With Northern Ireland attracting greater foreign investment and renewed interest from global tourism, thanks in part to Game of Thrones and the development of the Titanic Quarter, the role of the country’s national museums has never been more important. Their purpose in the education and representation of the cultural past, present and future is crucial for the people of Northern Ireland but also for the continued attraction of both visitors and businesses.
The team from Etain Software were professional, responsive and not afraid to push the boundaries to give us the results we needed – an enjoyable, rewarding and stimulating experience.

National Museums Northern Ireland
When The National Museums of Northern Ireland (NMNI) came to us with a requirement for a well-designed, easily navigated website we set out with two main objectives. The first, to educate people about the museums and the second, to encourage online and offline footfall to each of the NMNI museums. With both of these objectives in mind, our solution was a responsive website that actively promoted the new NMNI identity, applying their strong H.Q reputation and branding to the group as a whole.

On top of this we implemented analytical tracking technology, allowing our client's Web Manager to track user routes and online behaviours throughout the site entirety. By visualising these journey funnels and viewing the number of clicks it takes users to access the information they seek, NMNI can now identify pages that are performing well and others that may need attention with regards to engaging content or educational resources. This facility provides the vital insight needed to continually refine the design of the site, keeping the overall experience up to date.

Alongside the main NMNI group website, we also worked to develop a microsite for one of Belfast’s most infamous creations, the Titanic.

With no physical location at that time to direct tourists to, the site had to perform a number of jobs. As well as acting as a museum by curating the Titanic story through archive imagery and stories, it also had to bring Belfast’s ship building heritage to life for young people; acting as a unique selling point for historic prints in order to generate much needed revenue. Our solution was a simple-to-navigate, but highly animated site, featuring a rich mix of sound, video, imagery and animations to educate and inspire.
 

What we delivered

  • UI / UX Design
  • Custom Software
  • Hosting & Support
  • Marketing & Strategy
  • Email Marketing

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Our Approach

Like other public bodies, NMNI employs the services of a range of agencies to help complete their marketing objectives. On this project, we worked hand-in hand with our client's existing branding and design agency AV Browne. This ensured we delivered a site experience that was not only cutting-edge in it's functionality and audience engagment, but also positively reinforced NMNI's mission statement and organisational ethos. This partnership allowed us to intelligently integrate and reinforce the Museum's brand identity through each stage of the design process ensuring we delivered a site that would genuinely 'connect the collections, knowledge and public spaces of National Museums'.

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Risks & Challenges

With the internet often being regarded as a virtual shop front, we had to consider the complication of giving equal weight to the five principle museums, each with five management teams, all under the umbrella of the new NMNI branding. Both the design and practical management of the site therefore had to be carefully considered. Plus, with a significant target of 2.3 million sessions or visits, as set by the NMNI board of directors, we were tasked with developing a web presence that could be every bit as intelligent, flexible and intuitive as NMNI itself.

With such an expansive organisation, the issue of control was also a major concern. Although the information on the site had to be constantly updated and refreshed in order to continue to attract more visitors, and stimulate search engine algorithms, the power of their brand identity ran the risk of being seriously undermined by too much variation in the content. We solved this by creating a sophisticated yet very practical content management system, controlled by customisable workflows (approval process) that gave restricted access to a limited number of key personnel throughout the five museums, but ultimately controlled by one central web manager. Under the guidance of style templates, individual museums could therefore easily upload event details while the Web Manager could track changes, add images, shuffle pages and alter text during the approval stage, prior to going live on site.

Outcome & Benefits

Our web solution, featuring advanced content management allows our client to easily update and refresh their digital presence in a controlled, consistent way by staff throughout each of the four NMNI museums. This versatility enabled NMNI to attract 370,000 visitors within its first year.

When it comes to the application of best practice SEO strategies, the NMNI site search engine rank position (SERP) has also been of vital importance. Our expertise in continual search engine optimisation (SEO) has made sure that the NMNI website is consistently at the top of the result page.

Rather than simply acting as a presence on the web, www.nmni.com and www.titanicinbelfast.com have become essential tools in the operational structure of NMNI. They play a vital role within the marketing of NMNI and each of the member museums and with impressive online visitor statistics, they are fast becoming a key element in the education of young people and the ongoing success and popularity of Northern Ireland’s museum sector.

We have since developed a newsletter facility, enabling potential visitors, schools and organisations to sign up to a series of emailed communications. Their responses to these newsletters are then recorded to allow the Web manager to see the most popular or emotive stories.

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