Falk Meets Online Motivation: Results from a Nationwide Survey Project

Lightning Talk
Sarah Wambold, Metropolitan Museum of Art, USA, Marty Spellerberg, Spellerberg Associates, USA

In this lightning talk we present the results of a nationwide online Visitor Motivation Study conducted across 18 institutional websites in 2015/16. We discuss trends that emerge across institutions, and how the results are informing ongoing efforts in digital media production, distribution, and strategy at our participating institutions.

In his book Identity and the Museum Visitor Experience, John Falk outlined a predictive model of visitor experience designed to help museum professionals better meet visitor needs. He identified five key types of visitors who attend museums and the internal motivations that drive repeat visitation: Experience Seeker; Explorer; Socializer; Recharger; Hobbyist / Professional.

A touchstone Visitor Motivation Survey was conducted by the Indianapolis Museum of Art in 2012 and presented at MW 2012. In their method, website visitors are presented with a one-question survey that asks them to specify why they’ve come to the website that day. Custom variables are used to track responses in Google Analytics. This allows site traffic to be segmented by response. The data collected provides decision makers with insights into how the site is being used by various segments of the audience, and is critical in decision making and strategic planning by helping decision makers to understand the successes, shortcomings, and opportunities of the site.

Our project includes simultaneous surveys on 18 museum websites, pairing an IMA-style Google Analytics-powered backend with segments adapted from Falk’s motivation framework. Since the IMA’s presentation at MW 2012, studies following IMA’s methodology have been reproduced at various institutions. Our work is distinct in that it looks at the data in aggregate. Seeking to identify patterns or trends across the sector, we hope to understand the similarities and differences in our audience segments by region, population density, etc, and test Falk’s research as it applies to online audiences.

Falk, John H. Identity and the Museum Visitor Experience. Left Coast Press, 2009.

Fantoni, Silvia Filippini et al. “Exploring the Relationship between Visitor Motivation and Engagement in Online Museum Audiences.” Museums and the Web, 2012. <http://www.museumsandtheweb.com/mw2012/papers/exploring_the_relationship_between_visitor_mot>

Villaespesa, Elena et al. “Finding the motivation behind a click: Definition and implementation of a website audience segmentation.” Museums and the Web, 2015. <http://mw2015.museumsandtheweb.com/paper/finding-the-motivation-behind-a-click-definition-and-implementation-of-a-website-audience-segmentation/>