Due to limited budgets, many school classes visiting Ribe Art Museum opt-out of getting the guided tour. This negatively affected the quality of the students’ learning and experience. Furthermore, the museums’ previous experimentation with digital solutions had tended to draw attention away from the physical exhibitions—so a new approach was needed.
Early exploratory project
The collaboration began with an exploratory project taking inspiration from recent academic publications on interactive museum technology. Based on their findings, I set out to explore augmented reality as a method for accessing information about paintings. To understand the potential and limitations of this direction, I iteratively tested and refined rough functional prototypes with visitors. This led to a validated interaction concept, which motivated the museum to do further projects.
Designing for the needs of everybody
In order to design something that could meet the needs of everybody involved, I then decided to take a step back and conduct an extensive research phase. I did desk research, observed guided tours, and conducted dusins of interviews (with visitors, students, teachers, museum staff at every level, and an education consultant).
My analysis revealed needs to be varying. Even conflicting. Visiting students’ had limited interest and attention spans, and they preferred dramatic stories. This clashed with the curators’ academic standards and vision of ‘the ideal and authentic museum experiences’.
To design a balanced solution, I had to iterate ideas and concepts with the client, and test them with users in the field. Lab-style tests would not be enough. After all, the intended experience was not confined to the screen—it involved all the contextual factors of a museum visit.
To overcome biases, I triangulated qualitative and quantitative methods during testing. I used observation, interviews, quantitative usability questionnaires, and data logging. I also interviewed staff and teacher about their perspectives. Through this process I established high usability, and I enabled students to explore on their own terms. And finally, I met the museum’s and teachers’ criteria of what a museum visit should be. This gave us the confidence to go into final implementation and content production.
Today, the ArtView: Ribe Kunstmuseum app is a part of the museum’s educational service offerings, and is available for iOS and Android phones.
I was constrained to only designing an app. Yet, my work led to insights that could have improved the visitor experience across many channels and touchpoints. I believe I could have even created greater value through a holistic, co-creative service design approach.