Making my end of the year deadline with a day to spare, the new VPA website has been launched. It was precipitated by the theme that we had been using losing it’s support, so it was time to move to a more current theme.
While I was doing that I decided to update the historic house museum index as it was using some old custom PHP code that also needed updating as the PHP standards had deprecated some of the code it was using.
That led to looking at a lot of the listings, and I found a terrible amount of them were out of date, mostly because the URL for the museum’s website had changed.
In updating the records I found a lot of museum websites were lacking, partly because they are managed by volunteers rather than professional web designers. But I was amazed at how many of the professional sites didn’t have the basic information one would want when choosing to visit the museum.
At a minimum, the site should have:
- Your own URL: Your domain name should match your brand. Don’t use a Google site or some other company. If they fold your site will disappear. Having your own domain guarantees you can move your site to another provider without interuption. Please make sure you keep your domain by renewing it when it comes up for renewal. I came across way too many sites that redirected to porn or gambling sites because the museum failed to renew their domain and it got purchased by people who exploit such mistakes. Make sure that the email contacts for your domain are correct so that you get notices when it’s up for renewal. Mark it in your calendar. Renew it for 10 years. Make a not every year to renew it for another year on January 1 so that it’s extended. Check your website on a regular basis. When domains expire, your website and email will go down, but you have thirty days to renew your domain before your registrar can sell your domain. So if you check the website regulary, and see that it is down, renew immediately!
- A clear, good sized photo of the house on the home page. I saw way too many sites that had no photo of the exterior of the house. Aside from making it hard to add photos to this site, it’s also the best way to interest visitors in coming to your museum. That’s assuming your museum is in an interesting building, which most of them are.
- Provide a short description of what your museum is about, on the home page! Again, too many sites I visited tell you nothing about the house, the age, style, who owned it, what artifacts are displayed, or anything about why I would want to visit it.
- Physical address (GPS address if needed) should be prominent on the home page and every page, either in the footer or header. Museums are tourist oriented. Don’t make it hard to find out where you are located.