Measuring “Conversion” on Museum Web Sites

At the Museums & the Web 2008 conference last week, I talked to some people about a different idea of “conversion” for museum Web sites–as distinct from the meaning used on commerce sites. Seb Chan in his talk about metrics pointed out that for museums, the value of a visit to the Web site should *not* be measured in terms of commercial “conversion” – i.e. resulting in a commercial transaction. I totally agree. But perhaps we should be measuring success based on a different kind of ‘conversion’? That is, if we can convert a visitor coming to our site in one behavior mode, into a new behavior.

In a separate conversation with Lucy Hoffmann from the Museum of New Zealand, she told me about the idea of new ways of segment users into behaviors: “visitors, transactors, browsers, and searchers.” So, the idea of “conversion” in a museum is that we know people come to us usually with an initial purpose and behavior mode – the kinds of tasks we typically tend to segment the audience into – but that real success for us would be to “convert” these visits into a different task/behavior. So, someone who comes to your site to find the opening hours (a visitor), may then discover the online collections and spend time just browsing, and thus be converted into a “browser”. Someone who comes in as a “searcher” looking for information on a particular work of art may then discover there’s an exhibit on right now they want to go to and be converted into a “visitor”.

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