Beyond the Screen: Part Two

A while back, we introduced the first in a series called “Beyond the Screen” based on a recent presentation at Museums and the Web in Baltimore. This week we’re pleased to introduce part two.

How do we address different audiences and different preferences?

The standard solution to this problem of how we address different audiences and preferences has routinely been what visionary designers, Ray & Charles Eames referred to as creating “the best for the most for the least” – in other words, find the information that appeals to the largest potential audience. In a recent observational study at the Field Museum in Chicago, the team found that the majority of users interacting with their interactive Sue the T. Rex puzzle had a dwell time of 2-3 minutes, yet others spent up to 12 minutes carefully reading each piece of text, watching all of the videos, and carefully examining each bone (Marie Georg – Field Museum, 2013).

There is certainly no single visitor type but rather several modes of motivation for people visiting and behaving in a museum. John Falk describes five visitor motivation types: the explorer, the experience seeker, the recharger, the professional/hobbyist, and the facilitator. (Falk, 2009). Andrew Pekarik and Barbara Mogel have conducted their own visitor studies and developed their own visitor types identified by the IPOP acronym (Pekarik, 2010):

  • The “Idea” person likes to understand how the ‘big picture’ works
  • The “People” person is attracted to personal and emotional connections.
  • The “Object” person is attracted by the aesthetics of the object, and
  • The “Physical” person seeks physical and sensory experiences.

A stereotypical example would be that while a teen might be looking for less text in an exhibit, an older adult might want to be able to delve deeply into a topic. Delivering a single middle-ground compromise solution unfortunately means that neither visitor will be satisfied. The same goes for television: “Prime Time” literally refers to the time when the majority of a viewing audience is typically available. Fortunately, in the same way that video-on-demand has changed the landscape of television for the better, responsive approaches now give museums the potential to provide audiences what they want, when they want it, and how they want it. Let’s break this down a bit more to better understand what we mean:

What they want” refers to individually curating offerings based on specific preferences, tendencies, skills, or interests. “When they want it” alludes to allowing visitors to experience something on their own time. This could mean dwell time (how long they spend at a specific piece) or what time of day they want to interact with something. “How they want it” focuses on the specific format they prefer receiving new information. One example might be viewing images as opposed to text, another might be viewing it via a tablet as opposed to a projection.

These three areas make up what we call the responsive triangle. While all three probably resonate with your past internal discussions, you might be most familiar with “How they want it”, which is more commonly referred to as “responsive design.” This is where we’ll begin.

Stay tuned for part three in the series. Click Here to view the accompanying slides