- Natural History Museum
- Museums and culture
- 12 weeks
- What we did
- Digital strategy
- User experience design
The Natural History Museum wanted to increase awareness of biodiversity and encourage individual action. This is part of their ongoing mission to create advocates for the planet.
But there’s a fine line between awareness and despair. Biodiversity loss is a classic wicked problem. The scale of the issue is overwhelming. This project needed to inspire action without scaremongering and to highlight small efforts can have a big impact. It needed to be positive, encouraging and scientifically accurate.
This wasn’t going to be easy.
As it turned out, the key to this project was fostering a diverse ecosystem of designers, developers, strategists and content writers from the Natural History Museum and Clearleft.
The Full Story
After immersing ourselves and conducting the discovery phase, we began an intense design sprint to generate ideas. We spent five days collaborating remotely with the whole product delivery team cultivating an atmosphere of rapid ideation and creativity. Putting pen to paper from the get-go, our ice breaker sketching exercises put the team at ease before diving in to demonstrating their concepts.
We split the work into three strands: engagement, exploration, and action. People rotated between teams tackling each strand. Each team would dive deep into their topic before returning to share their findings with the wider group.
The diversity of expertise was key. Each team had a mix of people from design, strategy, content, and engineering. The way that everybody contributed equally ensured a shared sense of ownership over the whole project.
How do you know you’re on the right track?
It became clear that the key to this product was empowering people with knowledge on subjects that really resonated with them. Visually, the user flow presented like an interconnected web. This was a deliberate nod to the interconnected nature of ecosystems.
You drill down into the content, choose a topic, explore that topic in as much or as little detail as you want, and then—crucially—finish with a mission that you can complete. ‘Missions’ are activities or actions of a varying level of commitment and amount of time required. From completing a 2 minute online research survey, to spending a few hours building a bee hotel for your garden, or perhaps joining a weekly local nature group.
Previously, the Natural History Museum had tried presenting information in text-based articles. That felt too passive. We all agreed that this needed to be more interactive and engaging, delivering the information in a way that felt bite sized and easier to digest.
By the end of the five-day sprint we had created a high-fidelity multi-page Figma prototype. We did remote user testing on this prototype and got valuable feedback. We realised that the tone of the content was sometimes misinterpreted as being targeted for children.
We adjusted the prototype and then went to the Natural History Museum to test it with visitors in person. Once again, we tweaked the prototype in response to the feedback.
How do you create a minimum lovable product?
Now that we had feedback and actionable insights on our designs from testing, it was time to turn it into a real website.
Together we built the scaffolding. Then the Natural History Museum populated it with content from their wide-ranging archive.
Everything we build at Clearleft is responsive, performant and accessible. This was no different. We didn’t shy away from using cutting-edge, modern technologies such as Utopia and Cube CSS whilst making sure that this experience was available to everyone regardless of their device or network connection.
We only had time to build and launch a pilot. That’s why we worked so hard on making sure the foundations were solid. This isn’t a Clearleft product; it belongs to the Natural History Museum. We wanted to make ourselves redundant and empower them to continue building out this project.
How do you set the direction of future work?
We knew from the start of this project that the launch would be just the beginning. More content will be added over time. This shouldn’t feel like a one-off campaign. It’s an ongoing piece of work.
We worked together with the Natural History Museum to create a roadmap for the future. Again, we wanted to make ourselves redundant. We wanted to empower the team at the Natural History Museum to continue their mission …just like this project empowers everyone to take action on biodiversity.