Considering the User Experience: Illinois Holocaust Museum

Considering the User Experience: Illinois Holocaust Museum

Our partner, the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center, or IHMEC, sits right outside of the city of Chicago. Their mission is to “Remember the Past, Transform the Future” through the exhibition, preservation and interpretation of collections, education programs, and initiatives that foster the promotion of human rights and the elimination of genocide. They host group tours, public programs, teaching trunks for educators, and even operated their museum virtually during the pandemic. 

IHMEC approached us for a website and left with one that was backed with extensive User Journey and UX research to create a better space for them to do what they do best: telling the stories of survivors to educate the generations to come. 

The User Experience (UX) Research

When tasked with creating a brand new website for IHMEC, we wanted to do a two part research phase before beginning the redesign. The first was to take a closer look at the user journey for those looking to buy tickets and those looking to login to the membership portal, the two most common paths of those visiting the site. We used this new information to consider possible pain points during the concept phase to actively and proactively consider them when creating the new design. The goal was to give the new website a more intuitive user experience, ultimately resulting in better engagement online and interest in the museum overall.

We often say that part of what makes Speak unique is that we have an expert in every seat. However, when looking for an agency to partner with it can be tough to know their team goes beyond buzzwords to deliver on their promise. Our commitment to our areas of expertise means that we seek to not only hire people who know the in’s and out’s of their subject matter, but train our people to hone in on their natural interests to inform our data-backed approach to design.

So to provide a superior User Experience for the visitors of the new IHMEC website, we turned to our own in-house UX guru, Lisa Hoover. She’s got an impressive list of credentials and training, but we know her around here as the UX-loving-powerhouse-of-Speak (and the ultimate plant mom, if you've listened to her podcast episode). She instigated a number of research projects to determine the best organization and natural flow of the website’s information. One of those methods, called card sorting, includes sampling a group of people to determine where they naturally expect to find specific information on a site. Take Book a Speaker, Library, and Education Programs, for example. Those categories could be nestled under the “Learn” or “Events and Programs” tab. But the research answered the question: where do the majority of IHMEC’s audience place them? We often see organizations have tunnel vision, having a biased perspective of their own content, since they are enveloped in it each day.  Letting research lead the way allows the information to be organized based upon the people who are actually going to use the site, rather than based on a hypothesis.

Exhibitions as a Story

Once we solidified the site map, the specific exhibitions and content were the next opportunity to showcase. On the site itself, we wanted to highlight the Take a Stand Center, which is an immersive experience featuring holograms of survivors sharing about their lives. In preparation for the exhibit, each of the remaining survivors spent a week answering any possible question that museum visitors might have for the exhibit from a bank of 2,000 prompts. The project required each of them to sit in the chair for 5 days straight, from 9am to 5pm. 

60 Minutes even covered this incredible exhibit last year, where the reporter Lesley Stahl spoke with one of the digital holograms and asked him questions about his life to highlight IHMEC. The high-definition interview recordings paired with voice recognition technology enables the Survivors to tell their deeply moving personal stories and respond to questions from the audience. This invites visitors to have a personalized, one-on-one conversation. Their legacies will live on for years to come, stretching far beyond the lives of those interviewed. 

We are honored to play a small part in furthering the mission of IHMEC by educating potential and returning visitors from around the world. We’d highly recommend visiting the museum next time you’re near Chicago.

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Posted by Madelyn Bomar at 07:00