Blanton Site Redesign

Image source: Blanton Museum of Art
Complete migration, re-design, and re-architecting of blantonmuseum.org.

Description

When I arrived at the Blanton in late 2014, its site was running on an aging version of Expression Engine that was no longer supported by the University of Texas’ site admins. The site was extremely brittle, prone to extended outages, and effectively impossible to update in all but the most cursory of ways. Blog posts and key museum functions like events were handled outside of the main website, making for a rather convoluted user experience. The site was also not responsive at all, so some critical site functions had been moved to a Squarespace site. It was clear right away that this site could not be upgraded, but instead would need to be completely replaced.

Process

The project to fix all this proceeded in three phases. The first phase involved convening a cross-functional team with representatives from across the museum to identify requirements for a replacement site.

The second phase involved a complete replacement of the site’s back end and a total overhaul of the site’s information architecture. We stood up a new Wordpress site and migrated content from the old Expression Engine site and other platforms. As part of this migration, we created new content types as well, including events, art objects, art primers, and blog posts. We then added some light theming to the site, and launched this interim version in the summer of 2016.

The third phase involved a complete redesign of the front end of the site with the Blanton’s design partner, Tilted Chair Creative. Some additional functionality and flexibility (page content blocks being a major addition) was added in this phase, but for the most part this redesign was in effect a comprehensive re-theming of the interim site developed in phase two. The fully redesigned site launched in February of 2016.

Outcomes

The CMS back-end of the site proved to be extraordinarily responsive to the Museum’s needs. Several new content types were added to the site post-launch, and the entire events management infrastructure was also swapped out post-launch without any disruptions to the production site. A gradual re-design of the site is also underway, putting more emphasis on large images over the more “typographic” approach of the redesign from the third phase of the project. These design changes are most evident in the Ellsworth Kelly’s Austin and Art Primers sections of the site.

Public response was as we’d hoped, with significantly more traffic landing on events and exhibitions pages and an overall 10% increase in traffic year-over-year.