Digital Principles

Digital continues to permeate throughout the service by way of our internal processes and by our users. The Office for National Statistics shows that 86 percent of UK adults have used the internet at least once in the past three months. We now have almost as many unique visits to our web services (1 million) as we do foot traffic ( 1 million)  through our doors.

Physical location is no longer the defining factor when we refer to users of our service. In order to effectively use our spaces and reach the widest audience digital needs to be at the very core to the Bristol Culture team. We need to offer digital services that will enable us to help deliver our mission. These digital principles allow us to ask “why” for all future digital direction.

Our job is to help staff, volunteers and audiences to use technology now, and hundreds of years of years into the future through the creation and preservation of “stuff”.

By Zak Mensah and the good folks of Bristol Culture. Last remembered to update on 31 Jan 2018.

Read our trello roadmap for 2017-22 for current and upcoming projects we’ll be tackling.

Read our Google doc version of the roadmap.


  1. Users at the heart
  2. Evaluation
  3. Digital services
  4. Build digital skills
  5. Experiment
  6. Collaboration (Partnerships)
  7. Sustainability
  8. Open practices

1. Users at the heart

Everything we do must have our users needs at the centre of our decision-making and the services we provide. Meeting user needs will ensure we are focused and led by what users are actually doing and are accessible to users and devices.
Examples: User-centred design

2. Evaluation

We have more data than ever about our users and how they use our services. We need to build evaluation into our digital projects and use the data to help guide our plans. Evaluation will allow us to test our assumptions and continuously improve our products and services whilst maintaining value for money at all times.

Examples: Team Darren and Fay!

3. Digital services

Digital is now fundamental to delivering our mission and needs to seen as being a continuous service rather than an afterthought or a project that stops and starts. With this implication, all projects can better consider how digital underpins our activity.

Examples: Building a digital repository for Collections and Archives, Data management plan, Content Strategy

4. Build our digital skills

Planning, designing and running digital services requires a particular set of skills. The service needs to grow its teams digital literacy in order to run success services and be ready to exploit new opportunities. A better skilled service will reap rewards for our users and key stakeholders.

Examples: Baseline skills audit, Managing digital preservation, improve awareness of digital, digital literacies, support network.

5. Experiment

Digital is constantly evolving and nobody has all of the answers. We need to be prepared to experiment and use evaluation to keep moving forward. If we use a build, measure and refine loop we set appropriate expectations and have an established process in place that is flexible and agile.

Examples: Minimum viable product, lean strategy, The Hidden Museum project

6. Collaboration (Partnerships)

We cannot do everything ourselves. We should seek to partner with peers to reduce risks and accelerate our activities where possible.

Examples: Collaboration with Students, the University of Bristol Computer Science department, funders, local arts organisations.

7. Sustainable

In order to provide value for money we must ensure that our activities are fit for purpose and aligned with our mission and appropriate business models using technologies that the service is able to sustain for the expected lifetime of use.

Examples: Support contracts, technologies, capturing and managing born-digital material, mission aligned.

8. Open

The open movement exists in the public sector to benefit the wider community. We have learnt from others and should pay this back in kind. We should share our triumphs and problems. Where possible we should share our code, resources and practices. Much of this can be made possible by using open technologies and standards by default.

Examples: Open data projects, Culture24 action research projects, open standards and code bases on github, blogs etc.

An obvious hat tip is needed for staff internally, Kevin Bacon from Brighton Museum, and the good folks at museumcamp 2013 for helping me refine these principles. Also The Tate Digital Strategy, The Cooper-Hewitt labs blog, The Arts Council and the work from GDS Service Manual.

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