Designing Your Museum Website for Skimmers, Swimmers & Divers

When we first started working with museums several years ago, we came across this concept of Skimmers, Swimmers and Divers as a way to classify museum visitors. We were talking to a museum director who was referencing in-person visitors, but we immediately saw the application in the digital realm as well. We’ve used it as a core principle in our website design ever since. As you’re developing content and layouts for your website, you can use this concept as a tool to make your website even more engaging and successful.

It is important to remember that these categories are not static. A person’s category — whether they’re a Skimmer, Swimmer, or Diver — might depend on the day. Some days you might feel like really digging in and other times you might not. It could also depend on the topic. Some topics will intrigue you and turn you into a Swimmer or Diver, while others you’re content to skip over. The best way to maximize engagement is to make sure you’re providing options for people regardless of what mindset they’re currently in.


Skimmers are looking to get in, get the information they need, and get out as quickly as possible.

  • They want speed, ease, clarity and brevity.
  • They don’t want to take time hunting through multiple pages on your website to find something.
  • They want clear answers to their questions, they don’t want to have to decipher what you mean.
  • They want you to be brief.

Accommodating Skimmers makes your content easier for everyone to use. Here are some ideas to get started:

  • Use thoughtful typography. You can use callouts, bold type, and sizing to make the most important info stand out.
  • Incorporate icons and visual cues. Icons can be a great way to help draw the eye to important information on the page.
  • Have an option to search. Your website also becomes instantly more skim-friendly if you have a search bar that works well. It makes everything just two clicks away.



Swimmers are willing to put in a little more time and energy. They are willing to engage if something catches their attention.

  • They want simplicity, novelty, creativity and discovery.
  • If you help them discover something novel or creative, they may dive in further. But if you don’t make the experience simple, they may decide it’s not worth the effort.

Here are some ideas to engage Swimmers:

  • Maximize mobile usability. If your website doesn’t work well on a phone, it can be a very frustrating experience to visitors, and it’s a surefire way to annoy Swimmers so they give up and move on from your content.
  • Avoid digital “dead ends.” You don’t want a Swimmer to feel like they’ve hit a dead end on your website. Think about how you can nudge them toward the next step.



Divers want to take it all in and spend time exploring.

  • They want details, background, interaction and connection.
  • Divers are likely to read and absorb all the details and background information you provide.
  • They’ll spend time to engage and connect with you through interactive content.

Keep Divers coming back with these ideas:

  • Be consistent. One of the keys to digital engagement for any visitor is consistency. Because the pace of online content is moving so quickly, if you aren’t regularly producing and updating, you get drowned out. This is especially true for keeping Divers engaged, because they’re paying closer attention to everything you do.
  • Use a variety of multimedia. Think about ways you can incorporate different kinds of multimedia. You probably have lots of photos, but could you start to incorporate more video? If you’re already doing video, what’s next? Can you create infographics or comic strips or interactive timelines?
  • Be interactive. Online content is at its best when it’s interactive. This can be as simple as making sure you’re responding when someone takes the time to leave a comment. Ask questions. Make sure you’re thinking about how to make your content a two-way conversation. Use surveys or polls.
  • Invite Divers to contribute. Brainstorm ways you can get people creating content with you.

Ready to optimize your website?

We can help! A museum website redesign is a big project, and you probably have a lot of questions. Get in touch, and we can talk through all of the details, no pressure!