I came across this great article yesterday on the website "We Make Money Not Art" - an interview with Rui Guerra, who develops online strategies for cultural organizations. (He's the co-founder of It's Not That Kind/INTK, an offbeat studio/agency that reminds me a bit of Coudal Partners.)
Guerra makes several statements that resonate strongly with me after 10 years of developing online strategies for non-profit and cultural institutions:
1. New online strategy = new way of doing business
"The changes that might occur due to a new online strategy are not just in terms of software but also organizational." This is so true. Often, changing your online strategy means changing your production process, as well as the internal dynamics that inform that process. For example, in order for a company's website to offer an authentic, holistic portrayal of its business (let alone offer truly engaging content), multiple departments that used to work in silos often need to find better ways to share information and establish shared priorities.
2. Design for the medium
"The full potential of a medium can only be explored by works that have been conceived with that medium in mind." This may seem like a no-brainer, but think about how many websites for otherwise creative organizations are still just depots for "old media" re-distribution (a magazine article, an episode of TV). You can't just stick something online and call it a day if you want to offer a user-friendly, engaging experience; instead, you need to conceptualize the best way to present the information given the nature of the web -- a two-way, non-linear platform on which everything is connected to everything else.
3. Design for the content
There's no one-size-fits-all solution for effectively presenting content online. For example, I agree with Guerra's critique of the Google Art Project:
Google innovates in how it provides access to information, but not when it comes to creative presentation of that information. They're librarians, not storytellers -- which works, when they act like a library, but is less effective when they present material that begs for the kind of context that a more custom presentational strategy provides.
What cultural institutions do a good job of engaging you online?
Title of post revised 2.25.11