a museum-worthy e-commerce experience

The challenge

The Blanton needs an online store that allows its visitors to conveniently shop and buy souvenirs without setting foot in the physical gift shop.

The Solution

Providing an online option for purchasing the museum shop’s merchandise will help the Blanton stand out from local museums that also lack an online shop, increase merchandise revenue, and encourage more Blanton Membership sales.

My role

I was responsible for research all the way through developing the prototype.


2 weeks

tools used

The Missing Piece

As a leading museum in Texas, you would expect The Blanton to have an e-commerce page for their museum shop. The Blanton Museum Shop offers a variety of art-inspired gifts for visitors of all ages. To browse the shop’s merchandise you either have to visit the physical location or sift through their Pinterest page. The Pinterest page leaves a lot to be desired, like the ability to purchase your favorite items.

“The Blanton Museum of Art at The University of Texas at Austin is one of the foremost university art museums in the country, and has the largest and most comprehensive collection of art in Central Texas.”

The Blanton’s about page

Benefits of E-commerce

Increase Profit and Customer Pool

The Power of Convenience

24/7 Purchase Ability

An online shop opens up purchase options and expands the customer base beyond the constraints of the physical store.

Online shopping allows people to shop at their convenience, whether that be time based or location based. Increasing convenience for shoppers results in increased sales.

The physical museum shop hours are limited, but an online shop is open twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. That's 50%+ more time for patrons to browse and buy.

The Challenge

Expand the Blanton's Retail Experience Into the Digital World

The Blanton needs an online store that allows its visitors to conveniently shop and buy souvenirs without setting foot in the physical gift shop.

My High-level Goals

  • Give Blanton patrons an easy way to purchase merchandise whenever and wherever they want
  • Adhere to the structure and style of the Blanton's existing site for a seamless integration
The Kickoff

Choosing the Right Frame

I wanted this new e-commerce experience to be simple and intuitive for both existing and new users so I studied the standard practices and patterns of existing online museum shops.

I created two proto personas which helped me understand the variety of the museum’s patrons and identify how they would interact with the online shop. Retail usually has a spectrum of customers, so I wanted to be sure the design catered to more than one type of person.

Vicky was based on an art-loving tourist who would likely visit the museum during a business trip. This frequent traveler maximizes her luggage space and gladly pays shipping cost over the cost of an additional checked bag.

Marie July embraces creativity and loves keeping Austin weird by supporting local gift shops that carry unique items. She’s an Austin native who loves inspiring her grandchildren with one-of-a-kind gifts.

Benchmarking: What Are Other Museums Doing?

I looked at local museums as well as other prominent museums in big cities to see how they addressed their online space.

I was surprised to learn that none of the local museums had an online shop.

The Blanton's existing online presence ranked equally with that of The Contemporary Austin, and the addition of an online shopping experience would elevate The Blanton to the level of external competition.

I analyzed the sites of DMA, LACMA, and MoMA before ideating. It was important that the experience I created met existing expectations and leveraged proven, successful designs.

The Discovery

Candles and Socks and Books, Oh My!

The information architecture of e-commerce can make or break an experience. The Blanton's merchandise proved especially challenging to categorize since they carry so many unique items like temporary tattoos, art prints, and jewelry. I wrote down 100 Blanton Gift Shop items and used  card sorting to establish categories. I then looked at common categories other museums use and made tweaks to develop the most logical structure. This allowed me to create an information architecture that would meet user expectations while maintaining a customized structure for Blanton's unique merchandise.

How might we create an online shopping experience that allows customers to browse and purchase products, ship or pickup their purchases, and manage their account?

The Solution

An Experience That Seems Like It Was Always There

I identified The MoMA as the closest counterpart to the Blanton’s visual style and took cues from their online shop to inform some of the page layouts and elements for The Blanton.

I decided to embrace The Blanton's existing visual design. They went through a major rebrand in 2013 which encompassed their digital and physical space. I wanted the online shop to feel familiar to long-time patrons as well as intuitive to first-time tourists so I aligned the visuals with the way-finding and marketing materials of the physical museum and gift shop and the existing website. Ultimately, I wanted to create a perfectly integrated online shop that would make users wonder, "Was this always here?"