Information Flux in the 21st Century

New MoMA Website – Where’s the Information Architecture?

Last Thursday my family and I went to the Museum of Modern Art. As is typical for me before a museum visit, I went to the MoMA website to check hours, and to read a little about the exhibit I wanted to see. I was overwhelmed by the chaos on the home page. There were big blocks of color with words on them, but none pertaining to the James Ensor exhibit, or to any exhibit information for that matter. Where was the link to exhibitions? Where was the navigation? Then, the blocks disappeared and images appeared in their place, with a continuous rotating cycle of images and color blocks. I waited for an image of a James Ensor painting to appear so that I could get where I wanted to go. I clicked on the image and went to the page with the information I was seeking, but then I made the mistake of clicking on Exhibitions in the breadcrumb trail. On this page are timelines of the different exhibits. Confusing! Back on the home page, I noticed “Take our Online Survey” on one of the blocks of color. Of course, I couldn’t resist.

It was all coming back to me. The MoMA website’s redesign was launched around the time I went to the Museums and the Web conference in April. Yet, I never took the time to check out the redesign, despite having been to a session at the conference where one of the key members responsible for the redesign spoke.

The redesigned site seems to defy so many of the principles I learned in my Information Architecture course. The main navigation is at the bottom of the screen. There is second level navigation on some secondary pages, but not all. And, those breadcrumbs I mentioned earlier, they seem to provide the only consistent secondary navigation paths. Am I missing something? Are museum websites specifically designed to offer an experience that does not readily accommodate resource discovery? Don’t get me wrong, I do appreciate some of the experience. I liked the online James Ensor exhibit, once I found it. However, when I wanted to return to the main site, I was pressed to figure out how to do so. Lo and behold, that small MoMA logo does link back to the main site.

I don’t think that MoMA was negligent, however. I discovered in the results from my survey on museum website usage that the area respondents most visited was visitor information. So, not surprisingly, this is the first option in the main navigation. Still, my information organization oriented mind craves a traceable taxonomy, even on a museum website. Fortunately, MoMA gave me the chance to tell them so.


July 21, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , ,


  1. Good point about the main navigation being at the bottom. I actually didn’t see it when I first went to the site last week.

    Comment by Lisa | July 22, 2009 | Reply

  2. Just went back to the MoMA website. After Safari crashed two times in a row on the site, the browser stabilized and I got to look around at some impressive changes. Seems that MoMA listened to survey results. The navigation is clearer, the home page less chaotic, all pages I visited seem more cohesive,. Most importantly, there’s a page off “Visit” labeled “Exhibition Schedule” that offers a gallery of current information with navigation links at the top going back to “pre-1998.” I’ll forgive the lack of an accurate label at the top of this page, for now. Looks like MoMA is on top of it.

    Comment by Iris | September 11, 2009 | Reply

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