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Who Is Our Audience: SmithsonianEducation.org

One of the foundational questions asked that led to the development of the Learning Lab was: who are we serving now? Who is our audience?

Beginning in 2009 and running continuously for 2 years, a user satisfaction survey (using the American Customer Satisfaction Index) was conducted on the Smithsonian’s primary website for teachers, SmithsonianEducation.org. The study was originally intended to highlight areas of improvement to the existing website information architecture and content, but it also provided us with a deep look into who our audience is, their motivations for coming to the site, and their activities while there.

The data below is a summary of the results of 7,470 surveys completed.

It probably comes to little surprise that a site called “Smithsonian Education” would primary appeal to teachers. About half of visitors to the site identified themselves as teachers, by far the largest audience segment. However, if you add in other formal education audiences (Librarian, Curriculum Developer, School Administrator), we find that this segment increases to approx. 56%.

Visitor Roles: SmithsonianEducation.org

To dive deeper into the dominant visitor segment to the site, we then asked the subject area taught by those self identifying as a teacher (the survey here allowed multiple selections). The data points to a fairly equal distribution between Language Arts, Science, and Social Studies. Again, not a surprise that more generalized subjects are dominant (Language Arts and Social Studies) as 65% of teacher survey respondents taught in grades PreK–8.

Teacher Visitor Breakdown: Subject Area (SmithsonianEducation.org)

Inherent to understanding satisfaction (the original intention of the survey) was a need to identify the motivations that lead to users arriving at our website. Almost 60% (congruent with the number of visitors in formal educational roles) came to the site with aspirations of finding educational resources (although 3% did expect to “be entertained”).

Visitor Motivation, Pre-visit (SmithsonianEducation.org)

Now that we understood the makeup of our visitors and their reasons for arriving at the website, we looked into the actual activities they performed while on the site. Most came for the content: to read it online, to search for it, to download it, and to share it.

Visitor Activities (SmithsonianEducation.org)

Diving even deeper still, we asked the question: “What were you primarily looking for today?” We see here a connection between visitor motivation pre-visit and the actions performed on the site. 59% come to the site to “find educational resources” and again the majority end up performing this type of search, in the form of teaching resources, lesson plan downloads, or content information (clarified in the survey to mean specific information, such as oceanography).

Visitor Search Priorities (SmithsonianEducation.org)

Visitors who indicated that they were primarily looking for teaching resources were asked to clarify their needs. We can see here both the types of information desired (supplemental and topical) as well as the format in which they need it (downloadable).

Visitor Search Priorities Breakdown: Teaching Resources (SmithsonianEducation.org)

Finally, what about that “other?” Visitors were asked if they located what they needed on that specific visit. If not, they were asked to share what was not available. More than 1,200 specific suggestions were offered. A deeper analysis and categorization of this data is needed, however we are working hard to make available a resource to address the second item on the list.

Smithsonian Education Open-Ended Responses


* data from the Smithsonian Center for Education and Museum Studies Satisfaction Insight Review, delivered March 2011, by Sara Dorn-Havlik, Satisfaction Research Analyst, Foresee Results.

* data visualizations inspired by the Tate Website Audience Segmentation report.