Science History Institute

Science History Institute
Website Redesign

Creating new ways to engage with the history of science by transforming the museum and library’s online presence.

The Science History Institute (SHI) is a Philadelphia-based museum and library dedicated to showcasing the incredible history of scientific achievements on a global stage. Recognizing the need for their digital presence to mirror their in-person museum experience, SHI felt that the time was right for a website overhaul. Their current site software was reaching end-of-life, which created an opportunity to both redesign and re-platform their site to better cater to their diverse audiences and expanding organizational needs. SHI chose Zivtech primarily due to a successful past engagement and shared vision for the new website. Zivtech demonstrated deep expertise in migrating complex content models from Drupal 7 to WordPress. Caitlin Martin, Director of Communications at SHI, said, “We had a positive working relationship with Zivtech, and when the time came for an upgrade, their vision for our platform perfectly aligned with ours.

Making a vast library of scientific information easier to enjoy

One of the main goals of the project was to redesign the website as a welcoming “digital front door” for the Science History Institute. The idea was to ensure everyone, from PhD candidates and science "geeks," to retired chemists and SHI’s employees, could find what they needed quickly and in a way that would give them a sense of visiting the library in person.

To help SHI break free from the "organizational chart mentality" —focusing on hierarchy and departmental boundaries rather than user needs—Zivtech conducted in-depth business analysis, a content audit, engagement research, and user interviews and workshops. These efforts helped the team gather valuable insights into what users wanted from the website. Additionally, Zivtech designed and built a sub-section of the site dedicated to Distillations magazine, which had a separate menu system and unique roles and permissions for content management.

The website’s layout and navigation were restructured to reflect these findings, effectively breaking down silos and improving the maintainability of the site and content. This was not just a cosmetic change, it was a systematic improvement to how internal teams interacted with the website on a daily basis. Martin commented: “Our old site was very siloed. Zivtech helped us restructure the website to make it more user-friendly and accessible while ensuring seamless interdepartmental connections.”

Revitalizing institutional identity through a brand refresh

To further ensure that the website resonated with its audiences, SHI refreshed some of its brand elements and sought to leverage the website project as a means to launch these updates. This decision came from an understanding that the website needed to accurately represent SHI’s evolving brand identity, and instantly convey who SHI is and what they do upon visiting the site.

Zivtech embraced this challenge and found creative ways to integrate the brand refresh into the website redesign. They incorporated the expanded color palette and established web guidelines. Zivtech also utilized SHI’s vast repository of image assets and was able to incorporate historical photography and graphical elements into the new design. “Our brand refresh was a significant component of the website redesign. Zivtech embraced this and successfully weaved our refreshed identity into the website, enhancing its appeal,” Caitlin Martin emphasizes.

Improving outcomes with enhanced digital engagement

The ultimate test of this collaboration was the impact on SHI’s key success metrics. The website redesign aimed to increase museum visitor numbers, program and event registrations, content engagement, newsletter sign-ups, and global audience recognition and engagement.

Zivtech’s dedication to the project ensured the new WordPress website was launched on time and within budget. Preliminary feedback suggests the redesign has significantly enhanced the ease of site navigation, positively influencing traffic and user engagement. SHI has observed an uptick in website traffic compared to the previous year, credited partially to the new site’s clear information layout. Zivtech is currently retained by SHI for ongoing security and performance maintenance, including periodic site enhancements to meet changing organizational needs. 

“The best compliment after a year’s worth of work and research into structuring a website is how much easier it is to find everything. I’m excited to see what the numbers look like in the fall when schools are back in session,” Caitlin concluded.

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