilitate those conversations, we’ve started a forum on Slack. Professionals from each institution use this forum to ask questions and share knowledge.
We have threads dedicated to better understanding audience behavior; to website redesign projects; and to determining the benchmarks and trends that hold true across institutions.
A huge shout out to all the participants for this study. If you are from one of these institutions, please stand up. If you’re interested in learning more about the study, please feel free to say hi to any of us.
Falk Meets Online Motivation: A Nationwide Survey Project
The National Museum Website
Visitor Motivation Survey
Sarah Wambold Marty Spellerberg
Clyfford Still Museum Spellerberg Associates
Art21 ○ Art Gallery of Ontario
Aspen Art Museum ○ Chicago Architecture Foundation
Chinese American Museum Los Angeles ○ Clockshop
Clyfford Still Museum ○ Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis
de Young Museum ○ Hammer Museum
Houston Center for Contemporary Craft
Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston ○ Illinois Holocaust Museum
Legion of Honor ○ The Menil Collection
Museum of Contemporary Art Denver
Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University
Nasher Sculpture Center ○ Portland Art Museum
Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences
Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History ○ Warhol Museum
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
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