National Visitor Motivation Survey Project


National Visitor Motivation Survey Project

We are conducting Visitor Motivation Surveys for more than a dozen cultural institutions across the country in 2015/16. These surveys will examine website traffic data to provide individual organizations insights into their online audiences and, by comparing against other institutions, gain an understanding of online audiences nationwide. The results will be presented at the Museums and the Web 2016 conference (proposal submitted, approval pending), taking place in Los Angeles next spring.

Participants to date:

Art Gallery of Ontario
Aspen Art Museum
Chicago Architecture Foundation
Chinese American Museum
Clyfford Still Museum
Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis
Houston Center for Contemporary Craft
Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston
Illinois Holocaust Museum
The Menil Collection
Museum of Art and History Santa Cruz
Museum of Contemporary Art Denver
Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University
Nasher Sculpture Center
Portland Art Museum
Warhol Museum
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

Email me to join us!

What is a Visitor Motivation Survey?

Google Analytics is a powerful tool in understanding user behavior on a website. However, site statistics alone do not always tell the full story; a combination of survey techniques is necessary to gain insight into why users come to your site, and how different types of users consume the content they find there.

A Visitor Motivation Survey is a one-question survey that asks users to specify why they’ve come to your website on this day. The data collected is critical to understanding the successes, shortcomings, and opportunities of any site and can lead us in our decision making and strategic planning.

How does it work?

A one-question, multiple choice survey will be placed on your website, prompting users to select the reason for their visit that day. Responding to the survey is completely voluntary and is designed to be noticeable but unobtrusive. User’s responses are captured in Google Analytics, allowing you to segment your data by user motivation. The survey will run for 12 weeks.

At the close of the survey, we will host Google Hangout sessions to show you how to view the survey results and to help you analyze the collected data. Additionally, we will organize a professional panel at the Museums and the Web conference in April 2016 in Los Angeles (approval pending), to discuss the collective and individual results of the survey.

What segments will we be testing?

In his book Identity and the Museum Visitor Experience, John Falk outlined a predictive model of visitor experience designed to help museum professionals better meet their visitors’ needs. Drawing upon a career in studying museum visitors, he identified five key types of visitors who attend museums and the internal processes that drive repeat visitation: Experience Seeker; Explorer; Socializer; Recharger; Hobbyist / Professional. Our segments will be based on these motivations.

What are the benefits for my institution?

Unlock insights into your online audience
Analysis of the survey data provides an understanding of your online audience in terms of user motivation. Where are people with specific motivations being referred from? Which motivation groups are clicking more deeply into the site, and what content are they accessing? What devices are these motivation groups using to access your site? When and where are they are accessing the site? You will be able to apply this information in a strategic content plan aimed at generating increased repeat visitation and overall site traffic.

Compare with other institutions
This is the first Visitor Motivation Study to compile data from as many as ten different museums nationwide and to look at the data in aggregate. We are seeking to identify trends across the sector, which may lead to understanding the similarities and differences in our audience segments by region, population density, etc. You will be able to see how the trends on your site relate to those of the other participating institutions.

Institutional exposure
We are proposing to convene a one-hour Professional Forum for inclusion in the Museums and the Web 2016 conference program in Los Angeles next spring. Museums and the Web is an annual conference featuring advanced research and exemplary applications of digital practice for cultural, natural and scientific heritage. Formed by leading professionals from around the world, this community has been meeting since 1997. The products of the conferences, meetings, and conversations are an unparalleled resource for museum workers, technologists, students and researchers that grows every year.

How much does this cost?

To participate in the study itself is FREE. (Yay!) If you choose to participate in the Professional Forum at the MW conference in LA, you (or your museum) would be responsible to cover your costs for the conference (registration fees) and related expenses (travel, hotel, etc).

Who are “we”?

Sarah Wambold is the Director of Digital Media at the Clyfford Still Museum in Denver. In addition, she is a content strategist who works with organizations to identify and align opportunities with institutional priorities. Sarah built a prolific digital media team as the Digital Media Director at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, leading web and video initiatives as part of the design and publishing team. Sarah has a Master’s of Arts Management Degree from Columbia College, and lives and works in Denver, Colorado.

Marty Spellerberg is a web designer, developer and builder of interactive media for artists and museums. Marty was a key member of the Art Gallery of Ontario’s web team, collaborating on projects for the institution. Marty is a graduate of OCAD University in Toronto, and lives and works in Austin, Texas.

Where can I find more information on Visitor Motivation Surveys?

Documentation of the Indianapolis Museum of Art’s VMS in 2012:

The Tate Museum’s work on online audience segmentation: