Designing digital products that visitors want

Gabrielle Edwards, National Museum of Australia, Australia


Learn to design digital products that visitors want and staff love. Unpack the design processes behind award winning Trail. An interactive experience using RFID technology, developed by the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parlaiment House and EDM Studios. Apply the same principles to your own design dilemmas and workshop solutions.

Keywords: Design, digital, visitor, innovation, participatory, interactive

Title: Designing digital products that visitors want

Author: Gabrielle Edwards


Have you had an experience with a digital product in a museum or gallery when everything just seemed to work effortlessly? When the technology was attractive, accessible and easy to use? When it enhanced your experience and provided moments of real connection, discovery and delight?

Maybe you are still waiting for this experience!

Perhaps you are aiming to create such a product. This session will help you do so.

We all want to see our visitors connect with our objects and stories. Onsite or online, we are community builders as we draw people in to explore and connect with our shared cultural heritage. We want our visitors to leave feeling informed, energised, and somehow positively changed by their experience. We want them to tell their friends. We want them to come back. We want to use our funding or sponsorship money as wisely and effectively as possible.

This is not straightforward.

There are always a number of perspectives, priorities and options. New and emerging technologies present novel and attractive solutions. The use of digital platforms may be part of your institutions strategic plan; it may be part of a sponsorship deal. It can be easy to get swept up in the pressure and excitement of what digital can offer and surge ahead, but the best digital products will result with clear intentions and strategies at design phase.

This session will explore clear steps and strategies to work through various stakeholder perspectives, needs, priorities and pressures. You will leave with a blueprint for exploring, testing and communicating workable solutions.

The session will draw on the experience of developing Trail, an interactive trail that leads student visitors around exhibition spaces at the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House, Canberra. Up to 75,000 students use it every year.

A demonstration of Trail is here

Trail engages students with exhibition objects and stories. It taps into, and builds on, existing knowledge. It encourages collaboration and lateral thinking. It encourages and rewards considered responses. Students love it. It offers teachers a summary of each groups experience; where they stopped, what they saw, how they responded. It offers suggestions for ongoing activities, further thinking and deeper research. Teachers love it. It offers Museum staff a system that is easy to use, flexible and robust. They can also update content, in response to exhibition changeovers or current affairs, onsite and make it live immediately. Staff love it.

Trail won an award for innovation at its roll out in 2010, from Museums and Art Galleries of NSW and ACT. In April this year, it received a silver award from the American Alliance of Museums. This was from a field of over 200 applicants from across North America, Europe, Asia and Australia. It was recognised for its outstanding achievement in content, interface, design, innovation and appeal. It came in ahead of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Over 100 judges, museum and media professionals from around the world, were involved in the selection of winners.

While it has had software and hardware updates since its inception, Trail is essentially the same product that was rolled out five years previously. This is remarkable and it begs the question ‘What did we do right?!’

This session will unpack the design strategies that went into Trail’s development. Primarily, we will look at the generation and interrogation of user stories, and the process of iterative testing. These are strategies that are applicable to a variety of design dilemmas. We will workshop how.

You will leave with a toolkit to help you create experiences that move the hearts and minds of visitors and provoke them to action. To develop digital product that adds value, that visitors want and that staff love.

Cite as:
. "Designing digital products that visitors want." MWA2015: Museums and the Web Asia 2015. Published August 31, 2015. Consulted .