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 first quality principle, that «A quality Website must be transparent, clearly stating the identity and purpose of the Website, as well as the organisation responsible for its management». It:

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


Identity, Mission and Ownership

The transparency principle dictates that a high-quality Website will

  • be clearly identifiable
  • have an obvious purpose or mission
  • be easy for the user to compare with his own information requirements.

Transparency is a fundamental property of any high-quality Website. There are millions of Websites in existence; even using a good search engine will lead the end user to thousands of possible sites. For example, searching for ‘Italian Cultural Website’ yields almost 350,000 results. So, when users reach your Website, they must immediately be assured that:

  • this is in fact the type of Website they are looking for
  • the Website may contain the information that the user is looking for
  • the Website is run by a cultural sector organization.

Transparency is all about reducing user confusion and uncertainty - a transparent Website will be totally clear as to its focus, its role and its content. The users should learn, as soon as possible,

  • what they will find on the site,
  • whether the site will meet their requirements.

Immediate transparency

“As soon as possible” is an important part of this requirement – the users should not have to navigate the site before finding out what the site is about, who owns the site and whether the site is in fact what they are looking for. This means that the critical identity and site profile information should be available to the users on the front page of the site, or at worst after a single click. To achieve this, a site should have:

  • a site name that gives information about the site
  • a mission statement or site summary on the first screen.


The site name should give a clear indication of what the site is about. Thus “Notre Dame Cathedral” is to be preferred to “De Sully’s Dream”, or “The Vatican Museum” to “Treasures of the Pontiffs”. While fanciful and imaginative names are a valid element of marketing strategies, transparency can suffer.


Usually, the URL of the site will not be sufficient to serve as the site name. While a URL such as “” could be expected to be the site of Notre Dame Cathedral, an explicit site name is to be preferred. In addition, some URLs reflect organizational divisions or agencies, rather than content and this could reduce the immediate transparency.

Indeed, in such a situation, the registering of a transparent domain name, with subsequent URL hiding provided by the ISP, should be considered. The cost of domain name registration is rather low – the increase in transparency that such a small investment returns is worth considering for almost all cultural Websites. Institutions may wish to consider using appropriate Top Level Domains where available or appropriate such as .eu, .org or .museum.

Mission statement

Regardless of the site name, a brief ‘mission statement’ for the site should be made available to the user as soon as possible. This statement should be available in as many languages as practical. The statement should consist of no more than fifty words. Its purpose is information, not entertainment or marketing. It should state:

  • the subject of the Website
  • the most important content on the site
  • the organisation responsible for maintaining the site and
  • (optionally) the target audience.

If, for design reasons, the first page of your Website is a ‘splash screen’ with animation, beautiful images or other non-textual material, then this identity and mission statement information should be available after a single click. However, such a non-informational front page has a negative impact on the transparency of the site and may be avoided unless viewed as a very high priority. In the event that such a home page is used, it should be possible to by-pass the front page to the information immediately, for example with a ‘skip intro’ button.


The following criteria should be met if a site is to be considered transparent. The degree of transparency reflects the number of these criteria which are met; thus a site can be ‘75% transparent’ if not all the criteria are met.

Some of the criteria overlap across the Quality Principles. For example, a site profile in multiple languages increases the transparency of the site for an international audience but also impacts on the multi-linguality of the site.

  • The site name must be clearly displayed
  • The site name must indicate the nature and purpose of the site, its content and owner, as far as possible
  • The site URL should provide as much information as possible about the nature of the site
  • The site home page should contain at least the following:
    • the site name
    • the mission statement
    • the name of the organisation responsible for the site
  • The site home page should be the first page that the user sees when he visits the site (e.g. index.html), or if a Flash animation or a visual presentation is used as the site home page (deprecated) then it should be possible to bypass this.


This section presents a checklist to evaluate a site.

Site Name appears on browser title bar (topmost line of browser)      
The active part of the site appears on browser title bar      
Site name is clearly displayed in a prominent manner on home page      
Site name indicates purpose and nature of site      
Site URL is indicative of the purpose of the site      
Mission statement exists      
Mission statement appears on front page      
Mission statement available in multiple languages      
Easy to switch mission statement languages      
Organisation name is prominently displayed      
Any animation or visual display can be bypassed      

Practical tests

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

  1. Does the site name appear on the browser title bar?
  2. Does the part of the site (e.g. ‘Exhibitions’, ‘Mission Statement’) also appear on the title bar, in order to facilitate navigation?
  3. Is the site name the most prominent text on the front page?
  4. Does the site URL indicate the nature of the site?
  5. Is the mission statement prominently displayed on the front page?
  6. Does the mission statement clearly state the aims, nature, owner and content of the site?
  7. Is the mission statement available in multiple languages?
  8. Is it clear and easy to switch from one language to another?
  9. Does the front page state clearly the identity of the organisation responsible for the creation and maintenance of the site?
  10. If an animated or other non-informational front page is used, can this easily be bypassed or skipped?

© 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/protomuseo/verificaqualita/principi/transparente_e.html