Planning Kit for a Quality Site for Small and Medium Sized Museums

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The Quality Principles Handbook says:


This section examines the fifth quality principle, that «A quality Website must be user-centred, taking into account the needs of users, ensuring relevance and ease of use through responding to evaluation and feedback». It:

  • examines how to interpret the user-centred principle,
  • outlines criteria for establishing whether or not a Website is user-centred
  • suggests a checklist of Website characteristics to be used to ensure that the needs of the user take priority
  • describes a number of tests which can be taken in order to verify that the Website is as user-friendly as possible.


The user-centred principle focuses on the need to serve first and foremost the requirements of the end user. A Web site is essentially a user facility, providing information and services to the end user; thus, it is critical that the user finds the Website useful, easy to use and attractive.

User-centricity has a number of important aspects, which include:

  • elevance of content - does the user find what he needs?
  • Interface ease of use - is the user comfortable with the manner in which content and services are presented?
  • Navigation - can the user easily find what he wants?
  • Involvement - can the user influence how the Website is designed and how it evolves over time?
  • Engagement - can the user contribute content which enriches the Website?

These aspects correspond to almost all the other quality principles, particularly transparency and effectiveness – this reflects the central and critical nature of this principle. Relevance, user interface and navigation are discussed with these other principles – this section focuses on:

  • user consultation
  • user involvement and
  • user contribution


It is sensible for any organisation that is planning, designing or implementing a Website to consult with users at every stage. This will help to ensure that the Website meets user needs and expectations. It will avoid the provision of a service that nobody wants.

This is particularly the case for cultural Websites, where there is a strong likelihood that the organisation developing a Website has a great deal of sectoral experience. This will mean that the team involved is likely to be comfortable with terminology, jargon, methodologies and knowledge frameworks which are specific to the cultural sector. However, the Website will often be aimed at the general public, who may find the results difficult to understand, jargon-heavy or oddly structured. By involving samples of the target audience (e.g. users with visual impairments or school children, or late Internet adopters), a realistic grounding for site planning will be achieved.

Focus groups of end users should be involved in every stage of the project. Their work should be to review and provide feedback on those aspects of the project which have most impact on users:

  • content relevance
  • user interface
  • navigation
  • presentation
  • interactive elements
  • accessibility.

Formal testing and collection of feedback in the form of questionnaires and interviews should be used, so that empirical, rather than anecdotal, evidence for design decisions is available. Particularly useful is usability testing with individual users, where users are given a task and then observed carrying out that task. The observation, which must not include guidance on how to use the Website, will show where navigation and presentation is not clear to users.


After the site is completed and ‘goes live’, facilities must be presented for users to provide feedback and opinions on the site, its content, the user interface, navigation, etc. Such facilities might include an online version of a feedback questionnaire, a free-form comments page, etc.


Users can also contribute to the richness of a cultural Website by enabling users to create additional content, linked to existing items or exhibits. The stories, memories and material created and contributed by the general public are often very fascinating and unique cultural material – a cultural Website can use its wide reach and interactive facilities to stimulate the creation of such content.


Affinché un sito web possa essere considerato centrato sull’utente dovrebbero essere soddisfatti i criteri sotto riportati. Il grado di centralità dell’utente riflette il numero dei criteri soddisfatti; perciò un sito può essere, ad esempio, centrato sull’utente al 75%, se non sono stati soddisfatti tutti i criteri.

The following criteria should be met if a site is to be considered user-centred. The degree of user-centricity reflects the number of these criteria which are met; thus a site can be ‘75% user-centred’ if not all the criteria are met. Some of the criteria overlap across the quality principles. As noted above, user-centricity is so important that it includes elements of transparency, effectiveness, maintenance and accessibility.

  • A dedicated focus group, representative of the target audience, should be involved in the specification and design process, so that the end result meets real user needs
  • Users should review prototype Web pages, user interface elements and content presentations. Suggestions and feedback should be elicited
  • User feedback should be formally documented
  • Such feedback should feed into the design process and implemented
  • When the site is live, there should be online facilities to allow users to comment and provide feedback
  • This feedback should feed into site reviews, rebuilds and 'facelifts'
  • The site may include facilities to allow users to contribute content (recommended)


This section presents a number of points against which a site can be checked.

Users involved in the specification and design process      
Users have reviewed prototype site elements      
Suggestions and feedback have been elicited      
User feedback has been formally documented      
Feedback has been fed into the design process and implemented      
Online facilities exist to allow users to comment and provide feedback      
User feedback fed into site reviews and rebuilds      
Site includes facilities to allow users to contribute content      

Practical tests

This section suggests some simple, pragmatic tests and questions to be asked in order to assess how completely your Website meets the user-centred principle

  1. Have you recruited a dedicated user focus group?
  2. Does the user group truly reflect your target audience?
  3. Are all major elements of your target audience represented in your focus group?
  4. Has the Website concept and aims been clearly communicated to your focus group?
  5. Has your focus group reviewed prototype Web elements?
  6. Has your focus group provided feedback?
  7. Has the feedback been formally documented and included in the design process?
  8. Has this feedback been reflected in later prototypes
  9. If your site is ‘live’
    1. Do online feedback facilities exist?
    2. Are they promoted?
    3. Are they being used?
    4. Is the feedback being documented formally and kept for the next site review?
    5. Is the feedback being evaluated, in case there is an urgent need for change?
  10. If user contribution to your site is appropriate
    1. Do online content contribution facilities exist?
    2. Are they fully documented and easy for the public or your target audience to use?
    3. Are they being used?
    4. If not, is this due to lack of promotion or difficulty of use, or do your users really have nothing to contribute?

© Minerva Project 2005-03, last revision 2006-03-30, edited by WP5, Committee for the development of a prototype of public cultural websites.
URL: www.minervaeurope/structure/workinggroups/userneeds/prototipo/verificaqualita/principi/centrato_e.html