The National Gallery of Art (NGA) approached JEL Creative (JEL), a DC-based design agency, to redesign and re-imagine their intranet, a system that was first launched in the mid 1990s. Their old system was cluttered, unwieldy, and had a look and feel that was out of alignment with NGA's values. As a leading designer at JEL, I walked NGA through a UX discovery, visual design discovery, and visual design process.
After kicking off the project, I worked with JEL's User Experience Director to create a detailed survey as well as set up a virtual card sorting exercise. We also analyzed their Google Analytics data to understand what pages were most visited on the intranet and which devices it was viewed on.
We surveyed 20 NGA employees of varying seniority to understand NGA's culture, the daily lives of NGA staff, their natural language patterns, and their intuitive organizational patterns. During the survey, we asked that respondents do a card sorting exercise, so we could understand not only what organizational decisions they were making, but why they were making them. This was invaluable to ensure that our new information architecture hit the mark.
Doing this helped us define some concrete design principles that would guide our process going forward:
Navigate the Divide
The four primary buildings that make up the NGA campus are all across the street from each other, but they feel like they are on different corners of the globe. The new intranet bridges this gap by informing NGA staff about current events, reinforcing a sense of community that defines NGA.
Clarity is Key
The most painful aspect of the old intranet was its organization. Every survey respondent vocalized that it was “impossible to find what they needed unless they knew exactly where to look”. The new intranet needed to use familiar language and be structured in a way that is easily navigable.
Welcome the Day
The old intranet was something that hadn't been touched in over two decades. The content was stagnant, uninteresting, and disorganized. NGA staff expressed strong interest in having a homepage not just for their content, but also for their day. Visitor counts, metro outages, weather alerts, and other elements are targeted ways to add fresh content to the intranet every day.
Honor the Gallery
The Gallery is not just a place or a career; it's a calling, a purpose. The end product translated and pays tribute to the colors, textures, and aesthetics of the buildings into an interface that suits NGA.
Using the findings from discovery, we created a high-level sitemap and created two distinct wireframe concepts using Axure. Each of these used the design principles as key tenants, to ensure that it would help solve the grievances NGA had with their old system:
The Gallery Wall
To ensure we were embarking on a creative direction that was inline with NGA, I created a set of moodboards to capture the conservative personality of NGA, while also focusing on traditional, classic art. This translated into a design comp, which I created using Sketch.
Gallery Wall Design
The design leverages textures and colors from the NGA's galleries, creating an interface that feels like an actual gallery. Each UI element that is “hanging” on the wall has a fully customizable piece of art as a background image, pulled from NGA's meticulously maintained art database. The goal of this design was to create a functional intranet with fresh content daily, while providing an on-demand gallery experience.