The Met’s Object Page: Towards a new synthesis of scholarship and storytelling


Thursday, April 04, 2019: 11:00am - 12:30pm - Back Bay CD: Papers: How do we measure feelings?

Elena Villaespesa, Pratt Institute, USA, Madhav Tankha, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, USA, Bora Shehu, Metropolitan Museum Of Art, USA

Published paper: The Met’s Object Page: Towards a New Synthesis of Scholarship and Storytelling

The Met’s “object page” is the first touchpoint for over 70% of the visitors to its online collection. The user journey to this experience and throughout it has many permutations and goals. Users come from a variety of sources: search engines, social media, other websites, and are greatly diverse in their motivations and familiarity with art. The 450,000+ Object pages are a testament to the encyclopedic nature of The Met itself—offering a great breadth and depth of meticulously cultivated information and highlighting the connectivity of cultures and multiple interpretations of the objects it exhibits. The objects themselves span a dizzying array of media: painting, sculpture, manuscripts, jewelry, coins, tapestry, baseball cards, furniture, musical instruments, and more.

A significant challenge clearly arises: how to display all of this ever-expanding information to tell the story of the artwork in a manner that is authentic, comprehensive, accessible, and inspiring to all users—whether academic or casual browsers—across devices. As museums try to define their existence in the digital space, how does the object page contribute in projecting The Met’s voice and expand its outreach beyond the museum’s walls.

To achieve this end, the digital team at The Met conducted extensive qualitative and quantitative tests on the pages to gauge users’ online behavior, interests, expectations, and frustrations, across user segments and devices. The methods and tools used included web analytics, heatmaps, user testing (both remote and face-to-face), surveys, user interviews, and A/B testing. This paper will present the findings about the user expectations, preferences, and behaviors on the object page as well as a discussion of the benefits and challenges of the methods used to collect and analyze the data.

Clifton, B. (2010), Advanced Web Metrics with Google Analytics, Wiley, Hoboken

CrazyEgg: Snapshots. Available at

Falk, J. H. (2009). Identity and the museum visitor experience. Walnut Creek, Calif: Left Coast Press.

Fessenden, T (2018). Scrolling and attention. Nielsen Normal Group. Available at

Filippini Fantoni, S., Stein, R. & Bowman, G. (2012). Exploring the Relationship Between Visitor Motivation and Engagement in Online Museum Audiences. MW2012: Museums and the Web 2012: Proceedings. Consulted December 10, 2018. Available at

Finnis, J., Chan, S., & Clements, R. (2011). Let’s Get Real: How to Evaluate Online Success? Brighton. Available at

Haile, T. (2014). What You Think You Know About The Web is Wrong. Available at

Kabassi. K. (2017). Evaluating websites of museums: State of the art. Journal of Cultural Heritage, 24, pp. 184-196.

Krug, S. (2010). Rocket surgery made easy: the do-it-yourself guide to finding and fixing usability problems. Berkeley, Calif.: New Riders.

Loranger, H. (2017) Plain Language Is for Everyone, Even Experts. Nielsen Normal Group. Available at

MacDonald, C. M. (2015). Assessing the user experience (UX) of online museum collections: Perspectives from design and museum professionals. MW15: Museums and the Web conference 2015. Consulted December 10, 2018. Available at

Marty, P. F. (2008). Museum websites and museum visitors: digital museum resources and their use. Museum Management and Curatorship, 23(1), 81–99.

Moffat, K. (2017). “Analytics” in Hossaini, A., & Blankenberg, N. (eds.). Manual of digital museum planning. Lanham : Rowman & Littlefield, 61-76.

Moran, K., & Pernice, K. (2018). Remote Moderated Usability Tests: How and why to do them. Nielsen Norman Group. Available at

Nielsen, J. (2000) Eye Tracking Study of Web Readers. Nielsen Norman Group. Available at

Peacock, D. & J. Brownbill (2007). Audiences, Visitors, Users: Reconceptualising Users of Museum On-line Content and Services. In J. Trant and D. Bearman (eds.). Proceeding from Museums and the Web Conference, Toronto: Archives & Museum Informatics. Available at

Rohrer, C. (2014). When to Use Which User-Experience Research Methods. NNGroup. Available at

Romeo, F. (2016). What motivates a visit to MoMA’s website?. Digital @MoMA Medium Publication. Available at

Siroker, D., Koomen, P. and Harshman, C. (2013) A/B testing : the most powerful way to turn clicks into customers. Hoboken : Wiley, 2013. Remote Testing (2013). Available at

Villaespesa, E. (2017). Who are the users of The Met’s Online Collection? The Met’s blog. Available at

Villaespesa, E., & Stack, J. (2015). Finding the motivation behind a click: Definition and implementation of a website audience segmentation. MW2015: Museums and the Web 2015: Proceedings. Consulted December 12, 2018. Available at

Wambold, S., & Spellerberg, M. (2018). Identity-related motivations online: Falk–s framework applied to US museum websites. Journal of Digital & Social Media Marketing, 5(4), 353–369.