Tate St Ives : Drawing off visitors
Group sites act unpredictably on a common template.
Tate St Ives, a regional centre for the UK’s Tate art gallery, blurs the lines between its own site and that of its parent through poor navigational signage.
Tate St Ives occupies a microsite within the Tate’s web presence alongside those for the three other gallery locations in the group. An upper tab bar allows switching between them from anywhere in the presence. Immediately below this is a colour-coded main header bar displaying a ‘St Ives Tate’ logo and a string of eight section headings that includes Collection, Members, Email Bulletin, Tickets and Shop. Clicking any of these takes visitors to standalone sections of the Tate website that have no direct relationship with the St Ives site.
The only way to reach St Ives’ content is via the content headings and highlights on its home page. Once within the site, content can be navigated from a menu bar to the right, though the ‘primary’ bar remains. If diverted from the St Ives site, the only link back is through the location tab, which opens on the home page not the last-viewed local page.
The Tate has gone down the route taken by many diversified or multinational groups and organisations to bring order and consistency to their web presence, consolidating on a common template. Among the advantages this confers are stronger branding and more efficient management of a web estate. Unfortunately, the way Tate has gone about it suggests its visitors’ needs were largely left out of the picture.
Anyone going to the Tate St Ives site, or its companions, will not get what they expect from the ‘faux’ primary navigation bar; it is unlikely that a visitor clicking the Collection heading, for example, wants the full rather than the local catalogue but that is where they are taken. The use of colour coding and the local logo within the site actively reinforce the illusion that the headings bar relates to St Ives content. This isn’t a case of an arts organisation using its artistic licence to challenge web conventions; it simply hasn’t got its head round the design and architecture.http://www.tate.org.uk/stives
First published on 01 October, 2009