We’ve been working on relaunching our blog. It has taken a little while, and although I have done very little of the heavy lifting (thank you Adam, thank you Eva), it seems like there are some things that might be worth talking about – both in terms of our thinking, and of our process.
The first thing to say is that we’ve not deleted or archived anything. That was a decision we didn’t take lightly, but also one that we made very early on. It would have been – in retrospect – much easier in many ways to start again, as some other museums have done. We could have archived the site as it was, and then moved to a new WordPress instance (the blog runs on WordPress), or indeed a whole new platform. But we decided we wanted to keep the content that we already had, and to work on both what was already there, and what was to come.
Some of the impetus for that decision came from a desire to preserve things – we’re a museum – but we’re also proud of what has been done before, and in general in the Digital Media team we’re trying to consolidate our platforms as much as possible. Not adding something else to the mix was attractive.
That being said, there was lots that we wanted to look at. Certainly the overall presentation, which wasn’t in keeping with the rest of our site, but also the site hierarchy, which was difficult to follow, and the functionality, which didn’t offer everything that we wanted.
The previous home page had three featured posts under a banner that didn’t really do very much – indeed anything – that I could work out. Beneath that it had a stream of posts (most recent first), with a list of most recent posts to the side, and a list of recently updated sections directly underneath that.
So, in a fairly crowded page – we were essentially giving you the same information three times. That seemed a lot. Or at least too many.
The list of updated sections was problematic in other ways. It was completely flat, to all intents and purposes. You could see find all the sections, but then they were ordered alphabetically. You could see the most recently updated, but then we weren’t able to show you other posts from sections that might be interesting to you.
So, now there’s a new structure over the top of the sub-categories (we had some long conversations about what these were going to be called, and what they should be). These are our new ‘primary categories’:
- Our News (announcements and new stories)
- V&A Shop (interviews, ideas and inspirations from the shop)
- Museum Life (writing from curators and department experts – and behind-the-scenes stories from the museum)
- Caring for our Collections (conservation and collections management – as well as archive discoveries)
- Design and society (contemporary design, architecture and technology)
- Digital (all things digital – from our work on the web to technology in the museum)
- Our Projects (research and museum projects, as well as preparation for exhibitions)
On the old blog, every post was automatically tagged ‘news and updates’ which, while technically true, made it difficult for us to highlight major stories from the museum. Now, posts will be placed in a relevant category, rather than going straight in as news each time. The feed on the home page will still be in date order, but ‘Our News’ is now more clearly defined.
The shop had very little presence here, and we wanted to address that, while also making a place to showcase the designers that we work with to create the ranges you can take home. That’s fixed now.
Museum Life is possibly most characteristically a ‘museum blog’ – it has articles about the collection from curators, but also more behind-the-scenes sections such as Out At the Museum and the V&A Illustration Awards. Its name hints at the fact that we want to make the blog a place where the people working here can write as individuals. Caring for our Collections is primarily focused on the work of our Conservation and Collections Management teams; Design and society will come to show our work with contemporary practitioners across architecture and design; Digital is not just the home of the Digital Media and Publishing team – but should cover the range of the museum’s work with technology, across Learning, displays, collections and practice.
The key thing here is that these sections are not organised by museum department, but by what we think (based on the stats that we have) you want to read. If you like one post in a category, you might find something else interesting there.
Also, and importantly, posts will appear in more than one section – and there are still tags if you prefer to look around that way.
Projects are slightly different. Previously we were not able to show when something we’d been working on as a museum had actually finished. Projects (exhibitions, research projects, new galleries) are things that end; we do that work and then stop. When you’re reading the blog you shouldn’t have to hope that there might be something else coming. We should be able to tell you that it’s done now.
In addition to those categories are spaces for V&A Dundee and the V&A Museum of Childhood. These don’t function as primary categories, because we think that an MOC post about digital (or learning, or research, or collections) is a V&A digital post first, and a MOC post second – but we appreciate that you might want to read those posts all in one place as well.
There’s a lot more to say about what we’ve done and why we’ve done it – and also about the huge amount there is still to do. There’s still a lot of tidying up outstanding, and now that we can change how sections look, and tell more interesting stories here, we’ll be working hard to add more posts about the museum (and hopefully also about the outside world a little more). There is a new editor we use to build posts, and new spaces for authors, so we can bring together everything that someone writes.
I still have to finalise some editorial guidelines, among many other things, so there will be changes in both the type of writing you find here, and how it’s written. We have to do a lot more internal training. We have to tidy up a lot of old posts. We have to plan our posts better. I will save those things, and others (stats, reporting, timeframes, URL structures, links to the main site), for other posts.
Mostly now we have to hope that you like what we’ve done, and that you find some interesting things to read.