Screenshot of Explore Some of Our Projects Callout


The Smithsonian’s Office of International Relations (OIR) partnered with Interactive Knowledge to help illustrate and organize their vast international scope through an online interactive map and serve as an exploratory interface for users to their website. The OIR staff are now able to update the map more frequently and easily create reports from the backend database content.

About this project

The Smithsonian’s Office of International Relations (OIR) is tasked with managing the direction of international engagement across all of their many units and affiliates. In order to help illustrate and organize such a vast worldwide network, OIR sought to build an interactive map that displays the scope of the Smithsonian’s international work and serves as an exploratory interface for users within their organization as well as the general public.

Their existing map interface was visually appealing but quite limited from a technical standpoint. Analytics showed that the usability was so problematic that users rarely navigated to more detailed content through the map, and weren’t able to engage with the filters and other organizational elements. Content managers were also unable to update certain aspects of the map leaving much of the content dated and/or incomplete.


The IK approach

Interactive Knowledge upgraded their map to a new, more extensible platform that is fully connected to their existing content database. The resulting interface displays the vast scope of the Smithsonian’s international engagement in a clean and highly usable format. Since the map only displays a project’s country, instead of the exact location, map markers are clustered into a “donut chart”,  illustrating the thematic breakdown of the OIR projects. Clicking on a cluster will zoom the map view, highlighting that region and listing all the region’s projects in the side rail. Additional details are obtained through a project detail page, offering users in-depth information, as well as related people and articles. This map is automatically updated as content managers update the main database, allowing the OIR to keep their content timely. Furthermore, the design changes we made will be fully responsive allowing users access from any mobile device anywhere in the world.

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    Screenshot of Explore Some of Our Projects Callout

The results

It is easy for organizations to fall into the trap of focusing efforts on satisfying the desires of their internal team or stakeholders. We have been more successful when changes to the website’s architecture or functionality focus on serving the needs of the user. We are able to uncover what users are looking for through observation and analysis of behaviors and visitation data. These improvements not only improve the visitor’s experience but ultimately help the organization in meeting one of the most important goals in the digital space – to continually increase audience engagement through the website.