NCMA Site Part 2: The Designer’s Perspective

Jun 6, 2015 | Design

For the second part in our series on the newly renovated NCMA website, we hear the Designer’s Perspective from Leo Hageman of Re:think Studios. Leo was the lead designer behind the NCMA website project and here is his behind-the-scenes perspective:

SG: How did you guys land such an awesome client like NCMA?

LH: The North Carolina Museum of Art invited Re:think to bid on the redesign and development of their website. We had no previous connection with museum and were very fortunate to have been approached by Jennifer Bahus, the museum’s new Marketing Director, because of our background in ExpressionEngine based site development and previous work for other nonprofits.

SG: How did you go about selecting a team to work on this project?

LH: The NCMA upgrade required a sizable team so we called on our good friends at Wide Open Tech for assistance with the front and backend development. We put a great deal of effort into our proposal and were very proud to hear we were selected. 

SG: In your proposal you mention drawing inspiration from the Louvre’s website. What else inspired your design?

LH: We took a minimalist approach to the design of the website so that the art would remain the focus. We established a look and feel for the layout based in part on the brand guidelines established by the renowned design consultancy, Pentagram. We built the site on a responsive framework so that the content would resize for different devices. This meant a lot of extra work but also meant that the mobile experience wouldn’t suffer. 

Designer's Perspective

SG: What were some of the custom-built features of this project?

LH: Wide Open Tech built a number of custom javascript based components starting with an expanding slideshow on the homepage. They created a photo essay slideshow that would allow any length of descriptive content for each slide that works both for desktop and mobile users. Another custom build was the interactive park map allowing site visitors to explore the outdoor collection. 

SG: What were the biggest challenges you all faced with this site overhaul?

LH: The museum’s website faced a number of challenges. The most obvious of which was that it didn’t communicate the great number of things going on at the museum everyday. With so much to see and take part in, we wanted the new website’s homepage to focus on creating a gateway for each segment of the visitors, so that no one felt left out. Basically, we wanted to make it easy for users to find what they were looking for whether that might be upcoming exhibitions, collection information, blog articles, tours, evening events, family activities, or park information. We also wanted to create hierarchy to make certain content more prominent. As with most museum websites the complexity of the various levels of navigation becomes a challenge as you dig deeper into the site. We addressed this by condensing the primary navigation into a fly out menu for tertiary pages. 

One of the biggest challenges that the NCMA faced was that their various sites and services were spread out on multiple servers. This made things hard to manage and added unnecessary cost. Wide Open Tech was able to consolidate everything to one server with backup and load overage protection.

SG: How was it working with Wide Open Tech?

LH: Wide Open Tech was instrumental in the planning and development the website. We couldn’t have tackled such a large project without their expertise and talented team of developers.

Designer's Perspective

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