Case study : Reinventing museums🏛️

Culture & Heritage ( Wicked problem)

My first group project was an interesting challenge and this week was intense. This design sprint was done only in 4 days. We tried to solve a pretty ambitious problem. The cultural institutions have been suffering for a while, and even more since the pandemic started. While the famous museums are still somewhat visited, museums in general are not really enjoying the attention their collections deserve.

The starting point for our project was :

Since the 70s, museums and other public institutions have been suffering a profound crisis. In the heart of this kind of institutions, there’s the mission of making heritage accessible for all. They build the bridges between objects and people, for them to be enjoyed by citizens. How Might We help museums and other public institutions bring people closer and fulfill their mission to preserve and activate cultural heritage in the 21st century?

I am very fond of this project because of my background. I’m an art historian specialised in cultural heritage and I worked as a tour guide in museums previously so I know how museums function. So if you ask me there is no problem in how they function. That is why it was good for me to work on this problem with my two other teammates who have different backgrounds. And we can’t deny the information that can be found everywhere we look: the museums are less visited than before.

We followed a double diamond process to work on this problem.

Research

Firstly, we had to empathize with the museum visitors. We conducted a quantitative and qualitative research so we can get a better insight into what the museum visitors think. Our target group was generation Z (1997–2012) , more precisely we wanted to target young adults that are between 18–25 years old.
Gen Z defined by the influential Pew Foundation:

More racially and ethnically diverse than any previous generation, and they are on track to be the most well-educated generation yet. They are also digital natives who have little or no memory of the world as it existed before smartphones.

They are the ones who are currently setting the trends and with this project we are trying to understand what they think of museums.

For the quantitative part of research, we created an online survey of 8 questions and distributed it in our target group. We aimed for 30 answers and reached that goal with 37 participants. We analyzed the data and some of the main points were:

→ 90 % of the participants visit museums

→ Around 70% of them don’t know any apps related to museums

→ More than 50% would use a museum app

Results from online survey : more than 50% participants would use a museum app

Following the data we got from the online survey we came up with 6 questions so we could do a qualitative research and gather more in-depth information to understand how people think:

  1. What could museums do better to attract more young people?
  2. Tell me about a memorable experience in a museum?
  3. How do you select a museum?
  4. How can an app improve your museum experience?
  5. At which stage would you use the app?
    a) before the museum
    b) in the museum
  6. Would you use it more than once ?

We interviewed five people from the pool of online-survey of participants and they have been chosen according to availability ( we were pressed with time) and mixed gender. Some interesting points from the participants were:

“Museums can attract the younger generation by using more technology”

“Sometimes the settings within the museums can be a little bit boring”*

Now here is why it was interesting to do a qualitative research on top of quantitative one. The online survey stated that there was no problem in the way that the museum presents the information:

Online survey : More than 80 percent of participants think they like the way how the museums present the information.

However, the personal interviews suggested otherwise (just like stated in the previous quote *) and we got more than one participant saying that some museums have good scenography and some don’t so they appear boring. Or that they get lost in the information. How do we interpret that? Maybe our question wasn’t clear enough; maybe the participants didn’t have enough choices; maybe we should have added: “ I don’t know” or “ I am not sure” option. The participants mentioned that they liked the educational part of the museum, maybe they ment just that. It would have been interesting if we had more time to do another qualitative research with more participants. Finally, we decided to trust qualitative research on this one.

Define

Our research data allowed us to create affinity diagrams, an important step in finding insights and patterns of the museum customers. Then we defined the four main clusters for the improvement: accessibility, interaction, transparency and navigation. From there we created How might we (HMW) statements that are relevant to those four points. Some of the examples we wanted to highlight are:

Accessibility: We might help the person by seeing the app in color-blind mode.

Interaction: We might help the person by providing more interactive elements.

Transparency: We might help the person by finding the right museum according to their preferences.

Navigation: We might help the person by guiding them on how to go through the museum based on their personal interests.

Affinity diagrams combined into four main clusters for improvement and HMW statements

By dot voting we decided on which points from HMW statements we want to focus on the most. First there was interaction and then navigation. Interaction was an interesting point and some of the propositions were:

1. We help the person, who thinks that museums are boring, by providing an interactive mini-game and 3D within the app.

2. We help the person, who thinks that museums are not interactive enough, by telling stories about the museum objects through the app.

For this part, we created an empathy map that aligns with the survey and the interviews. The empathy map guided us in creating the user persona.

Empathy map
User persona: Lisa Miller

For the storyboard part, each of us offered different storyboard in 3 frames describing the experience of Lisa Miller visiting a museum. Imagining those scenarios helped us create a user journey map, showing the stages of a user’s experience with a product. It was particularly interesting to think of the opportunities how we could help the museum visitors.

Journey map

Problem and hypothesis statement🎯

We have observed that the museum experience is not meeting Lisa’s needs. The museum was designed to give the visitor the opportunity enjoy themselves.

“How can we improve the experience so that customers of the Generation Z like Lisa have fun during the museum by incorporating interaction and technology.”

Ideate and prototype

After defining our problem, we needed to think of a possible solution. In order to come up with as many ideas as possible, we once again focused on the main problems we mentioned previously: navigation, interaction and understanding. From there, each of us thought of two possible solutions for one problem: so 6 ideas per person! Ideation process and dot voting once again showed that the app should focus on interaction and we agreed on a mini-game in form of an app to create interactive museum experience.

Mind mapping

Each of us thought of a different user flow and created low fidelity prototype.

We concluded from there that our ideas of a mini-game are similar and decided to combine all 3 user flows into one mid fidelity prototype.

Museum game: mid fidelity prototype

The main goal of the game is to answer the museum question. There is also a map that is helping the user navigate in the museum, the map is connected to the game. A non-player character is asking you the museum question, and he could be anyone related to the museum: Leonardo da Vinci, Claude Monet or for example some medieval character if the visitor is currently in a medieval museum such as Musée de Cluny. After completing the game, the user can choose to purchase a souvenir, like a magnet or a cookie from the museum café. That way the visitor can try the game, learn something new and enjoy the reward afterwards.

Validation: test

The mid-fi prototype was uploaded and tested on Useberry by 10 participants. The results were rather promising, 90% of the testers managed to solve the task. It would have also been interesting to try to figure out why one tester dropped off, then improve and create more detailed prototype to test again. We did not manage to do that step, something to think about for the next time when doing a design sprint.

Results of Useberry prototype test

Conclusion

This project taught me how important time management is in a design sprint. From research to prototype, we had to learn how to coordinate well as a team and not to jump to conclusions and solutions without understanding the problem. Research phase was a very important first step that I personally wished we could devote more time to. This makes me curious about the future of the museums. I wonder about all the ways that the future generations will learn about their own history and heritage…

References :

https://www.aam-us.org/2021/03/01/gen-z-is-leaning-in-are-museums-ready-to-make-room/

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