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Lost in gallery space: A conceptual framework for analyzing the usability flaws of museum Web sites (14 Sep 2004)
We do not mean to imply that the way to avoid these problems is to create museum Web sites without the characteristics listed above. It is not an inherently bad thing for museum Web sites to have rich content, for example, but to maximize the desirable features of this characteristic, designers must acknowledge possible usability trade-offs and ameliorate potential difficulties by providing appropriate navigational cues, a clear information architecture, and so on. Similarly, there is much to be said for providing multiple perspectives, exploratory interfaces, and intriguing, or even puzzling, aspects to museum Web sites. Nevertheless, designers should be aware of the possible problems that users can have with these approaches, and design for more prosaic information needs and usage patterns as well as for more expert or experiential usage.

Predicting and testing the usage patterns of the many possible visitors to a museum Web site can sound daunting, but even small amounts of user testing can be surprisingly informative; it is our hope that considering the features of a Web site in the light of the dimensions presented in this paper will prove useful. Although each dimension was discussed independently in this article, they often co-occurred in relation to the usability flaws that underpin this analysis; even worse, they frequently interacted, adding to users’ confusions when trying to make sense out of museum Web sites. Therefore, designers and evaluators should consider this conceptual framework holistically when designing and evaluating museum Web sites. As more museum and information professionals recognize the need to conduct usability analyses of museum Web sites, we hope that the conceptual framework presented in this article will help guide efforts to improve the usability of museum Web sites.
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