Reviewing: Century of the Child: Growing by Design, 1900–2000 @MoMA
Living in New York City is a great opportunity since the city offers so many diverse cultural attractions, ranging from some of the best museums in the world to a large diversity of neighborhoods to wander through and explore. Museums in this city are known for attracting crowds of people from all over due to their quality, name, reputation, and exhibitions. One of the cities most visited museums is MoMA. This museum has an incredible permanent collection and is constantly changing their temporary exhibitions in order to diversify and cater to all visitors’ tastes. Currently, they have an exhibition called, an exhibition organized in chronological, theme-related, and media-related manner. I got the chance to visit this show a couple of weeks ago and therefore it is very interesting to review this exhibition online based on my physical experience. MoMA has been working hard to keep up with technology and therefore their website tends to represent the institution’s principles and values. Having the internet has made it possible for people to review, or at least see highlights of any museum around the world; this is a great tool that enables people to decide whether they are interested in attending a show or simply serves as an educational tool.
The first thing that comes to mind when opening the MoMA website is the layout. Unlike most websites, the menu bar is situated in the bottom of the page, allowing all the space above it to be filled with pictures, current exhibition dates and images, and on the top the option to click on upcoming and past exhibitions (2012-1991). The fact that the menu bar is located on the bottom is not an issue for me since it is at all times visible, regardless of whether you decide to scroll down or scroll up. I think it is smart how the menu option is reduced to only five categories (Visit, Explore, Learn, Support, and Shop) in order to avoid overwhelming the user. The first thing that you are able to see when the website opens is the current exhibitions with a representative image, this facilitates the user in finding what is on view and they are able to quickly choose the desired show.
When I click on Century of the Child: Growing by Design, 1900–2000, I am redirected to a specific page that gives me a very thorough overview of the exhibition’s date, where it will be situated within the museum, and a brief summary of what it entails. I think it is smart that this page opens directly rather than opening a new window- something that I personally dislike and feel disrupts the harmony of browsing online. Once we are on the exhibition website, the information is presented in a user-friendly manner since it is spaced out and easy to follow, read, and understand. The design is also pleasing to the eye because it contains a lot of white spaces that are cleverly separated or framed by grayish lines. The page layout is defined by the grid system and it can be clearly appreciated because it helps structure, define, guide the placement, order, repetition, and alignment of the elements. In general, it all seems to be incredibly well oriented towards involving the user or at least has in mind the idea of “educating the audience”.
Towards the top of the page, the viewer is able to download several useful items that will also open on the same page. The options range from family activity guide, related events, and related film screenings. The only downside of this page is that there are barely any images related to the exhibition, just a big image that does not change to the right. Either having rotating images or a gallery with a selection of images from the show would totally improve the user experience since a lot of people are visual and therefore pay more attention to images than text. From this website you are able to click on view exhibition site; and this is really what the user’s intention might be since the beginning which means they have to go through two pages before actually getting to the official exhibition page.
The first thing that comes to my mind by looking at the show’s page is the beautiful aesthetic and design, carefully planned in order for adults and children to be able to use it and interact with it. The color palette depends on the exhibition’s themes (Power Play is green, Regeneration is yellow, Children and the Body Politic is gray, Light, Air, Health is blue, and so on). All the sections of the chronologically themed exhibition are arranged in a circle surrounding a walking boy. The website is very interactive since you can practically click on any icon and you will be able to see the artwork, its date, and its artist. If you click on one of the exhibition’s themes, you will be redirected to that portion of the exhibition and will be able to browse through every single item presented. I think it is incredible that you are able to see the whole exhibition online without missing any component, all the information is well presented and the quality of the website’s display is incredible. Any user, whether they are more experienced or unaccustomed would be able to navigate through the exhibition’s page without difficulty because it is meant for users to freely explore, click, move, and play around until they find what they are looking for. When you are looking at a specific art piece from the exhibition you are given the option of reading more information, seeing related works, and sharing on Twitter or Facebook. The social media component is present but could give users more sharing options; I guess they decided to offer to share within the most popular social media tools.
The best aspects of this online exhibition are that it is easy to navigate, includes extensive information, family activity guide, and has a specific page for this exhibition that features all of the art pieces on display. The information about the show is present, but it is not overwhelming. I am able to “experience” the show by playfully interacting with a very beautiful website that allows me to educate myself, see the full exhibition, and make mistakes while browsing. It reminds me of Apple products, that are designed in a way that anyone no matter of age, education, or gender can play around and figure it out, even by making mistakes.
On the other hand, it is important to also consider how Jakob Nielsen looks at different components of websites in order to decide whether they are user-friendly. Nielsen has five different categories: learnability, efficiency, memorability, errors, and satisfaction. By extensively analyzing his categories I can conclude that MoMA’s Century of the Child: Growing by Design 1900-2000, does a very good job.
From the home page, it was very easy for me to find the exhibition, since there was a huge picture with the title of the show underneath. The design was clean, organized, and easy to follow. Once redirected to the exhibition’s website, there was an option on the top of the page in bright orange that was labeled: View Exhibition Site- it redirected me to the official website. The only negative aspect was that it took three steps to get to the official website, but the steps were all pretty easy to accomplish without messing up or ending up at other pages. I think that one of the key aspects that makes this exhibition page so successful is its consistency; the color palette, information display, organization, sharing tools, and images follow the grid system, are relevant, easy to navigate, and portray what I physically saw when I visited MoMA. In this particular case, Century of the Child: Growing by Design 1900-2000, was curated with the intention of having children as part of their audience; and this can also be seen in how the website was designed. I think it is very smart that they keep the core values and create a site that any age group can enjoy or understand.
Lastly, while using the website I did not encounter any errors which could have made my experience negative. If I could change something, it would be thinking of a way to directly go to the exhibition page without having to go through an intermediary page. I also think that the social media could be improved by giving the users a chance to share using other tools or by adding a blog where visitors could post picture after having attended the show.