Project Overview

Role: UX/UI Designer
Duration: March 2020 (6 days)
Methods: Design Thinking, Sketching, UI Design
Tools: Pen & paper, Figma, Marvel

The Challenge

While a professional tour guide can provide visitors with the necessary context and background information about an artist and their artwork, not everyone can or likes to join a guided tour. However, many visitors might end up feeling that they’re missing out on a more in-depth understanding when visiting a museum by themselves. I conducted a modified one-person GV design sprint based on the brief provided by Bitesize UX.

The Solution

At the end of the sprint, I had developed a prototype that allows people to quickly access relevant information about an artwork while exploring an exhibition. Through usability testing, I identified several usability issues that I addressed on the sixth day.

Process: map, sketch, decide, prototype, test

Day 1: Map

In a design sprint, it is common to agree on the long-term goal on the first day and mapping a possible end-to-end experience a user might have with our product. The goal was to design a way to improve the experience of viewing art in a gallery or museum and the solution should be a designed for mobile devices.

Map of a possible experience of a museum visitor: the visitor downloads the app, navigates to the current museum, reads information on the artworks. Goal: Great experience in the museum and visitor learned something new

In a traditional design sprint, I would conduct research, e.g. in the form of expert interviews, to understand the problem better. In this case, Bitesize UX provided an interview with an art museum tour guide as well as the primary persona that I would be designing for. While reviewing the research, I took notes to look for themes and insights and understand the people I would be designing for.

A few sticky notes distributed on a wall with research notes

Normally, I would formulate How Might We statements to reframe problems as opportunities and vote on the most promising statement within the team. However, in this case the HMW statement was already provided by Bitesize UX: How might we improve the in-person viewing experience of gallery or museum visitors with a mobile app?

Day 2: Sketch

On the second day, I completed a modified version of lightning demos by reviewing and gathering inspiration from great solutions from various companies. I looked at:

  • Google Arts & Culture
  • Casa Batlló
  • Pokémon Go
  • Spotify
  • SFMoMA
  • Daily Art
  • ReBlink
  • Museum Schloss Moyland
  • Smithsonian's Skin & Bones
  • Artistes et Robots

While some museums provide an educational and entertaining experience through seamless audio-guided tours (SFMOMA), other museums try to animate their exhibits (e.g. ReBlink). Enhancing visitors’ experiences through the usage of AR and VR is a trend that more and more museums are trying to jump on. These technologies bring artifacts to life and can help visitors to gain a better understanding of history. In this case, it’s important to strike a balance between providing additional information while still keeping the analog experience of exploring a museum intact. 

Quick sketches of key features of various competitors

After sketching out different ideas inspired by competitors in the art sector as well as apps from other industries, I tried to find a compromise between an app that would offer information on the spot but also wouldn’t distract the visitors too much from the artworks. I used the Crazy 8's sketching exercise to quickly come up with different ideas for the most critical screen. Afterwards, I decided on the solution and sketched the screen that comes before my critical screen, the critical screen itself, and the screen that comes after.

When I decided on the solution, I also had to take into account practical considerations. While the feasibility of an idea shouldn’t be a concern during the third phase of a GV design sprint, it’s important that it’s possible to build a prototype that is real enough to get an authentic response from a potential user. As I’m not an art expert, it would have been quite hard to prototype an app mainly featuring an audio tour without actually recording at least part of this tour. In a real project, this is a task that I would work on together with a curator or museum guide.

Day 3: Decide

In a traditional design sprint, I would vote on the idea that I want to focus on together with my team. However, as I was conducting a solo design sprint I decided on the best solution myself. To plan my prototype, I sketched a storyboard including the most crucial interactions the visitor would have using my product.

Sketches of the key interactions a visitor would go through - from seeing an ad outside the museum to reading about a certain artwork

To ensure a seamless experience, I decided to simplify the design as much as possible. I presumed that a long onboarding process would cause too much friction. By asking for location access, I wanted to provide the visitors with relevant information on the current museum as fast as possible.

Furthermore, visitors shouldn’t have to type to receive more information on a given artwork. In my solution, the app would automatically display relevant information when the visitor snaps a photo of the artwork. This text should only be just long enough to provide enough context to understand the artwork and the artist better. Lastly, the user should also be able to listen to an audio file of this text.

Day 4: Prototype

On the fourth day, I built a prototype of my solution. This prototype only needs to include the essentials to test the functionality of the design. Therefore, I used the storyboard from day 3 as a basis and created screens with Figma. While the UI is not important at this stage the prototype should still look realistic. I decided to go for a minimalist aesthetic with white and purple as the main colors. I specifically chose purple because it is often associated with the future, the imagination and creativity.

Day 5: Test

My main goal for the usability tests on the fifth day of the GV design sprint was to gauge people’s reactions: could such an app improve the experience of viewing art in a museum? Ideally, I would test this prototype in a museum to get real user feedback in a live setting. However, as museums in Vienna were closed due to COVID-19, I resorted to recruiting five people (four students and one teacher) in a coffee shop near the museum district. Four users defined themselves as casual museum-goers whereas the other one described herself as an avid museum goer. 

In general the feedback was quite positive and included mostly minor usability issues:

  • Four users don't like to share their location
  • Three users were unsure about the functionality of the button labeled "Start a visit"
  • Four users hesitate to click on the button with the camera icon

One user thought that the button with the camera icon would allow her to take a photo in the museum, for which she would prefer to use the native camera app of her phone. However, after discovering the real functionality, she appreciated it.

Overall, the usability test showed that the app's value proposition is not being delivered clearly - it doesn’t seem immediately apparent what users could do with this app. Furthermore, I presumed that the feature to share the location would provide convenience. However, several users were concerned about privacy and it also shows that they didn't understand the benefit that location sharing feature would provide.

Day 6: Iterate

At the end of the design sprint, I decided to revisit my design based on the user feedback that I had received on day 5. Among others, I implemented the following changes:

  • Allow users to search for their location themselves
  • Improve the layout
  • Refine the button used to scan the artwork

Ideally, I would test the second iteration in a museum or gallery to see how real visitors would use the app in its intended context.

Depending on user feedback, there are many options to take the app into different directions. A user commented that she would like to have additional functionality to search for current expositions based on personal preferences. She also wants a function to follow favorite artists, styles and galleries to be notified on upcoming expositions that she might be interested in (similar to BandsInTown). While this might not be the current focus of the app it is an interesting proposition that could be explored in another design sprint.

Key Takeaways

While I’ve considered several ways how to make the app’s functionality clearer to the visitors, I also think that part of the onboarding would happen in the museum or gallery itself. As shown in the storyboard, I presume that most users would come across the Gallery Pal app through marketing material distributed in the respective art institution. This marketing material could already show the main functionality of the app to encourage users to download it.

Another aspect that I have been thinking about is gamification. The application of game principles in non-game contexts has been trending for years, and for a very good reason indeed. A majority of studies has found that gamification can have a positive effect on learning, organizational productivity as well as user engagement.
If visitors are not satisfied when leaving a museum because they feel that they don’t know enough about the exhibits to gain a good understanding, then knowledge retention should also be a concern for the UX designer.

While I learned a lot from conducting this design sprint, I feel that I was missing out on some of the core aspects by conducting it alone. Ultimately, design is a team sport and a sprint should be done with a group of people.