It all started back in San Diego, August 2017, at that year’s Tessitura Conference, on the flight deck of the USS Midway. Let's set the scene, our MD, David, and I were enjoying a few drinks in the queue for the simulator experience on the USS Midway when we notice the group in front of us having fun and joking around. We couldn’t help but get involved in the 'banter' before jokingly asking if this team (who were based in Hawaii) need a new website, to our surprise they say YES!

Fast forward to almost 12 months later, and we get the call to say the budget has been approved, we pitch for the project and we win the contract. That is the story of how our Glasgow agency became the digital strategic partner for the Honolulu Museum of Art.
On the 7th of September 2018, we set off on our journey across the globe to visit our shiny new client in Hawaii and to conduct Discovery sessions on-site.

Hawaii ocean front from our visit to Honolulu Museum of art

Our travelling After Digital team was comprised of our best names in ticketing, Tessitura and AD T-Bridge products:

  • Me - Ashleigh Cameron (Senior Digital Producer & Product Manager)
  • Mark James (Senior Back-End Developer)
  • George Hill (UX & Design)

We were lucky enough to fly out on a Friday, meaning we had the weekend to get over jet-lag, settle into our surroundings and enjoy the sights and highlights Honolulu had to offer. Following a journey of almost 33 hours, we were all a little worse for wear on Friday evening so used the time to plan our itinerary for the weekend ahead.

Day 1

On Saturday morning, we got up bright and early to take a walk along Waikiki's beautiful oceanfront. The beach and surrounding streets were busy with surfers, joggers and dog walkers. Nearby, families and friends set up tents and marquees, ready to enjoy a day filled with sunshine, food and socialising next to the beach.

After breakfast, we made our way to Honolulu Museum of Art (HoMA), to wait on our bus to Shangri La, where we had the chance to meet and greet the team we'd be working with during the forthcoming week. The team had kindly organised our trip to Shangri La, which is a highly popular tour (run by HoMA) to the Hawaiian home of Doris Duke. Shangri La is now owned and managed by the Doris Duke Foundation.

Shangri La - doris dukes home in hawaii- from our visit to Honolulu Museum of art

After taking the bus from the museum we reached the house, which was completely pristine and showcased the passion for Islamic Art that Doris Duke held. During her Honeymoon in 1935, Doris fell in love with Islamic art during visits to Mogul India; with many citing that her visit to the Taj Mahal was where it all began. The landmarks that inspired her are evident in the stunning architecture and decor of Shangri La. From the mirrored dressing room, the courtyard water feature and welcoming reception area, it’s clear to see why the house (built in 1936) is a much-anticipated attraction for scholars, tourists and lovers of Islamic art worldwide.

Duke’s final stop on her honeymoon was Hawaii, and this is where she fell in love with the island of Honolulu, made friends to last a lifetime and found her inner calm and tranquillity. It was whilst on this leg of her trip that she extended her stay by four months and started her plan to build a home there - Shangri La.

Day 2

Sunday saw us rise early again to have breakfast and prepare for our hike to Manoa Falls.

After arriving at the foot of the trail, we began to acclimatise and plan our route to the 150-foot waterfall. Within five minutes of our hike, we were surrounded by tropical vegetation and the largest and most obscure trees - it didn’t feel like we were Hawaii anymore!

Trees during our hike while we visited Honolulu Museum of art

Feeling as if we were on the set of Jumanji, we trekked through the rainforest hidden deep in the mountains of Koolau, which quickly became muddy as it got darker and darker the further we delved into the heart of the mountain. Half an hour into our trek we reached the Manoa Falls, which were spectacular!

We’d been advised to take a path to the left of the waterfall to carry on our hike, which would take us to the top of the waterfall so George, Mark and I took on the additional track… What was supposed to be a short climb soon became an even muddier climb with sudden drops and obstacles. So, after around another hour of searching for the top of the waterfall, we turned and headed back to ‘normality’ - I don’t think we’d ever been happier to shower (I’m a DP get me outta HEERRRRE!)

Manoa Falls during our visit to Honolulu Museum of art

Days 3-7

Monday to Thursday, we got down to business! Finally over our jetlag, we made our way to the Honolulu Museum of Art on Monday morning to meet the team and begin our Discovery sessions.

Our Discovery days were spent touring the museum, the school of art and Shangri La; all parts of the organisation in need of representation on the new website. We had planned a visit to Spalding House during the week too but, unfortunately, the arrival of storm Olivia meant this had to be cancelled. Here’s a little more info about each building!

Honolulu Museum of Art
Opened in 1927 (the previous home of founder Anna Rice Cooke) HoMA has over 50,000 pieces of art within its collection and is the largest in the state. It welcomes a global visitor base each year but has it’s largest following from native residents in Hawaii.

Honolulu Museum of Art School
Reaching approximately 60,000 adults and children per year, the Art School prides itself on its arts education programmes.

honolulu museum of art school during our visit to Honolulu Museum of art

Shangri La
The home and lifelong project of heiress Doris Duke, the stunning Shangri La is now open to the public by kind approval of the Doris Duke Foundation. Tours run from the museum to the Islamic-styled home each day and is a sought-after destination for scholars, art lovers, tourists and locals.

Spalding House
The home of Anna Rice Cooke (following her move from the HoMA residence), Spalding House is now the second museum location and boasts beautifully sculpted gardens and grounds; in addition to around 3000 works of art.

During our week at HoMA, we collaborated with each department to understand the requirements across the entire organisation, and then worked with these teams further to shape personas and map out user journeys for the new website. It was interesting to work with such a popular attraction in such a well-travelled destination, to then find out that the majority of their visitors and customers are actually locals; and not tourists as you’d expect.

We delved into a number of personas during the week and encountered various issues, which will all require dedicated functionality to satisfy the user journeys. With the need to cater for different languages, integrate with Tessitura, enhance the membership experience and increase class registrations and tours, the decision was made to utilise our T-Bridge product to facilitate a seamless end-to-end solution with enhanced administration control and flexibility.

We conducted a number of workshops to get the outputs we needed to shape the specification for the website and, in true After Digital fashion, these included a few Post-its (or 10)! Workshops were planned to help team members get involved comfortably and the Post-its visually represented thoughts, ideas and placement of content for each user journey on the site.

Having carried out research ahead of our visit to Hawaii, we were already equipped with the knowledge needed to direct teams and advise on the best way forward. This pre-discovery work meant that we were able to focus on the evolution of the site instead of getting too bogged down on how the current site worked and what content it contained.

sunset on hawaii seafront during our visit to Honolulu Museum of art

Focusing on core journeys such as Visit, Become a Member and Book a Tour, our team worked with Honolulu Museum of Art to architect solutions, determine the content hierarchy and ensure users, both back-end and front-end, were to be satisfied with the new site and CMS.

We reviewed the design and style of the current site alongside the HoMA brand guidelines and got creative with some new approaches and ideas for the new website. Being a Tessitura ticketing site, alongside many other things, we started to review the ticket/membership purchase journeys and discussed how the site would best benefit from After Digital’s T-Bridge product. Excitement was definitely in the air after this session with one member even asking “can we just have the new site NOW?!”

The HoMA team were incredibly welcoming and hospitable, ensuring each morning that we tried a local delicacy for breakfast. Over the course of the week, we tried various treats including spam sushi and manapua (pork buns); all of which were delicious!

Our Nights

In the evenings we were able to explore Waikiki further and found ourselves taking advantage of taco happy hours, Cheesecake Factory visits, trying Poke, local brewery visits and attending an amazing night of Jazz at the Blue Note club.

Immersed in culture, history and art, the museum was a great setting for our week of workshops and we even enjoyed a tour of the newest exhibit (Ho‘oulu: The King Kalākaua Era) with the curator! The last two days of our visit were slightly tainted due only to the arrival of Storm Olivia, but in true Scottish fashion we braved the weather and continued our sessions in the basement of the museum; ‘working up a storm’ some might say...

Exhibition at the Honolulu Museum of art

Feet safely on UK soil again, we’re now ready to delve into the project and get the wireframes, design and specification completed. We can’t wait to share the finished site with HoMA and their users around the world - it’s set to be another masterpiece they can be proud of.

Mahalo to the team at the Honolulu Museum of Art for making our trip a memorable one!