The V&A is the world’s leading museum of art and design, home to over 3,000 years worth of artefacts from many of the world’s richest cultures. The V&A is a pioneer with digital activity. They recognise the important role digital plays with education, visitors and their patrons.

We have completed two major projects for the V&A. The first was the award-winning delivery of the information architecture and designs for the V&A’s ‘Search The Collection’ website. The second is the front end design and architecture work for the principle V&A Museum website.

The challenge

In 2009 the V&A commissioned Other Media to create an on-brand website, able to engage two principle audiences: the visiting public and virtual visitors from around the world. The website had to be easy to update and navigate; acting as a platform for rich media content such as video, slide shows etc. Community was a strong focus and the inclusion of content from the wider design community was a must. At any one time over 1 million artefacts are in storage and it is the V&A’s goal to offer this on permanent digital display.

In 2010 the V&A commissioned Other Media to update and enhance the web experience for museum visitors. This was to develop an online vision set to competently serve the V&A in the years ahead.

What we did

For the “Search The Collection” website we positioned the V&A’s values and ambitions, for the many hundreds of thousands of artefacts, at the heart of our creative thinking. Our solution is highly design-led while remaining accessible and easy to understand. The navigation systems developed are adaptive and change according to need to better reflect a user’s requirements.

We developed templates for 3 key pillars of content:

  • The V&A artefacts and exhibitions
  • The design community
  • Design views from other centres of design excellence

Together these give a fuller and often more personal story for the visitor.

For the main museum site we drilled down to the detail of the new site with an exhaustive style guide and remained on hand to offer advice and assistance to the V&A’s in-house online team that carried out the redesign. We delivered a dynamic, whilst also organic, browsing experience that uses an intuitive navigation system to guide visitors quickly to the information they seek while suggesting new areas to explore. It is designed to offer the V&A’s extensive content in a way that is uncluttered, logical and easy to navigate and will continue to seamlessly incorporate user-generated content submitted by the V&A community.

The results

Other Media and The V&A won the prestigious ‘Best of the Web’ award at the 2009 Museums and the Web conference and the ‘Special Award for Accessibility and Usability’ at the 2010 BIMA Awards for the Search the Collection website. Traffic has increased almost threefold, with a jump of average visits from around 50,000 over the 6 months prior to launch, to just over 140,000 in the first 2 months after its launch in October 2009.