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Natural History Museum

Curating change for a London icon

The Challenge

Can a website redesign drive organisational change?

The Insight

We started with the Museum’s audience: We spoke with visitors, teachers, scientists, and internal staff — showing them the old website, introducing new concepts, and just letting them talk, draw, and write.

The Solution

The new visual design is clean and clear, illustrating the Museum’s scientific expertise, while remaining approachable for all audiences and meeting their strong accessibility standards.

The Natural History Museum is an iconic institution, famous for its landmark London building and dinosaur displays, but what happens behind the scenes is even more remarkable.

The Museum has a collection of 80 million specimens spanning billions of years, and with more than 350 scientists onsite, is one of the foremost institutions of its kind. Blue State was hired to develop an integrated digital strategy and website experience that leverages the Museum’s collection and expertise as the building blocks for audience engagement.

Early on, we pushed for a digital strategy that was a living, actionable plan. The core output was the redesign of their website, which was nine years old and contained over 10,000 pages. But the impact went beyond, helping the Museum usher in a digital-first way of working so that they can be more responsive to audience engagement and iterative testing.

People-powered design

We started with the Museum’s core asset (nope, not the collections) — its audience. We spoke with visitors, teachers, scientists, and internal staff. We went to their homes and their workplaces, and met them in the Museum. We collected feedback on the old website and on new concepts. We encouraged them to freely talk, draw, and write. The user-centric design process helped the team recognise the discrete needs of our different audiences and then create an entirely new information architecture and design around them.

The new site features a discrete area for a targeted science audience that provides rich information about the collections, direct access into the data portal, biographies of researchers, and the latest research news. Complementing this is a Discover area that provides visual, accessible, shareable content that explores the Museum’s scientific research in a way that appeals to a wide public as well as Take Part, which helps visitors get involved in exploring and protecting the natural world.

Change through doing

Agile processes were brought into design and development, with speed, not perfection, as a driving principle. As part of this organisational evolution, the Museum realised that its traditional way of managing content — through a central, closely controlled team — was not in line with its new approach. We helped draft a content strategy that brought the unique voices at the Museum to the forefront, and ran storytelling workshops to tie content ideas into unified narratives that connect to the collection and exhibitions. The result is a new type of digital-first, people-led curation of content for the Museum.

The website redesign was the perfect context to inject change into the organisation and introduce new ways of working based on the principles outlined in the digital strategy. By involving its audiences and being able to work nimbly, the Natural History Museum is poised to deliver digital experiences as awesome as their dinosaur exhibits.

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