The Please Touch Museum, located in historic Memorial Hall in the Fairmount Park area of Philadelphia, is a special place. This nearly half a century-old institution is devoted to changing childrens’ lives through play, education, and interactive exhibits.

Its vision is centered around the idea that you can improve a child’s life indelibly by sparking their curiosity because making education fun, playful, and engaging instills a life-long love of learning. They have set a lofty mission for themselves, and they recognize the importance of making sure that every brand touchpoint the museum controls lives up to their ambitions.

Unfortunately, their website was not winning as many fans as the venue itself. The Please Touch Museum partnered with Hanlon to collaborate on a redesign and redevelopment that would bring the online user experience up to the level of the in person experience.

Every so often we get an opportunity to work on a project that is truly exciting and enriching. Being selected to help a wonderful organization like the Please Touch Museum totally overhaul its online home was definitely one such moment.

Room to Grow

The redevelopment project was led by Hanlon’s General Manager Toby Eberly, who immediately saw a disconnect. “Their old site simply didn’t match the grandeur and positivity of the museum,” said Eberly. “If you weren’t already familiar with them, you’d have trouble figuring out what kind of experience they were offering.”

“They recognize the importance of making sure that every brand touchpoint the museum controls lives up to their ambitions.”

Hanlon worked with the museum stakeholders through a series of extensive workshops to identify existing issues and create a complete list of the features and functionality that would define success for the new site. “We looked at everything,” explained Eberly. We spoke to all their stakeholders, collected everyone’s input, went through every page of their old site, and performed an exhaustive competitive analysis of similarly positioned museums around the country.”

The clear takeaway was that the museum’s staff felt their website was clunky, unintuitive, difficult to navigate, and pages with forms were overly complicated resulting in low conversion rates. For an organization that champions playful learning experiences, their website was lacking the user friendliness a visitor would expect.

Problem-solving Skills

Content was another area in need of an upgrade. It lacked clarity, which sometimes resulted in visitors giving up on finding the information they were after and calling the museum’s telephone help line directly, defeating the purpose of an informative website with self-help features.

The museum’s stakeholders also wanted new capabilities, like easier access to simple directions to their building and a banner that could be quickly and easily updated to show event information and early closures (something that has been especially important during the pandemic).

This was a particularly complex undertaking owing to the number and diversity of stakeholders involved. This website needed to serve new visitors, existing members, employees, and administrators equally well — and they all have very different needs and expectations for the site.

Members needed to easily find updates and announcements for coming events. They also wanted a simple calendar for displaying that information, as well as a better visual system for delineating the museum’s four membership levels. Hanlon rebuilt their members section to include these features resulting in a better looking and operating site that made membership benefits easier to understand while highlighting the key benefits of each level.

“This website must serve new visitors, existing members, employees, and administrators equally well — and they all have very different needs and expectations.”

Designing for Playful Engagement

For an organization unified in a noble mission to “Change a child’s life as they discover the power of learning through play,” the website needed to meaningfully connect with people and live up to their ambition. We’re happy to report that the Please Touch Museum website now matches the dynamism and educational interactivity of the venue itself.

The museum’s new site is also more responsive now. It automatically adapts to a wide range of screen sizes and device types.

On the back-end, Hanlon’s developers made it much easier for the museum to update the site. Previously, many changes required manual input, which was laborious, slow, and inefficient. We also helped them implement a virtual sandbox for testing changes before they went live on the site.

The Journey Starts Online

The entire project has been a resounding success. “Everything came together,” said Toby Eberly. “We got the ball rolling quickly, worked within a tight timeline, implemented the changes they needed, and got the right designs and content to highlight their brand in a beautiful and highly functional website.”

“From start to finish, this has been an incredibly rewarding experience for us,” he added. “Their entire organization is so motivated by their mission, to be exciting and informative and create a nurturing environment for young learners. We were thrilled to help them start that journey online.”