User Research & Content Strategy

As a skilled project manager, I work with organizations to identify audience needs through usability studies, behavior research, journey mapping, and crafting user personas. I am experienced in analyzing information architecture and designing solutions. I write sharp reports, spec documents, user manuals, and platform documentation.

As a digital experience consultant, I often work on collaborative teams with developers, designers, and institutional stakeholders. I help organizations listen to and understand audience needs, behaviors, and expectations through user-centered research and evaluation. My strength is in defining and describing problems in terms of user needs, behaviors, and expectations. I have led user experience research and content strategy for clients that have included the Andy Warhol Museum, the University of Colorado, the Denver Botanic Gardens, the Clyfford Still Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, and the J. Paul Getty Trust.


Visitor Motivation Survey

In 2015–16, Marty Spellerberg and I co-led a group of cultural organizations across the United States, joined by partners in Canada and Australia, in working together to better understand museum website visitor motivation. This was not just a research study, but a community of museums looking to better understand their online audiences through a simple online survey. The survey comprised a single question about what motivated users in going to the website that day. Focussing on identity-related motivations, rather than demographics or behaviors, the survey responses aligned with museum researcher John Falk’s Predictive Model for Museum Visitation.

Participants to date: Art21; Art Gallery of Ontario; Aspen Art Museum; Chicago Architecture Foundation; Chinese American Museum Los Angeles;  Clockshop LA; Clyfford Still Museum; Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis; de Young Museum; Hammer Museum; the High Museum of Art; Houston Center for Contemporary Craft; Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston; Illinois Holocaust Museum; Legion of Honor; The Menil Collection; Museum of Contemporary Art Denver; Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University; Nasher Sculpture Center; Portland Art Museum; Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences in Sydney, Australia; Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History; Warhol Museum; the Whitney Museum of American Art; and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

This is the first survey to utilize Falk’s framework online, the first focused primarily on small- and medium-sized organizations, and the first in the U.S. to view the data in aggregate. In addition to helping to design the survey, my role in this study was to recruit participants, lead conversations about evaluation goals, aid participants in looking at their own data, and analyze the full dataset.

To date, 25 institutions have participated in the survey, and the results of this study have been used to inform online strategies at the Clyfford Still Museum, the deYoung Museum, the Hammer Museum, and the Nasher Sculpture Center. The data has been used in website redesigns at the Andy Warhol Museum, the High Museum, and Art21. The results of the study have been presented on and written about regularly.

This project was a collaboration with Marty Spellerberg.

RELATED PRESENTATIONS AND PAPERS:

Understanding our audiences: The Whitney’s Website Visitor Survey and its broader context
Co-presenter, Museum Computer Network 2018 (Denver), November 2018

Our study shows that online users of different identity-related motivations also have different needs and values in the type of information they are looking to view on museum websites.
—Sarah Wambold, Journal of Digital & Social Media Marketing

Identity-related motivations online: Falk’s framework applied to US museum websites
Co-author, Journal of Digital & Social Media Marketing, Spring 2018

National Museum Website Visitor Motivation Survey: Results from Seven Institutions
Presenter, Museum Computer Network 2016 (New Orleans), November 2016
SlidesSession recording

Falk Meets Online Motivation: Results from a Nationwide Survey Project
Presenter, Museums and the Web 2016 (Los Angeles), April 2016
Slides


Content Strategy for The Andy Warhol Museum

More than 75 percent of the target audience for Andy Warhol Museum’s website redesign used a mobile phone to access warhol.org.

The content strategy for the Andy Warhol Museum’s website redesign was informed by the Visitor Motivation Survey (VMS) that the museum participated in a year prior (see above). Through this research, the staff at the Warhol Museum decided to prioritize local and tourist audiences planning a visit, focussing on the website as a communications tool first and foremost.

Working with staff at the museum, we developed detailed user personas, completed card sort activities, and created journey maps to facilitate a new approach to the information architecture for the site. The result is a website that speaks clearly and directly to audiences looking to engage with the museum through a visit or a program.

The website redesign was a collaboration with Everything Type Company, Spellerberg Associates, and the internal team at the Andy Warhol Museum, which included Desi Gonzalez, Danielle Linzer, and Jessica Warchall.


User Experience and Design Research for the Denver Botanic Gardens

The website redesign for the Denver Botanic Gardens began with a comprehensive site analysis of their existing website, which included an information architecture evaluation, peer institution research, and usability testing. The IA evaluation exposed pain points in the institution’s content management system, which had resulted in an unwieldy tangle of hard-coded links and textual density on the front-end. As an additional layer of IA analysis, I conducted an online tree test of DBG’s menu structure in basic, list form. The test recorded the paths participants took in a series of find-and-seek tasks, providing insight into user expectations and exposing weaknesses in terminology and placements within the hierarchy. Usability testing revealed blind spots in the design.

Following the formal evaluation of the site, I continued to play a key role in establishing the content strategy for the redesign. I completed a system audit, diagramed the institution’s digital workflows, and consulted on taxonomies for DBG’s robust public program offering. I provided extensive research on behavior trends and industry best practices.

The site analysis was performed independently by me. The subsequent website redesign was a collaboration with Elevated Third and the internal team at the Denver Botanic Gardens, which included Doris Boardman.


Information Architecture and Content Strategy for Colorado University

CU South Denver sitemap BLANK

After acquiring a functioning museum—The Wildlife Experience—the University of Colorado Denver began offering higher education courses at this new satellite location, which required a website that combined museum-related information with academic offerings and information about the larger CU system. It became apparent very quickly that semantics would play a critical role in a successful content strategy, as words like program and bookstore have very different meanings to each audience.

In order to address the project’s unique set of requirements, I employed several research tactics, including creating sitemaps and content inventories, and facilitating card sorts and usability studies.

The website redesign was a collaboration with Better Weather and the internal team at the CU Denver, which included Karen Klimczak and Kyla White.