SPC14: Art Meets Function, or, the Seattle Art Museum Gets a New Website

UPDATE number 2: I just spoke with Kevin personally (because I’m super jealous of their site) and he said the launch date has been pushed to April 14th. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news here but I promise it’s worth the wait.

UPDATE: Here is the link to the presentation on Channel 9

It is not often that SharePoint and art are mentioned in the same sentence… well, not positively at least. So when Kevin Schroer was asked to lead a website redesign for the Seattle Art Museum using SharePoint, he was skeptical. This skepticism was echoed by Nick Thiel, the designer hired to help, so it wasn’t until developer Roberto Yglesias arrived that there was any optimism that the site could be both functional and beautiful. This session presented a case study on how these three men were able to bring the site to life. And, as an artist myself, I must say the result is wonderful.

The main issue they needed to address was brand recognition. The Seattle Art Museum has three locations around the city, and the team needed to tie them together in some way. Nick and his team took on the challenge and designed a new logo, knowing that it needed to be versatile enough to be able to include the three locations as well as stand on its own. They then used the organizational structure of one brand with three locations to build out an immersive and enjoyable website experience.

They knew they needed to use responsive design and that it needed to work exactly the same across platforms. They weren’t sure SharePoint was going to be able to do it. They knew they needed to focus on user experience and content, and that it needed to be easily editable for the team at the museum. With Nick’s team delivering a fantastic-looking concept, it was up to Roberto and his team to make it happen.

If there are any consultants reading this, imagine building a site for two clients, both of whom are designers. Roberto had his work cut out for him. What he and his team built is simple to use, easy to update, and of course, responsive and beautiful across platforms. They accomplished this with an on-prem SharePoint 2013 farm dedicated to the website. The site is built outside the firewall and, to keep the experience fast, connects back to the museum’s existing SQL database. They set up a search to crawl the database and deliver information to the site so that users don’t suffer any wait time. Roberto’s team also made lots of preconfigured Web Parts that allow the museum staff to easily add and edit content without worrying about code or messing up the functionality or branding of the site. Using the Web Parts’ CSS, they were able to create content zones that would stack either left to right or right to left. This enables the power users to decide which side of the page is going to have the more important content, choose the correct Web Part, and then add content to the site with little more than a drag and drop. Roberto was then also able to leverage SharePoint functionality for helpful things like having an hours list. The list contains the main business hours of the museum, along with holidays. Having the list in one place and available for referencing around the site, the hours are instantly updated everywhere they are displayed. The site gets around 200,000 visits per month, so there are two servers dedicated to keeping the site experience smooth.

Go check out their site at seattleartmuseum.org, but wait until April 14, the launch date of the new site.

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