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LIB 680

Monica Moyano
Final Paper

Applying Communication Theory in a Museum Website

When designing a website, understanding and applying communication theory to
the design will help create a conduit for effective communication to a targeted
audience. There are countless aspects that could be considered in the application of
theories. In this explanation of communication theory, I am creating a Museum
website and using fonts, type size, colors, selections and sequencing of information,
images, sound, arrangements of visuals and word choices to address how
communication theory can be applied.

According to communication theories, I would begin the website design with a

statement at the head of website that identifies the intended audience and desired
outcome of the websites mission. In the design of a museum website, the targeted
audience would be people interested in seeing and experiencing unique and
interesting Visual Arts. The site design would support this by using high resolution
images, colorful multimedia slides that appeal to a variety of artistic interests and
showcase the attributes of museum; each slide would target a sub-audience using a
variety of different artistic genres and media. For example, one slide would target
educators by offering guided tours for students; another slide would offer retired
people the opportunity to be involved in taking classes or volunteering, while
another would appeal to the younger generation through new contemporary Art or
an installation Art experience. The museum website design would need to use
various communication theories in order to accomplish its mission and attract

potential visitors; communication theories that would be applicable to an effective

website design include the benefit to cost theory, schema theory, cognitive load
theory, dual coding theory, cognitive dissonance theory, and elaboration likelihood
model of persuasion theory.

The front page of website should be designed to hook the audience by focusing
attention on major exhibits and opportunities to experience events at the museum.
Wilbur Schramms cost benefit theory (Mayer & Moreno, 2003) claims that the
likelihood of a recipients motivation to process information is the ratio between cost
(as it relates to time, energy and effort) and the returned benefit of processing the
message. Using this theory, the design is more effective if the viewer believes
there is low cost and high return on benefit in navigating through the site. The use
of bold text, large images, and exciting phrases such as once in a life time
experience or on exhibit for the first time ever can be effective tools to hook the
audience. The site must continue to keep the views attention by providing
Informative links which in sequential order to meet the needs of the targeted
audience. The viewer should continue to have the perception that the probability of
reward is equal to the promise of reward and potential effort as they navigate the
sight. The front page should be kept minimal and to the point. The site should
disseminate information as needed or desired by the viewer using additional
organized and easy to navigate links. For example on the front page of the site,
large images with bold text of exciting word choices can be used to initially hook the
viewer to a new exhibit. After the initial appeal, the view has the option of
clicking on the image or navigation button and learning what other aspects of the

exhibit will be taking place. The viewer can continue to find additional information
such as when the exhibit takes place and if there this is a lecture associated.

Schema theory is based on the theory that humans use a type of mental structure
to store information. Schemas are mental models of what people know. They are
prototypes with exemplars and variations. The website design should use the
viewers schemas to create navigation buttons. The buttons should be based on
standard information the viewer is likely to be looking for such as directions, current
hours of operation, classes, shop, admissions buy ticket and events. The buttons
should be easy to understand and lead the viewer to find exactly what they are
expecting to find based on their schema.

Cognitive load and just in time information are two communication theories
essential to designing an effective website for the optimum cost to benefit ratio.
Cognitive load theory refers to the amount of information a person can take in at
one time. Just in time information theory reduces the cognitive load by giving
providing information on an as needed bases. Keeping the information initially
provided on the front page relevant and to a minimum lowers the cognitive load.
When the cognitive load is low the viewer feels the cost to benefit is in their favor.
Additionally, when information on the site is provided in incremental links as
needed, it keeps the cognitive load down. Furthermore, designing easy to find
buttons consistent with the viewers schema also keeps down the cognitive load.
Designing informative large or contrasting colored buttons with an easy to read bold
font, allows the audience to easily navigate to sub-sections of the website and find
more specific information. Keeping the cognitive down by providing just in time

information so the audience feels the benefit to cost ratio is in their favor will result
in more effective website.

Mark Sadoski (2009, Dec 23) states that Dual coding theory is a general theory of
cognition and mind. Its purpose is to explain the powerful effects that mental
imagery has on memory, and it has been extended since to account for increasingly
more mental phenomena. Dual coding theory is sometimes referred to as a theory
of mental imagery, particularly visual imagery. The focus of the dual coding theory
is not on the two channels but rather is on how those two channels can be used
simultaneously for effective communication. Using words for duel coding in website
design creates visual imagery that an audience can relate to without the use of an
actual image. For instance, using words and phrases that create a specific mental
image like get jazzed, at the museum after hours creates a mental image of
jazziness in the audiences mind without needing to actually provide an image.
The audience will use their own schema to create the mental picture of how they
might look jazzed. The intent is to persuade the targeted audience to go the
museum after hours event by remembering the great feeling of jazz through their
own mental image.

Cognitive dissonance theory is based on the idea that humans desire

consistency between their beliefs and behaviors. People avoid dissonance
because its uncomfortable. According to Trenholm page 97, if inconsistency
motivates change, then, theoretically, it can be used to influence. By raising
awareness of actual or potential inconsistency, persuaders can arouse
targets. In the website design, cognitive dissonance can be applied to recruit

volunteer help and money. The audience goes to the site seeking information
about visiting the museum. The museum states the need for volunteer support
while providing information about events, art and entertainment. The viewer must
reflect on the time it would take to volunteer while making arrangements to spend
time being entertained by the Arts in a nonprofit organization. The viewer might feel
a negative dichotomy between emotionally caring amount to museum and its
cultural value in the community and behaving in a way that demonstrates care. The
viewer is then given the option to donate money in lieu of volunteering time. This
option reduces dissonance for the audience by creating a balance between belief
and behavior.

An effective website design should be a comprehensive source of relevant

information to perspective visitors or clients. The opening page should lure the
audience in while providing highlighted information in both verbal and visual
channels. The audience should be able to easily find relevant information on the site
and continually feel the benefit to cost is in their favor as they navigate.
Communication theories provide valuable tools for creating a website that
communicates effectively to a willing audience.

Works Cited
Griffin, E. (2009). A First Look at Communication Theory (7th Edition). New York, NY:
Mayer, R. E., & Moreno, R. (2003). 9 Ways to Reduce Cognitive Load in Multimedia
Learning. Educational Psychologist, 38 (1), 43-52.
Schramm, W. (1954). How Communication Works. In W. Schramm (Ed.), The Process
and Effects of Communication. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press.
Sadoski, Mark (2009, Dec 23) Dual Coding Theory
Trenhorn, page 97