Royal Academy of Arts

Royal Academy of Arts

Royal Academy of Arts
Project title

Exploring the future of the RA online

User researchUXUIE-commerce
I’ve been working with the Royal Academy of Arts for the last three years. Much of our work has been focused on discreet issues such as improving conversion rates on ticket sales and introducing new features to the Summer Exhibition Online. For this project we took a step back to assess their entire website with a view to defining a vision for the future of the RA online.

Gathering our inputs

To begin our investigation we had to determine a focus. A site as large as the Royal Academy’s is too vast to test in its entirety; nor did we need to. As with most museum websites the majority of visitors are served by a few key user journeys (exhibition and programme information, buying a ticket, buying a membership, buying from the online shop). Following that, there is a long tail of less common needs from smaller audiences, such as academic researchers.

We decided to focus on the most common use cases. We began by compiling data from Hotjar, Google Analytics, and quantitative surveys to come up with several hypotheses about what we would expect to uncover during our qualitative research.

User interviews

We conducted user interviews with three audience groups: Members, Visitors, and a third group who we called the ‘general interested public’. Essentially, museum and art gallery visitors who hadn’t yet been to the RA.

The interviews included a mix of depth questioning, usability testing, comprehension testing, and prototype testing. We ensured an even split between mobile and desktop testing across the participants.


An intentional provocation

Until recently the RA has been a gallery that required a ticket to visit any of the galleries. Following the extensive redevelopment of Burlington Gardens, the RA were able to increase the amount of building space that was dedicated to experiencing art for free. We wanted to understand people’s awareness of these new spaces and explore how people felt about the idea of spending more time within them.

We wanted to uncover what it would take to shift people’s perception of the RA from a place that required a ticket to visit, to one where it was possible to come with a browsing mindset. The design below was created to do just that. We presented it to research participants and used it to lead us into deeper discussions on the subject of enjoying these free spaces.

Concept of free spaces used to spark debate amongst audiences
Concept of free spaces used to spark debate amongst audiences

Telling the story

We conducted synthesis remotely and asynchronously using a qualitative research repository. The tool allowed us to compare notes on findings and group them into observations and insights. Working in this way provided helpful connections between the raw data and the insights. This allowed us to quickly gather the evidence needed to tell a compelling story to stakeholders and other teams.

The raw data also included lots of video evidence. We made short cuts of the videos to further drive home key points with stakeholders.

The outcome from this study was both a vision for the future and a wealth of data that showed us what we needed to do to get there.


Sam Judge · UX Designer and user researcher Rachel Walker · Product manager Rachel Hankins · Product manager

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