Redesigning a Major Modern Art Museum's Website

Design Brief

Project Overview

Type of Project: Information Architecture

The Museum of Contemporary Art website (MCA) is a museum website where users can book tickets, browse exhibitions, and search museum programs about contemporary art in Chicago. The purpose of this project is to evaluate and redesign the MCA website’s information architecture.

The site’s current information architecture has core structural and organizational issues, including:

  • Current navigation scheme is a mix of task-based and categorical
  • Content structure is confusing and difficult to navigate, making it difficult for users to complete key tasks
  • Navigation menu changes depending on page state
  • Site uses inconsistent language and terminology


MCA visitors cannot easily find the information they need on the MCA website to plan their trip to the museum.


One of three UX designers/researchers who collaboratively evaluated and redesigned the information architecture of an existing website for a graduate-level information architecture/content strategy course.


Content Inventory

As a team, we systematically cataloged and assessed all existing content (93 items) on the current MCA website to explore the logic of the current site structure. For the purposes of this project, we excluded content items from the MCA’s store.

Open Card Sort

Using the content items identified during the content inventory, we conducted an open card sort within our team to develop a potential organizational structure for the MCA website’s content.

The results were:

  • Renamed nine first-level content items to align with a task-based navigation scheme (Buy Tickets, Plan Your Visit, etc.)
  • Moved important second-level items to first-level items (i.e. moved “Become a Member” section out of the “Support” section)
  • Renamed 24 second-level items to more accurately reflect the content they represent (i.e. changed “reciprocal privileges” to “membership level benefits”)

Closed Card Sort

We tested our task-oriented organizational scheme and content categories with 20 users in three separate rounds of card sorting.

Based on the findings of our card sorts, we made several changes, including the following:

Finding 1
Users were confused by the “Employment” card. Only 38% of participants put “Employment” in our intended category of “Learn About the MCA,” while another 38% put it in the “I Don’t Know” category.

Outcome: Renamed “Employment” to “Career Opportunities.”

Finding 2
Users placed several cards in both the “Learn about the MCA” and “Learn” categories, which drew our attention to the fact that these category names were too similar for users to distinguish between.

Outcome : Changed “Learn” to “Find Learning Programs” to more accurately reflect the educational content in that category and help users distinguish it from the “Learn about the MCA” category.

Finding 3
80% of participants put “Career Opportunities” in our intended category of “Learn about the MCA.”

Outcome: We improved the participant success rate from 38% to 80% by changing “Employment” to “Learn about the MCA.”

Information Architecture Testing

We tested five key tasks in two rounds of testing with 17 users to determine if our information architecture allowed users to successfully complete tasks.

Sitemap Development

I created a visual representation of our newly developed content structure for the MCA mobile site using data from previous testing.

Sitemap for the Museum of Contemporary Art.


Another team member used the data we collected from our card sorts and information architecture testing to develop wireframes for users to accomplish key tasks using the MCA mobile site.

A mobile phone showing the interactive wireframe. A mobile phone showing the interactive wireframe.

First Click Testing

As a team, we tested the validity of our wireframe designs with ten users by conducting task-oriented first click testing with our wireframe design.

Task: You heard that the MCA hosts weekly concerts, but you want to figure out which day of the week these happen so that you can attend. Where would you go to find this information?

Techniques Used:

Card sorting, content inventory, first click testing, information architecture testing, sitemap development, wireframing

Tools Used:

Figma, Mural, OptimalSort, Treejack



The findings of our card sorts made clear the importance of user testing as we saw some users struggle to understand how to find content because they either didn’t understand the labeling language we used or the organizational structure we chose or both. After each round of testing, we worked to better align our content with users’ expectations. After doing so, we saw the positive outcome of our actions through actual data like improved success rates on subsequent tests.

Future Work

If we were to conduct this study again, we’d like to improve the following:

  • Obtain a larger sample size for our card sort, information architecture, and first click testing
  • Test different organizational schemes against one another in separate card sort tests to determine which scheme is truly more effective
  • Conduct more card sorts on deeper levels of content structure
  • Conduct an open card sort with real users at the beginning of the process
  • Conduct additional information architecture tests with additional tasks (planning a field trip, finding a particular work of art, etc.)
  • Conduct usability tests on our wireframe designs