Frances Willard House Museum & Archives

Launched September 2015

Responsibilities: Front-end web design and development, UI/UX, training and support

Technology: WordPress CMS with commercial theme (Canvas by WooThemes) with custom CSS, Adobe Photoshop, Treejack by Optimal Workshop for usability testing

Project Summary

This project of redesigning the site for a house museum combined several of my life long interests including design, women’s history and museums. My client, the Frances Willard Historical Association, wanted to completely redo their existing site and to improve the confusing site architecture and difficult to use CMS. They wanted to update the look to reflect their mission of bringing the life and work of 19th Century feminist and reformer Frances Willard to contemporary audiences. Additionally they wanted to integrate social media into the site and optimize it for mobile devices.

I worked closely with the executive director to clarify project goals and user requirements. One of the interesting challenges of this project was the information architecture. Their existing site had had new pages and sections added to it until their site map no longer made sense. We started with card sorting, one of my favorite techniques where you put every topic on a separate card or sticky note and sort them into logical categories. I then turned our piles of sticky notes into a coherent site map. We also did some user testing to identify and fix problems in our site map.

Another challenge was incorporating their logo. The bright yellow and blue logo perfectly fits the museum’s mission to bring Frances Willard’s radical message to today’s audience, but the bright colors were not easy to work with on screen. My solution was to use limited amounts of bright yellow and blue as accent colors and to use a soft yellow and dark blue throughout the design.

One of the client goals was a flexible and easy to update content management system (CMS) and I recommended WordPress as a cost effective and relatively easy to learn CMS that is easily expandable. I trained the staff to update content and created a 4-page user manual that includes instructions on updating content and a style guide to ensure visual consistency.

The final design solution features redesigned information architecture, incorporates museum branding, integrates social media by including a Twitter feed and links to social media and is responsive and optimized for mobile devices