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 sixth quality principle, that «A quality Website must be responsive, enabling users to contact the site and receive an appropriate reply. Where appropriate, encourage questions, information sharing and discussions with and between users». It:

  • examines how to interpret the responsiveness principle,
  • outlines criteria for establishing whether or not a Website is responsive
  • suggests a checklist of Website characteristics to be used to ensure responsiveness
  • describes a number of tests which can be taken in order to verify that the Website is responsive.


Responsiveness is concerned with the ability for the site and the site owners to respond to user questions and suggestions. Ideally, such responses should be in an open forum arrangement, so that other users can contribute to the discussion, learn from the answers given to other users, etc. Responsiveness goes beyond the issue of user-centricity, because it includes the concept of user participation and user content production, rather than simply user consumption of content.

A responsive site adds value and interest for the end users because of its interactive nature. As users have the ability to add material to the site, to ask questions and share opinions, this makes the site more attractive.

Responsiveness is particularly important for cultural Websites. The high knowledge value and the educational and research applications of cultural material means that questions are likely and the need for expert assistance is quite high. In addition, the value of the information exchange (question, answer and explanation) is likely to be high, since it concerns cultural matters.

As noted in the previous (user-centred) section, the ability for users to add content is recommended for cultural Websites.

The notion of responsiveness must be supported and implemented within the organisation. A specified member of staff must have time and resources allocated to answering queries and to managing any fora or other online facilities for user interaction. This member of staff must in turn have access to sectoral experts who are ready and willing to help.

Clearly, issues arise with the moderation of user-contributed content. The cultural Website, with its high national profile, must not be used to publish inappropriate or unacceptable material. Procedures must be in place to approve user-contributed content and to remove material which is not suitable.

A policy for responsiveness is recommended. Such a policy may state levels of service to be supported, in terms of recommended response times.


  • A facility for users to ask questions must be available
  • An identified resource to receive the questions and to answer them must be available
  • This resource should have been trained and briefed
  • This resource must have access to sectoral experts
  • These sectoral experts must have been briefed and must have committed themselves to assisting where necessary
  • A policy regarding speed of response may be formally framed and adopted and published on the site
  • A forum or discussion area where users can share questions, answers, experiences, ideas and suggestions may be made available (recommended)
  • A moderation and approval process must be in place to ensure that the site is not used as a vehicle for unacceptable or inappropriate content
  • Such a forum should be managed by an identified, committed member of staff, working under similar conditions to the response resource discussed above


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

Question-asking facility available      
Response resource identified      
Response resource trained and briefed      
Response resource has access to sectoral and curatorial experts      
Experts have been briefed and have committed to support responses      
Response service level policy has been adopted      
User forum available      
Forum management resource identified      
Forum management resource briefed and trained      
Moderation process in place      
Forum management resource has access to experts      

Practical tests

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

  1. Does the site have a screen where questions can be asked?
  2. Is there a member or staff or a team in place who can answer questions?
  3. Has this resource been briefed and trained?
  4. Has this resource got time allocated to him/them to provide this service?
  5. Does this resource have access to specialist experts who can authoritatively answer questions at any level about the material on the Website?
  6. Have the experts been briefed and have they committed to providing support?
  7. Is there a user response policy in place?
  8. Has this been explained to and endorsed by the relevant personnel?
  9. Is there an open forum, discussion board or other mechanism where users can discuss questions and issues?
  10. Is there a moderation process in place which protects the site from inappropriate contributions?
  11. If so, is this managed by a responsible resource, with time allocated to it, access to experts, full training, etc.?

© 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/reattivo_e.html