Metamorphosis: metmuseum.orgCulture and commerce meet in the Metropolitan Museum of Art's digital museum without walls.
In “real” virtual space, where costly aspirations are pinned on a set of flaming pixels and Internet surfers ruthlessly click from one world to another, design can make the difference between great success and total failure. A notable case in point is the Metropolitan Museum of Art's latest website (metmuseum.org), created by the New York office of the global Internet services firm Icon Nicholson. Launched in January 2000, the Met's new site was followed just one month later by a staggering 600 percent increase in membership sales over January 1999—leading to a substantial increase in revenue. The number of visitors to the museum doubled the first three months postlaunch (compared to the same period in 1999); the amount of time visitors spend on the virtual site has also doubled since its debut.
The Metropolitan site is a well-oiled example of how to build a virtual information architecture today, one fully integrated with the identity, purpose and vision of the real-space institution it reflects—and more. It is becoming increasingly clear that sites on the Internet are more than just digital echoes of the organizations or corporations they represent, more than simple electronic versions of printed catalogues or annual reports. They are, rather, interactive experience-based destinations that not only market their parent entities but also exist as independent entities themselves. And design is a critical factor in their success.
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First published in Gain 1.0: AIGA Journal of Design for the Network Economy.