Dorfman Museum Figures, Inc., was founded by Earl Dorfman in 1957 and subsequently run by his son, Robert Dorfman, so the company has a great history! They make life-like realistic figures as well as conservation forms to display archival clothing and accessories. The company is now being run by two long-time employees and they’re looking to continue moving the business forward. As times change, museums need different products and so the product line continues to change and expand.
Dorfman had an existing website, but it was dated and was not responsive to display well on different mobile devices. They also had a repository of more than 2,000 work example images housed in a basic folder structure. The website also did not highlight the company’s greatest asset enough: their amazing finished work!
Here are a few pages from their previous site:
Our challenge: Redesign the website to take advantage of all the new technology, make it easy to use and navigate, and put their finished work on display.
Inspiration & Information Gathering
I met the managers in their warehouse and workspace in Baltimore. They gave me a great tour, which helped me understand all the painstaking work that goes into their figures and forms. Of course, there were also heads, arms, and torsos wherever you looked! I also met a few celebs… Here are some photos of what I saw:
We not only had to gather information at their physical location, but we also didn’t want to miss any of the links on the existing site, which were not all included in the main navigation. We made a comprehensive information architecture map to capture all of their existing content, pages, and links which we would then use to create their new architecture.
Revised Architecture and Wireframes
Before getting into the visual design of the site, it was important to figure out the organization of the site, what made sense in terms of what their customers needed to do and see, and what the priorities were for the hierarchy.
We updated the architecture document and created “wireframes” of the proposed new pages—basic sketches of where what information would go and how it would be laid out on a page. We knew that most of the users would be viewing this site on desktop computers rather than mobile, so we were able to “go big” in terms of the photographs, while still keeping it user-friendly for mobile viewers.
The overall aim was to highlight as many full-width portfolio pictures as possible, using slide shows on the home page, as well as the landing pages for both the Realistic Figures and Conservation Forms. In terms of those thousands of images, we looked to the gold standard of filtering—amazon.com—for inspiration on creating one big gallery that would be filtered by things like gender, age, ethnicity, facial hair, and even special paint! The in-stock figures, which had previously been segmented out, were included with a special filter. We also dealt with the “creepiness factor” of the images of the head molds with no eyes or hair and decided to hide those by default, but made them accessible with their own filter. (If you look at the previous site gallery, they are the ones in black and white.)
We also created two other filterable galleries for the portfolio images and the instructions for each type of figure. We also thought that some easy reference tables to compare the products would also be helpful. (Thanks again, amazon.com!) We went through a few rounds of changes on the wireframes and then it was time to move on to design!
One of the other employees at Dorfman had provided some input in terms of fonts and colors and look and feel. His input ended up working very well! Here are a couple images from the initial mockup. These ended up looking very much like the finished site!
“…We were extremely pleased with the brand new comprehensive design that Chandra and her team developed for us. She was very receptive of our goals and created a beautiful updated site that allows our clients to find images and information that will help them see and learn what we can do for them.”
—Tim Clifton, Dorfman Museum Figures