site specific experience design

Worked with a group of two other students to research, design, and prototype a way to educate visitors of an abolitionist museum in an interactive and effective way. This museum is not yet open to the public and is located in the heart of downtown Brooklyn. It was the home of an abolitionist.

Tools Used: Sketch, Invision, Cardboard, Pencil, Paper, PVC Pipes, Audacity

Research & Interviews

We started off by conducting research and interviews. We first researched demographics and statistics to gain a better understanding of the population surrounding the museum. We conducted various types of interviews: both expert and user interviews. We were able to take a visit to the Brooklyn Historical Society and gather information about the site and about museums in general, particularly details on the structure of the creative exhibits at the Brooklyn Historical Society. We were able to conduct user interviews and a quick survey on what types of people visit museums, why people visit museums and what made their experience positive or negative. In the interviews, it was found that the three things people disliked the most about museums were navigation, museum hours, and lack of interactive exhibits. We decided to focus on one of these areas and began to ask the question:

How might we effectively educate visitors in an interactive and meaningful way?

Three personas were created as a result of our interviews and survey: frequent visitors, occassional visitors, and students.

Frequent Visitor

Name: Catherine
Age: 34
Occupation: Financial Analyst
Description: Catherine lives in New York and works as a financial analyst. She loves going to museums. Catherine tries to visit a museum at least once a month, and she has gone to certain museums more than once, but she also likes to explore many new museums.
Goals: Experience better navigation at museums; wants to learn about new exhibits at museums
Barriers: Poor signage; unsure of how to stay updated on new museum exhibits

Occassional Visitor

Name: Amanda
Age: 30
Occupation: Amanda
Description: Amanda works in New York as a lawyer. She used to go to museums a lot when she was a student, but now she is too busy to visit museums. She gets off work in the evening and most museums close at that time.
Goals: Visit museums in New York during free time
Barriers: Only has time after working, around 6:00pm to 7:00pm, but museums are usually closed by then


Name: Tom
Age: 19
Occupation: Undergraduate College Student
Description: Tom doesn’t have much spare time to visit museums. He usually only goes to museums when he has to do homework that requires him to visit a museum. He will also visit museums if a friend is visiting and would like to go.
Goals: Find something specific in the museum for homework; find a place to hang out with his friends
Barriers: Some museums are large--difficult to find what he needs; museums are too crowded, especially on weekends

Brainstorming & Prototyping & Testing & Iterating

After a couple rounds of "How Might We's" and sketching all possible ideas in response to a "How Might We" question, we combined various ideas to create an interactive exhibit, in which a visitor would learn about the history of slavery and abolitionists through a series of projections, audio, and questions. The answers that the visitor selects would determine the path that they go on inside this exhibit, and audio and projections would play in a certain spot on the path as the visitor walks over that spot. However, after testing this idea with several people, we quickly learned that this exhibit felt more like a game to testers, which provided some implications to retaining the authenticity of the history of slavery.

After this, we decided to bring the subject of our interactive prototype to be of the museum in particular. This new prototype was an Augmented Reality exhibit in which users could see what the museum (home to abolitionists) looked like in the past, while also listening to the stories of previous slaves and abolitionists. This would allow the user to learn more about the history of the museum as well as the history of slavery in an interactive way. However, after testing this prototype several times and conducting a post-test survey, we found that users were not really learning anything from it. For many users, this solution was too distracting; the user either focused on the audio or on the Augmented Reality feature. Also, if the user focused on the audio, they didn't really remember or learn anything from it afterward. We had to take a large step back and really think about and assess whether or not our current solution was accomplishing our original goal.

Researching & Brainstorming & Prototyping & Testing & Iterating Again

After realizing that our last prototype was ineffective in accomplishing our main goal, we went back to the drawing board. We decided to interview more people to discover if and how they learn at museums. From our research, we moved onto brainstorming a new solution, and realized that aside from being exposed to new knowledge, the user had to reinforce this knowledge in a way so that they would remember it and actually learn. So with that in mind, we turned the digital idea we had previously prototyped into a physical version--photo books. These photobooks would come with the audio that was designed for the previous prototype. This took away the distraction of the Augmented Reality portion, and instead put the focus on the story. We also prototyped response boards with questions that probed the user to think back to the material presented in the exhibit so that they could reflect on it and reinforce it.

After prototyping our new idea, we created an ecosystem map to show relationships within the worlds of the site and the user, and how our prototype fit into this map.

Upon testing our prototype, we found that users were not able to interact as much with the exhibit as we had hoped for, and that the questions we posed should be more reflective and related to the specific material that the visitor was exposed to in the exhibit. We turned the photo books into boxes that will play the audio related to the story as the user turns the boxes. This creates more interaction that the user must go through to hear the stories. Using a physical action to reveal also promotes reinforcement of remembering the material.

The Afters

Lastly, we iterated upon our prototype to be designed for accessibility. We digitally sketched the concept of having adjustably heights of the photo boxes so that those with a physical disability can adjust the exhibit to accommodate for their needs. We also imprinted Braille onto the sides of the boxes to allow individuals who might not have the ability to see to still experience this exhibit in a way.