I went to have a look at the National Heritage Board of S’pore’s website after a bit of a hiatus of a few months and was expecting to see the same ol’ layout. But I was presently surprised. It’s been revamped, and now it looks spunkier than the dowdier format before. The links to each museum/institution are easier to find now, and so are the links to programmes etc. But ‘user-friendliness’ is not the only criteria for a good website.
Paying a company a 5-figure sum to ‘sexy-up’ a website is easy; getting a sexy website to still give accurate info is much harder.
If you click here, you will see that Asian Civilisations Museum’s ‘South Asia Galleries’, ‘West Asia/Islamic Galleries’ etc are each listed separately with an entry fee of $8. This gives the impression that a visitor will need to pay $8 X number-of-galleries if he wants to visit ACM to see more than one gallery, when he actually needs to pay only $8 to see them all. Worse, the S’pore River gallery, which is ‘free’, also shows an entrance fee of $8! Similarly for the different exhibitions in the S’pore Philatelic Museum, National Museum etc, they all have a separate entry fee when they are actually covered under one-ticket price. I wonder if there are website-visitors who after visiting the site decide NOT to visit the museums because of the perceived ‘high’ costs?
And another irritating thing; links in the new website lead you to the wrong places. For example: on this page, clicking on the link ‘Sun Yet Sun Nanyang Memorial Hall’ at the bottom brings you to the page on Heritage Conservation Centre. For a new website, these glitches are especially irritating because one assumes that ‘new’ usually means ‘better’.
Hopefully, some NHB staff who scan cyberspace will get to see this blog and correct the above. My gripe here is largely that of bureaucracy and lack of an eye for detail:
1. Bureaucracy: A department in NHB HQ has the good idea of updating its website to improve its overall corporate image and that of the institutions under its umbrella. However, the same department has not worked well with the other museums/institutions (and the website designer) to ensure that the uploaded info is accurate and unambiguous. Even if HQ decides to wrongly list each separate gallery as having its own entry-fee, you would think that each museum would have already pointed out the problem to HQ already, right? I wonder how much communication goes on between NHB HQ and the seemingly ‘autonomous’ museums?
2. Lack of an eye for detail: You would think after all the time and money (I assume that the website revamp would have cost upward of $15,000 easily) have been spent on the website, some ‘editor’ employed by NHB HQ would have read everything and clicked on every link to ensure things are hunky-dorie, right? Obviously not. And again, why have the institutions not complained?
Increasingly, you can see that NHB HQ is a separate monster from each of the museum/institution under its charge. Reminds me of a debate in the American election: Does S’pore want a strong NHB HQ and weak museums, or a token NHB HQ and autonomous museums? RIght now, I think they don’t know what they want and it shows by looking at this latest website development.
UPDATE ON 30 OCT 2012 8.50AM: Wow, someone at NHB reads my blog! The 2 glitches pointed out above – the erroneous $8 separate pricing for individual galleries at ACM and other museums, and the wrong links in the new website – HAVE BEEN RECTIFIED! Thanks NHB for your swift action!