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Data…and pricing!

As ever, we’ve been super busy with the Platform since our last update.

There are two main things to announce this time around:

1. We need your data!

We’ve mentioned several times that we’ve been working proactively with the museum community as we develop the Platform. This is really important to us – we want to make sure that we’re building something that actually helps museums, rather than adding to the complexity!

Over the last few months we’ve worked with several museums who have sent us chunks of collections data which we’ve then worked up into simple online prototypes.

As we’ve gone along we’ve developed a nice workflow for getting stuff into our system – both data and collections images and other media – and we think [gulp] we’re now ready to ask the community for more.

So here’s our request:

We want as much collections data as we can get our hands on – whether it’s brilliant, horrible, well written, badly written, well constructed, has images, doesn’t have images. We want CSV’s, XML exports. We want MODES data, CALM data, spreadsheet data. We want big datasets, small ones, medium sized ones… In short: we want anything you can give us!

Why is this useful to us?

Because the more collections data we can fiddle with, the better we can make robust websites that suit museums trying to get online. It also helps us to know what data is easy for museums to produce so we can make something as simple as possible to create and update.

Why is this useful to you?

Because you’ll get a private, password protected area on the Platform where you can see some of your collections data displayed in all its glory. There is no cost and no obligation*. But it might help you:

  • …see how your collection might look online if you’ve never had this before
  • …see how an existing collection could be displayed differently
  • …see how advanced tools like faceting could be used in your specific context
  • …give you an idea into how your collection images look – zoomed or otherwise
  • …give you a prototype site to share with colleagues when planning a new project
  • …and more

* Please note: your collections data is yours, and yours alone. We don’t share it, don’t own it, and will ask your permission should we want to use screengrabs or anything else from the site we create for you.

2. We’ve (finally!) announced our pricing plans…

This has been (and actually, continues to be!) one of the most interesting and challenging parts of this project for us. We want to make a system which is not only available to as many museums as possible, but is also sustainable over the longer term.

Getting pricing right is tough – many museums are asking us “how much?” – but as we all know, museums are wonderfully diverse and come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. This also makes it very hard to come up with “one size fits all” pricing.

We’ve landed on a model which is based around three tiers. In simple terms, this is “small”, “medium” and “large” museums, with corresponding complexities in online collection and other requirements. Each tier gives the museum a set of functions and constraints within that tier.

We’ve then included the concept of “add-ons” which will enable museums to include additional functionality or requirements above and beyond the tiers. Example add-ons include additional support time, content editing help and more.

Having said all this – we’re going to continue to be flexible about pricing – so as ever do get in touch if you have a specific budget that you need us to fit with. For instance – we know that some museums are applying for web development grants and have an initial amount to spend but no ongoing budget – we’re happy to talk to you about what we can do about this kind of scenario!

See our full pricing table here.

That’s it for this update – we’ve got a whole other bunch of functionality improvements to announce, but I’m going to leave that to the next blog post.

As ever, please do get in touch with any thoughts, ideas or questions. Join the mailing list using the box below, or follow us on Twitter for regular(ish) updates.

Stay well, everyone!

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News

Progress…

It’s been a while since I wrote that last (and, er, first) post on the Museum Platform blog.

The lack of progress in writing anything here is at a total contrast to the breadth and depth of work we’ve been doing on the actual platform itself, and the business and structures that will support it. We have been a bit like the proverbial duck, all calm and serenity and apparent lack of activity on the surface but wild crazy paddling underneath…

We’re going to be better at this going forwards – I want to make sure that we’re talking about what we’re building and why we’re building it, soliciting feedback from the museum sector and working this into our plans as we do so. One of the things we’re very clear about in making this thing is that we want to bring museums along for the ride. No – more than that – we want museums to be steering the truck…

We’re also aware that it’s terribly easy to announce something and set up a spangly new website and domain but then never do anything beyond that. So I’m going to do two things with this post: firstly, I’m going to give an overview of where we’ve got to, both from a technical and a business point of view, and what we’ve been busy doing for the last few months. Secondly, I’m going to commit to blogging (at least) weekly about what we’ve been doing so that anyone interested can drop in here, get a sense of our thinking and – if they’re interested enough – give us some feedback or otherwise get involved.

What we’ve been doing

In no particular order, we have been…

Going through the formal steps of setting up a business

It’s taken a while to tie together all the constituent parts required to set up a new limited company, but we’re finally there! On 27th March 2020, The Museum Platform was officially created. We’re now A Real Thing!

Spending a huge amount of time talking about pricing

Everyone who has ever setup a Software As A Service (SaaS) platform talks about how hard pricing is, and they’re not wrong.

What we realised early on is that TMP isn’t a “normal” SaaS. We don’t want to take a “here’s what you pay, here’s what you get” approach. Museums aren’t that neat and ordered, whether we’re talking about size and scope of collection or in-house technical expertise. We want to make sure we’re offering a solution that actually helps museums – and it became clear early on that “on-boarding” (urgh, such a terrible Americanism…) is really important. We don’t think it fits to have a “click this button, add your credit card details, now you’ve got a website” type approach with the platform – there are just too many factors at play to make this viable with our museum audience.

As part of this, we’re still talking about and working on pricing. We’re talking to museums, other museum related professional groups, museum individuals and more, and continuing to tweak…

Building, building, building

It’d be tough to adequately sum up all the build progress that has gone on since I last posted, but here are some highlights:

We now have a custom built Elastic Search plugin!

This is the engine behind the approach we’re taking with collections on the site. It allows us to query our Elastic Search API and return results – yes, on the front end, but also when authoring content. From an editors point of view, this means you can write a piece of narrative and then “drop in” a collections record. Here’s a quick video capture:

I’ve written a lot about how museum objects shouldn’t just be “over there” on another website, but instead embedded and embeddable throughout everything museums do. The kind of editing you see above is absolutely core to this, and I am VERY excited about where this is going to take us…

We’ve started work on some front-end faceting

JO has been beavering away on the data side of things and has been starting to put together some front end faceting for collections results.

For those that don’t know what “faceting” is – it’s basically advanced search but turned around so that it’s user-focused around an initial keyword query. You start off with a normal, Google-style search term, get some results and then filter them to get more accurate results. Think Amazon search results.

What I like about this (after years trying to convince museums not to do horribly complicated advanced search forms) is that it’s advanced search but made for normal mortals…

We’ve pivoted to the Gutenberg editor

I’ve long been thinking about Gutenberg in the context of our clients over at Thirty8. We’ve favoured our own custom built block editor until now, mainly because we’re doing things with it that Gutenberg just hasn’t been able to cope with.

But recently I’ve been having a really good play with Gutenberg – it’s grown and matured considerably and is clearly the future of WordPress, so we’ve decided it’s solid enough now to support what we want to do on the platform. We’ve re-done our code to support it and are very happy with the results!

So much more…

There’s so much more building going on, and only a limited amount of your attention – so here’s a bulleted list rather than anything in more depth:

  • We’ve built in support for Sketchfab within the editor. Museums can now easily drop in their 3D models and tweak advanced settings from within the editing interface
  • We’ve got a newsletter builder module almost finished – this enables editors to write rich HTML newsletters within the TMP platform and then pass them up to MailChimp, Mailerlite etc for sending. Re-use text content, links, images from your website!
  • We’re nearly finished on a timeline module. Drop your content – exhibitions, blog posts, events, objects, pages – into a beautiful, on-brand, interactive timeline with ease!
  • We’re building in intelligent “museum-friendly” options from the ground up. A good example is the “opening times” shortcode which enables easy re-use across the site:

  • We’re talking to Pretix about setting up as a reseller – these guys have an amazing ticketing platform which we’re likely to build in shortly – but we’re also building in modules for Eventbrite, as we know it’s a popular solution for many museums

We’ve got clients!

This is probably the most important thing of all. It’s easy to get carried away with the tech and find you’ve got a perfect platform with no-one using it. But – we’ve won our first client and are in conversation with lots of other museums who are really interested in what we’re doing. This is deeply encouraging!

Finally…

It would seem weird to write anything at all right now without mentioning the extraordinary times we find ourselves in. We’re hugely aware of the enormous and unprecedented impact that CV19 has had – is having – on our incredible, beautiful, amazing museum sector, and our hearts go out to all those affected by what is going on. We’re working hard to develop a set of tools that are genuinely useful to museums going forward. We think digital is going to play a really key part in this journey and want to put as much in the hands of museums as possible. If you’ve got ideas about how we might help, please do get in touch – or as ever join our mailing list where we’ll be keeping everyone updated as we move this exciting project forwards!

Stay safe!

Categories
News

It lives, it breathes!

We’re stupendously excited to launch The Museum Platform today (Friday 13th – an auspicious date for some…).

We’ve been beavering away behind the scenes for some months now – Rob, Jeremy and I had been chatting about a collaboration for some time, and finally we met up for a brainstorm day in June 2019 – from which TMP was born.

The basic idea is hopefully articulated on our website at https://themuseumplatform.com/ – a landing page for now but shortly something much more filled out, with much more in-depth information about what we’re building, how we’re building it and why we’re doing it the way we are.

But, here goes: an “elevator pitch” style description…

Every museum – whatever their size – needs and deserves to be on the web, showing the world who they are and what they do. But for museums with limited resources and support, it is often too hard to take those crucial first steps that should establish their digital presence. Too hard, too costly, and too intimidating.

 

The team behind The Museum Platform have been working in the sector for a long time, both inside museums and for specialist agencies. Each of us has seen independently how tough it is to get established in the digital world when addressed by the constraints that face most of the UK’s thousands of museums, and we are united in our frustration at this. We decided to tackle the problem by building a software and service platform that would support museums to get online for the first time and then to gain increasing digital independence and confidence.

I’m personally incredibly excited about this collaboration. Rob and Knowledge Integration are the most incredibly professional team and bring a wealth of experience and a supremely exciting software platform to solve many of the issues around getting collections online. Jeremy is an all round guru in the museum space, bringing an incredibly level-headed, pragmatic and strategic brain to the party. And me? Well, I know a fair bit about WordPress and the front end, so hope to bring design acumen, user experience and development skills to the party. I think the combination we bring is pretty compelling, even if I do say so myself 🙂

Our intention is to begin to invite museums onto the system during early 2020. We are looking for early stage beta testers – so if you’re a small to medium sized museum struggling with any aspect of your web presence then please do get in touch – firstly, we’d suggest joining our mailing list (see the footer of this blog), or you can drop us an email at [email protected] with any specific ideas, questions or thoughts.

Look forwards to hearing from you!