The Getty Docent Mobile-Responsive Website

Docents at the Getty Museum and Villa are vital to connecting visitors of all ages to the art and antiquities in the collection. Docents are deeply connected to our our mission of providing free access and education, connecting the public with the collection, and building upon the Getty’s core values of inclusivity, generosity, and truth. This is in line with many museums’ core missions goals of providing engaging, educational, and memorable connections with objects in their collections.

The Getty Docent Program dates back to 1977 when twenty-six individuals comprised the first class of docents. As of February , 2019,, there are 606 active docents across two sites: The Getty Center in Brentwood and the Getty Villa in Malibu, California. Innovative digital tools for the docent corps were long overdue. In the digital age, how do we engage with the docents who serve in the museum field?

In August 2018, the Getty launched the Getty Docent Website, a mobile responsive website to refresh educational content, automate shift schedules, and provide a dynamic experience so docents can improve what they do in service to the museum. This site is available only to staff and active docents of the Getty Docent Program, and is in service to the docents who provide invaluable contributions to the museum every day. As museums produce more digital projects in tandem with their exhibitions and institutional identity, how do they also produce digital tools for their docents and volunteers that will help them facilitate better experiences for visitors? This site embodies the Getty’s attempt to answer this question and innovate for our docent community specifically.

The site is built with a WordPress template coupled with a customized scheduling plug-in made with a vendor, Digital Cheetah. The site includes five main tabs: Docent Home, Calendar and Shifts, Tour Preparation, Grow Your Skills, and Docent Life. The site includes search functionality.
Because Getty Center and Villa docents have different roles (for example, there are docents who lead school tours vs. those who lead architecture tours, etc.), the site needs to work for each division. Our guiding principle became that of putting docents as our first and favorite audience. What does it mean to define the docents in this way? Why not define the docents as the end-users of the site? Considering the docents our first and favorite audience meant that the site would not be built around the needs of the staff who were seeking a desired outcome from docents. Rather, the site would be built around the needs and expectations of the docents first, and the benefits to the staff would be secondary, if not a happy bonus. Docents as our first and favorite audience also served to elevate our ideas around what the end product experience would be: the docents are an audience whose attention we must earn through inspiring content, beautiful images, and elegant design. It is not enough to fulfill objectives for form and function in the new site. We must add value to the docent corps, improve the experience of being a docent, and capture the attention of the audience.