What are our design principles?

Our goal is to be people centered in everything we do. To that aim, our fundamental design principles are informed by the following:

Customer charter

The customer charter is the promise we make as a Museum to our visitors. It is currently owned by Audience Insights and the 'Visitors at the Heart' working group, which includes representatives from all directorates.

The goal is for all our work to align with these values, in order to create people-centred solutions. It's from these values that our design principles are derived.

Accessibility and inclusion

Much of our approach to accessible design is inspired by GDS. The organisation has done a lot of research and created many assets to ensure they design so that everyone can access the services they need. 

It is advised to take the time to explore their resources and and broader research.

Sustainability

Digital has a role in helping the Museum be planet focussed, which ultimately contributes to the well being of people who use and interact with our website and other digital services. This includes:

  • Ensuring assets (images, pdfs) are optimised for the web - this decreases the time to load/download (which is great for people with poor connectivity or who predominantly use their mobile phones to navigate the web) and in turn uses less energy.
  • Collaboration and keeping things open - e.g. powering features and products with existing open source data sources (and providing the same in return!) rather than replicating.

Useful links for checking tools and background reading:

From these, the following are the principles the digital design team aims to work by:

Content focussed

Ensuring components are designed to give the content, whether text, images or animation, space to breathe. This helps ensure our content is readable and easy to understand, drawing people into the message we’re trying to communicate and clarifying the follow-on actions they can take. 

Encouraging connections

Many of the topics in which the Museum wants people to engage more deeply are complicated and multi-layered. Natural history as a field requires links between different scientific methods and expertise.

Similarly, we want to design to encourage curiosity and lateral thinking among the people who use our website and digital services.

Sustainable

There are several aspects to sustainability.

From a digital design perspective, we try to reuse patterns and layouts as much as possible.

From a content design perspective, it involves thinking about how we can encourage action among our readers.

Minimising environmental impact of the website means thinking critically about how we justify and architect new features.

Maintainable

When designing and architecting new features and components, we try to minimise dependencies, while still allowing for flexibility.

This ensures we can more easily make updates and develop new solutions in quick response to people's needs.

Ethical

It might sound daunting, but this principle is about:

  • Asking ourselves who might be harmed by the decisions we make? Who does it benefit? How does it benefit them?
  • Do we understand what people need as opposed to what might seem fun? How are we contributing to their broader context?
  • Asking ourselves what existing biases or oppressive structures we might be upholding e.g. by using plug-ins or frameworks which could potentially contribute to and/or be impacted by algorithmic bias.
  • Making security and privacy a primary requirement.