The Honolulu Museum of Art is the largest art museum in Hawaii, attracting over 300,000 visitors annually from all around the world. The museum maintains a collection of over 50,000 works; including the likes of Hokusai, van Gogh, Gauguin, Monet, Picasso, and Warhol; as well as a huge range of Japanese and Hawaiian art.

HoMA were looking for a digital experience that would match that of their world-class physical experience, showcasing the best the museum has to offer and engaging with visitors both locally and all over the world. They were also looking for a solution that would integrate with their existing ticketing platform, Tessitura. Which meant our ticketing solution, Bridge, was ideal – allowing them to build upon their primary ticketing platform with an enriched web experience.

Honolulu museum of art courtyard

We were delighted to be chosen as HoMA’s digital strategic partner in delivering this work and were soon packing our bags ready for discovery, aloha Hawaii! You can actually read all about our on-site visit in our blog 'Aloha, HoMA'.

Honolulu Museum of Art courtyard with orange flowers

Research & Discovery

Before starting the project, we conducted preliminary research to understand how HoMA’s users were engaging with the website; reviewing their analytics and who their user base was, as well as industry-wide findings around user behaviours within the events and tourism space.

Our initial research highlighted there were two distinct groups of visitors to the museum; local residents and tourists. We analysed site traffic based on these groups and it highlighted two very distinct sets of behaviours and needs from the site. Those on the island were much more likely to be focussed on classes, daily talks, and performances at the museum, whilst other visitors were much more focused on the tours offered and visiting the museum itself.

Once our desk research had been completed, we flew out to Honolulu, working alongside HoMA’s web team to uncover the vast range of venues and activities HoMA has to offer.

The website facilitated 6 venues supporting a wealth of activities; including guided tours, art classes, exhibitions, film and theatre performances, as well as school tours and general admission to the museum.

journey flow for users on the honolulu museum of art website

With such a vast range of offerings and content, we turned our focus back to the website. We worked with HoMA to review the user journeys for each of their offerings, looking at how we could streamline each journey and how we might make improvements for those deemed the most complex or critical for the museum’s success.

An example of these would be how to improve the process of how a member RSVPs to a free event, so they can bypass the checkout process, or how tickets could be replaced with a membership QR code, which they can access and use on their mobile device.

Finally, we reviewed the site content and IA, conducting various card-sorting exercises. This was followed up with a ‘tree-test’ to confirm that content was well-organised and easy to navigate – which proved a success.

Key findings:

  1. Members can benefit from personalised, timely information
  2. The website needs to support visitors in the “now moments”
  3. The differing needs of local visitors and tourists
Woman looking at exhibit in the honolulu museum of art

Key Finding 1: Members can benefit from personalised, timely information

Most local visitors focussed their attention on the member events, visiting the theatre and visiting the cafe with friends and using the museum as a hub for socialising. Locals made up the vast majority of members, so we worked to create a dedicated account area for them.

We heard stories of large queues for HoMA’s members' nights, where individuals would forget their pass or bring a pass that had expired. We worked, therefore, to create a mobile experience where members could find member events, their passes, tickets, and manage their membership renewals.

We also introduced a new way for users to redeem gift memberships, with unique referral URLs which would allow users to tie a gift membership to their account in just one step; reducing much of the complication around entering details and redeeming memberships.

Examples of our work on the honolulu museum of art website

Key Finding 2: The website needs to support visitors in the “now moments”

With mobile usage on the rise, we investigated how users might use technology in conjunction with their visit. We focussed, in particular, on the “now moments” and how users expect key information that might inform a visit on demand, often relying on their mobile device to have the answers as and when questions arise, rather than researching before.

“85% of leisure travelers decide on activities only after having arrived at the destination.”

– Google/Ipsos MediaCT, “The 2015 Traveler's Road to Decision,” base: U.S. leisure travellers

This was evidenced when looking at HoMA’s site search queries, where the top results involved queries such as parking, venue locations, maps, and monthly events.

We created a simple, easily-accessible menu across the site that allowed users to access this critical information to support their visit, both before and during their visit to the museum.

views of the mobile-first content we created for the Honolulu Museum of Art

We also created a dedicated “plan your visit” page, which served as an overview of all the venues; housing key information such as opening times, locations, prices, and the ability to book general admission tickets in advance.

Courtyard at the Honolulu Museum of Art's Shangri La


Key Finding 3: The differing needs of local visitors and tourists

Tourists account for around 30% of the museum’s visitors. However, whilst the museum was running various daily events, most tourists were focussed primarily on the Shangri La guided tour and visiting the museum itself.

In particular, most visited for the Shangri La tour, which received the most traffic from non-locals. It was noted that tourists would often book these well in advance of their trip to Hawaii, primarily, non-English speakers. This language barrier, in tandem with a lack of knowledge around the local area and length of time until the visit, led to much confusion upon arriving. Users would visit the wrong location, end up on the wrong trip and attempt to visit the tour on their own, which caused much disruption to the local area and complaints from tourists and locals alike.

To combat this, we introduced functionality which could identify these customers based on their browser language and could provide bespoke pages and translations to them, in order to stem the problem.

showcasing out bespoke language identification for the Honolulu Museum of Art website

Housing a growing collection of over 15,000 works

A large part of the museum's work was collating all of their works digitally so that it could be shared with researchers, artists, and the public. The current digital collection features over 15,000 assets and HoMA intends to include all 50,000 pieces of work on there.

sculpture at the honolulu museum of art

We integrated the HoMA website to the museum’s existing eMuseum platform. Creating an interface that matched the rest of the site's aesthetic and making use of a wide range of filters and Elastic Search, ensuring rapid response times for anyone searching for particular works or exhibitions.

Examples of the collection pages created for the honolulu museum of art

Ongoing success in troubled times.

The site launch was scheduled in amongst troublesome times due to the coronavirus epidemic. Naturally, organisations all over the world are having to adapt their processes to ensure the safety of both their staff and their visitors.

One of the most effective controls that HoMA were looking to implement, was a means to control the flow of visitors to the museum in a bid to enable safer social-distancing.

We worked to integrate timed visiting slots into their general admission journey, allowing visitors to select a date and time of their choosing that would allow them to visit the museum in a controlled manner – preventing queues and the overwhelming of the front of house staff.

Example of the booking system implemented for the honolulu musem of art

We're excited to see what the future holds for the Honolulu Museum of Art and we are thrilled to have worked with them on this project! If you're interested in also working with us on a UX or web design project, or on a project focused on any of our other services, get in touch via the form below.

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