Just for the (online) record: Comparison between Van Gogh and Van Gogh/Gauguin websites

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The Van Gogh & Gauguin site is far more “plastic” that the Van Gogh Museum site. It’s a website whose plan does not reveal itself unless one is willing to really explore it. The site does not fit in our traditional mental models about information architecture and user experience—the typical navigation menus, introductory pages, lots of copy, etc. do not appear here.

Instead, the Van Gogh & Gauguin page uses colors, animations, subtle sounds, funky images and other resources to give us in idea of what is like to get into the mind of these artists. Their art is not a reflection of their thoughts and feelings. Rather, their thoughts and feelings go hand-to-hand with their creations.

The Van Gogh site is much more straightforward. It gives us a chronological review of the work of the artist. In a sense, it’s an academic kind of site. In order to really understand all that copy, one needs to research a lot more because they talk about trends in modern art, influences here and there, and so on. Simply put, one needs to know a thing or two about art history. Otherwise is close to impossible to make sense out of the densely packaged information that is in the website.

Conversely, the Van Gogh & Gauguin site does not require the visitor to know about art history and all those things. Its main focus is, in my opinion, to offer an interpretation of how the minds of the artists work and react to the environment.

As a result, the time one needs to devote to one site or the other is dramatically different. The Van Gogh website is fast, almost “quick and dirty” if you will. The other requires a lot of time and, more importantly, a great deal of user involvement. The visitor of the Van Gogh & Gauguin website needs to interact with it under a no-prejudices, no-compromise mindset. S/he will need to fill in many blanks and reach to a personal interpretation of what it’s there. Without this attitude, s/he will not make sense out of it and will go instead to the Van Gogh site, much more direct and traditional.