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Hammer Museum

An evolution of the museum's website

Los Angeles, California, USA

Building a better online world for content writers and audiences

  • Editor-focused content management system
  • Simple, powerful publishing and editing workflow
  • Enables Hammer editorial team to focus on content rather than tech

The Hammer Museum in Los Angeles is a vibrant intellectual and creative nexus of ideas, fuelled by dynamic exhibitions and programs—including lectures, symposia, film series, readings, and musical performances—that spark meaningful encounters with art and ideas.

Although happy with the design of their website, the CMS had become unwieldy over time. The overall ability to manage content efficiently and consistently needed some improvement.

Cogapp worked with the Hammer team to rebuild the website on a new Drupal 8 content management system, adapted to meet their specific needs. Whilst the website remains seamlessly familiar for the public, the management of the site has been transformed.

Improvements include:

  • Slimmed-down set of optimised templates
  • Site-wide consistent component types
  • Dynamic opening hours messaging, calendar and public program listings
  • Centrally managed taxonomy terms of recurring content (credits, sponsor logos etc)
  • Improved image and file management
  • Easier to manage metadata consistently
  • Ability to control URLs, short links, and redirects
Photograph of post-its on a wall showing research into the old information architecture of the Hammer website

Building a better online world for visitors to the Hammer website

The goal of this project was primarily to improve the experience of editorial users within the museum. However, the new architecture has improved overall performance of the website. Visitors are seeing pages load twice as fast on average. Researchers can still deep-dive into the Hammer’s online collections and exhibitions in the Digital Archives, all seamlessly recreated in the new website.

Year on year analytics show the new site delivering a better experience for visitors :

  • average page load time down by 50%
  • bounce rate down by 14%
  • page views up 7%
  • average session duration up 24%
  • average pages per session up by 12%
  • sessions on mobile up by 15%

Building a better online world for our client

Integral to the success of this project was building the foundations of a successful partnership between the Hammer and Cogapp.

We kicked off by visiting the team in Los Angeles and getting to know the Museum. We worked closely together throughout, collaborating with honesty, trust, candour and humour, supported by a framework of regular calls and an all-team demo every two weeks.

Nurturing our partnership was a priority for both parties, and it is one of the major successes of this project.

The new Drupal 8 CMS has enabled Hammer to streamline their online editorial processes.

A key deliverable was for the CMS to be easy to use, gracefully supporting varied content requirements and functionality of a museum website. We worked in close collaboration with the Hammer team to implement a CMS that meets these needs.

Moving our industry forward

Hammer and Cogapp will be talking together about this project, and others that are currently in progress, at conferences and events. This project adds to the industry canon of institutional museum websites being successfully optimised using Drupal 8 and a collaborative agile methodology.

We’re keen to share our experience and learnings with others to build knowledge within the sector.

Creating an environment where everyone can do their best work

All our projects have a support system designed to empower the team and client. The system for this project looked like this:

Core team

  • Producer
  • Tech lead
  • Developers

Supported by

  • Project director directly supporting the team; escalation point for client
  • Tech sounding board meeting weekly with the tech lead to steer the technical decisions
  • Senior team who meet weekly to review projects with producers

To foster collaboration, open communication and a shared vision, the Cogapp project team sits together, is dedicated to the project four days per week, with a day set aside for other ‘to-dos’, research and training time.

This system empowers the team to make decisions and deliver the work. It gives a clear route for review if needed, alongside regular lightweight check ins designed to bring our collective experience to every project.

Next Steps

Thanks to this project, the partnership between the Hammer and Cogapp is well-established and flourishing. The new website has set the foundation for iterative enhancements to the Hammer’s digital estate.

Exciting developments are afoot. We are:

  • Building a pioneering Video Archive, one of the first in the sector to be open sourced for the benefit of other institutions
  • Redesigning the information architecture (IA) of the main Hammer website to handle nearly 20 years worth of content, with more constantly being added.

And in the longer term, we are planning to:

  • Rethink how the online calendar works – moving to Drupal 8 set the groundwork for this to be done in a smart way.
  • Reimagine online exhibitions
  • Illuminate the Hammer’s online collections.

Watch this space!