Bringing National Museums Scotland to life online.

How we helped National Museums Scotland bring their museums to a worldwide audience and bagged ourselves a Scottish Creative Award in the process.

National Museums Scotland


User research, digital and campaign strategy, user interface design, front-end development, Umbraco CMS implementation and website maintenance.

History in the making.

In just one year, National Museums Scotland welcomed 2.4 million visitors through their doors.  Visitors come far and wide to experience collections of national and international interest and importance and the vision was to extend their collection to a wider audience by replicating a real life visit online.

They needed a new design partner to reinvent the Explore section of their site to bring the museum to life online using immersive content and experiences. Equally, it needed to be capable of managing a high volume of new content including items from 10 new galleries at the National Museum of Scotland and from two restored hangars at the National Museum of Flight. 

This is how LEWIS helped them to deliver ‘Explore’.

We embarked upon an adventure with National Museums Scotland to bring the museum to life online, using immersive content and experiences to help a worldwide audience ‘Explore’ a national institution.

NMS explore digital strategy and development

The making of ‘Explore’.

In previous years this section of the site had amassed an eclectic selection of learning resources, games and stories about objects in the museums’ collection. Some of this had been the result of specific projects and some part of a more concerted effort to increase the amount of material online. This left National Museums Scotland with a diverse array of ‘stuff’ which while interesting, fun and popular with website visitors, lacked coherence as a whole.

We knew that we had work to do to deliver a truly useful and engaging resource to fulfill the ambition to create a genuine online hub for the collections.

We set out to deliver a realigned and redesigned section of the site that focused on the users first while giving careful consideration to the back-end CMS for ease of maintaining and adding content.

The strategy.

An in-depth examination of Explore combined Google Analytics data and audience surveys. This provided a detailed view of how the section of the website was being used: what users wanted, what they didn’t want, which topics and themes were popular as well as some real insight on the content the audience loved.

Using this data and research, we came up with a set of key findings and a prioritised list of changes and improvements to inform the redevelopment.

Changes included improving the findability and browsability of content, enhanced signposting to help find content alongside improvements to the content itself with bigger images, increased multimedia content, better layout and more in-depth information.

Curated content features, human-friendly filters and tagging, bigger images, more multimedia, flexible layouts and intuitive sign-posting all wrapped up in a seamless responsive experience for delivery across any device.

Developing the website.

We knew from our research that as well as responding to what the data was telling us, we also had to ensure we designed a website that fitted with people’s contemporary browsing expectations and reflected current trends.

Explore is a platform for storytelling using simple filters to access material in a variety of different ways, adopting user friendly tags to avoid any confusion with museum terminology. Landing pages divide content into chapters and long-form story templates allow experimentation with layout and embedding of multiple media types to create an editorial and interactive experience that displays elegantly on all devices.


increase in UK wide visits
(outside of Scotland)


increase in European visits (outside of UK)


increase in visits from USA


increase in visits from Australasia


The newly developed Explore section has succeeded in making the collections accessible to as many people as possible by bringing them to life online. Together, LEWIS and National Museums Scotland have created an immersive experience for a worldwide audience, founded on solid understanding and research.

The objective was to engage and inspire the public and it’s clear the Explore website has set a strong foundation to roll out fresh content and carry out follow-up evaluations to continually improve and enhance the site, as would be the case with the physical museum buildings.

Our work with National Museums Scotland saw us win the coveted award for Best Digital/Social Media Strategy at The Drum Scottish Creative Awards 2016.