Revisiting Interpretive Planning; A Holistic Approach to Crafting Your Visitor Experience


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How much of interpretive planning is truly holistic in its' approach to creating a quality visitor experience? Before visitors are able to absorb the benefits and messages of well-designed interpretation, they must have all earlier concerns addressed like finding amenities, navigating through the grounds, and having well-trained front-line staff to respond to their needs or questions. If we fail to look more broadly at our visitors’ needs and how our infrastructure and services help or hinder visitation, interpretation is less likely to succeed.

Mary Kay Cunningham, Stephanie Weaver, Robin Cline, Wendy Meluch reflect on past models of interpretive planning and share ideas for creating information networks (or communication strategies), conducting visitor studies, and lessons learned from case studies where these ideas were applied.

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  • make non-profits more competitive w/in mission New trends, gain skills -- GO THRU PACKET John Werminski, getting people to slow down, my shift from education to Vis Exp
  • make non-profits more competitive w/in mission New trends, gain skills -- GO THRU PACKET John Werminski, getting people to slow down, my shift from education to Vis Exp
  • Creates practical frameworks for designing participatory experiences
  • make non-profits more competitive w/in mission New trends, gain skills -- GO THRU PACKET John Werminski, getting people to slow down, my shift from education to Vis Exp
  • Inside: thoughts, feelings, expectations, prior experience & knowledge Outside: many pieces add up, you control these
  • 15 minutes for this section. Will show examples of each aspect of the Invitation next.
  • 15 minutes --
  • 15 minutes -- Orientation creates psychological comfort
  • 15 minutes -- Falk & Dierking: Learning from Museums
  • 15 minutes --
  • 15 minutes -- Scent on demand, olfactory marketing
  • 15 minutes --
  • Closure/interception rate Convert from browser to “buyer” %age of visitors who interact with staff. Higher the contacts, the higher the “sales”.
  • 15 minutes Shared brainstorming based on what you ’ve heard today
  • Introduction of who I am, who I work for, and the identification of crisis as focus, because there is nothing more holistic and boots on the ground than crisis, right?
  • A few additional points that make the conservatory particularly unique- we are and have always been free, and we are located on the west side of chicago in a nieghborhood known as East Garfield Park. Both of these pieces of information have their own challenges and opportunities. The Garfield Park neighborhood has gone through many changes over the years- when the Conservatory was first built, it was part of the green necklace of parks and boulevards that lied on what then were the outskirts of Chicago. It was sort of in the boonies at that time, but a destination for folks to visit.
  • Here we are in present day summer 2011. Less than a month ago, a very strange hail storm hit Chicago, but particularly Garfield and Humboldt Park. I was in Evanston at the time, and was talking to my husband who was down in humboldt park, and he kept saying the hail is as big as golf balls, and of course, he is known for exagerating, but then I came into work the next morning, and was shocked to see the damage that these golf ball sized hail stones caused.
  • Here is a perspective from the production house angle. The current assessment is that approx 60% of the glass in the entire conservatory has been damaged, with the Fern Room, the Show House, and the production houses taking the biggest hit.
  • Stephanie Weaver talks in her book Creating Great Visitor Experiences the need for institutions to get a “from the moon” perspective. This historical photo from 1908 is a “from the moon” shot, and this fox news clip from 2011, taken from a helicopter on July 1, really makes clear the need to step beck and see what has happened. These are important perspectives all around. One interesting phenomenon is that unless you get this view, it is hard to see that something has happened, because all the spaces that have been effected are closed off to the public. The view the public gets of the damage requires this step back.
  • I want to discuss a few important shifts of focus that have led up to the present, and one is the Aroid House freeze of 1995, and the other is the development of the Visitor Experience and Interpretive Plan.
  • This partnership was successful, and the public profile was raised.
  • So part of the Visitor Experience & Interpretive Plan was developed with the important idea to create a common goal that the Chicago Park District and the Garfield Park Conservatory could agree on. In some ways, the public wasn’t aware of our distinctions (the bear on the bike), so we needed to meet them where they were at.
  • The long view and the short one. Forces the question- how’s it working right now?
  • We have had the opportunity to do a number of visitor studies with our visitors, and when we were working on the plan, we were able to test responses to different types of messaging, and get a sense of how folks want to experience this place of plants and warmth in winter, and outdoor gardens in summer. We were able to narrow down the delivery systems for folks – not a lot of signs, quick and to the point, something easy to remember, not too heavy handed. This aligns with a previous visitor study we had engage the Garibay Group to do a few years before, when we were developing a new exhibit about photosynthesis.
  • Some of the interesting outcomes over the last month has been that we are receiving a lot of information about the specific ways in which we are an asset in peoples daily lives, partly because of people being able to rally a response of support on social media networks like facebook. We are able to really see how people integrate the conservatory in their lives. “I’ve made many important decisions at the Conservatory, it is a place I come to think about where I’m at, we wouldn’t make it through the winter without it, etc.”
  • Other areas of growth that have occurred in the last few years.
  • My job it to... Visitor Studies and Evaluation = systematic ways of collecting input from visitors to answer questions = a means of bringing the visitor voice into the conversation My goal is to give you some simple tools to use… Help you feel brave enough to go out and talk to strangers... Transition... Basically we can observe visitors…
  • Basically we can observe visitors…
  • Or Talk with them __ Writing - Paper or On Line = Questionnaires __ Interviews - Face2Face - Phone __ Both are surveys, one is interview style, the other is self-completed questionnaire form __ Focus groups - a group interview __ interviews require more effort but ensure better data; questionnaires are easier to use but you have less control of the caliber of the data; choose which one depending on the simplicity or depth of your questions for the respondents. Transition : SEVERAL nice things about focussing a study on your information network...
  • Focussing your effort on the information network makes it easy to home in on your evaluation questions. Given where the element is in the visit process, what is the information that should be coming across. You can take small bites -- easily and logically narrow the scope of your study to the information element in question. This is especially helpful if you’re doing the work in house, and/or if you are new to visitor studies. You can organize your thinking chronologically by anticipating each step of the visit as described by Stephanie phases. If you’re not creating an information network, but assessing a network that was not designed with this type of comprehensive approach, the task of your remedial evaluation is clearly guided by these questions.
  • With Stephanie Weaver’s book, you can do a pretty thorough self assessment, and I recommend that you start there. Then observe visitors... If still have questions, talk to visitors...
  • While you’re developing pre-visit materials... the easiest way to test them is with visitors who are physically on site. Have them look at your prototypes… I’ll be talking in more detail about prototyping in a few minutes.. I include exhibit titles and descriptions as well as marketing materials, web pages, etc.
  • To get visitor input on existing pre-visit information systems you can talk to them on site with a short interview style survey either as they enter or exit. Ask them specifically about your outreach - web site, ads...
  • Pretend you are new, approach your parking lot as if you’ve never been there and have to rely on the signage. Find your way into the front door, see for yourself...
  • After your self assessment... Observe __Transition Zone... __Based on your observations of visitor behavior, where is a logical place to post necessary information? Do the experiment… test different placement... You may well have all the information out there, but that doesn’t mean people are easily able to see/use it. If you still have questions about the visitor experience at entry, talk to visitors… short intercept interview
  • Do the short interview near/in the space so people can point things out. I have a sample introduction here… If you’re new to visitor studies, do what I do before a day of interviews, drink an extra cup of caffeine and authorize yourself to interrupt people on their day out. :)
  • Arrival and Orientation applies not just to the site as a whole, but to experiences on site… Experience = Exhibit, programs Adapt questions to your specific needs, of course.
  • Labels and panels that are a part of an exhibit should be subject to the exhibit evaluation process that is typically described as front-end, formative, and summative/remedial. Here and throughout my talk, I’m primarily describing a formative approach to studying and affecting your information network. Formative evaluation tends to be quick with minimal reporting. You investigate a need, try out a solution and see if that works - if the next 10 or so visitors use/understand the information element, you’re probably done.
  • Formative testing typically means testing prototypes with visitors while developing a new exhibit. But you can do this in completed exhibits as well if you have a remedial function.
  • Formative testing can be done in a controlled environment where you invite participants… Or a more naturalistic setting...
  • ...Where visitors approach the prototype or element naturally… In either case, you’ll be observing… and you can interview users about the experience… When you’ve invited visitors to participate, you can also ask them to narrate their experience for you as they are interacting with the element.
  • Field trips are distinct from casual visitors Important to include teachers in development of information network. Great to work with... Chaperones are an important link for information during the visit. Research at Chabot - developed a guide for chaperones...
  • Quality staff important for quality visitor experience. Be sure they know how to work with people and that they have all the key information they need, or know how to get it.
  • I hope I’ve removed the mystery of visitor studies and that you feel informed and brave enough to try some of this on your own. While I grant you that this work may not be for the shy, remember that people are generally friendly and recognize that you, the data collector, are a part of the museum. Most people want to help.
  • Revisiting Interpretive Planning; A Holistic Approach to Crafting Your Visitor Experience

    1. 1. Revisiting Interpretive Planning; A Holistic Approach to Crafting Your Visitor Experience PRESENTERS Mary Kay Cunningham, Dialogue Consulting Stephanie Weaver, Experienceology Robin Cline , Garfield Park Conservatory Wendy Meluch , Visitor Studies Services
    2. 2. What is the “visitor experience” and why should we plan for it?
    3. 3. Visitor Experience Planning <ul><li>Building bridges between </li></ul>Why you EXIST? & Why they VISIT? Connecting visitors to our sites!
    4. 4. Steps of Visitor Involvement “ It’s a REFUGE for me –NOSTALGIA” “ I SUPPORT institutional goals” “ I feel CONNECTED to the institution” “ I visit for more KNOWLEDGE ” Your Site’s Future Ensuring education of future visitors about value & meanings of collections “ I visit for RECREATION – time with family & friends”
    5. 5. Understanding Your Audience Who is your visitor? What do they need? <ul><li>How do they learn? </li></ul><ul><li>Intellectual = Know </li></ul><ul><li>Emotional = Feel </li></ul><ul><li>Behavioral = Do </li></ul>
    6. 6. Identity and the Museum Visitor Experience John H. Falk Why do people come to museums?
    7. 7. Falk’s Visitor Identities Explorers <ul><li>Characteristics : </li></ul><ul><li>Curiosity driven </li></ul><ul><li>Generic interest </li></ul><ul><li>Expect to learn or find something new </li></ul><ul><li>Sample Opportunities : </li></ul><ul><li>Behind-the-scenes tours </li></ul><ul><li>Public programs </li></ul><ul><li>Demonstration carts </li></ul><ul><li>Signs/brochures </li></ul>
    8. 8. Falk’s Visitor Identities Rechargers <ul><li>Characteristics : </li></ul><ul><li>See site as refuge, escape </li></ul><ul><li>Seeking restorative experience </li></ul><ul><li>Sample Opportunities : </li></ul><ul><li>‘ Contemplation’ points </li></ul><ul><li>Sensory experiences </li></ul><ul><li>Appropriate enrichment </li></ul><ul><li>e.g.; yoga, painting, etc. </li></ul>
    9. 9. Falk’s Visitor Identities Professionals / Hobbyists <ul><li>Characteristics : </li></ul><ul><li>Content specialists </li></ul><ul><li>Visit to meet objective like new ideas or answers to questions </li></ul><ul><li>Sample Opportunities : </li></ul><ul><li>Specialty tours </li></ul><ul><li>Adult ed. classes </li></ul><ul><li>Databases </li></ul><ul><li>Info. desk </li></ul><ul><li>‘ Clubs’ </li></ul><ul><li>Brochures/guides </li></ul>
    10. 10. Falk’s Visitor Identities Experience Seekers <ul><li>Characteristics : </li></ul><ul><li>Perceive site as important destination </li></ul><ul><li>Prestigious attraction in your area </li></ul><ul><li>e.g.; “ The best Chinese Garden outside China .” </li></ul><ul><li>Sample Opportunities : </li></ul><ul><li>Collection highlight tours </li></ul><ul><li>Special Events </li></ul><ul><li>Photo opportunities </li></ul><ul><li>Souvenirs </li></ul><ul><li>Customized experiences </li></ul>
    11. 11. Falk’s Visitor Identities Facilitators <ul><li>Characteristics : </li></ul><ul><li>Socially motivated </li></ul><ul><li>Want to enable learning of others </li></ul><ul><li>Sample Opportunities : </li></ul><ul><li>Family programs </li></ul><ul><li>Guided experiences e.g.; Labels or print materials with clear questions/answers to ask </li></ul><ul><li>Facilitators e.g.; interpreters, vis. serv. </li></ul>
    12. 12. The Participatory Museum Nina Simon How do we apply what we know about visitors to create visitor experiences?
    13. 13. Why Participate? <ul><li>Principles of Participation </li></ul><ul><li>Social Objects </li></ul><ul><li>Visitors as contributors, collaborators, co-creators </li></ul>
    14. 14. experience ology ® 8 Steps to Better Visitor Experiences <ul><li>Stephanie Weaver, experience ology ® </li></ul><ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul>
    15. 15. Defining “ visitor experience ” <ul><li>Entire visit </li></ul><ul><li>ALL departments </li></ul><ul><li>Visitor-focused </li></ul><ul><li>Inside the visitor: they control </li></ul><ul><li>Outside the visitor: you control </li></ul><ul><li>Goal: To connect </li></ul>
    16. 16. 8 Steps to a Better Visitor Experience <ul><li>Invitation </li></ul><ul><li>Welcome </li></ul><ul><li>Orientation </li></ul><ul><li>Comfort </li></ul><ul><li>Communication </li></ul><ul><li>Sensation </li></ul><ul><li>Common Sense </li></ul><ul><li>Finale </li></ul>
    17. 17. 1. Invitation <ul><li>Advertising & marketing </li></ul><ul><li>Web site </li></ul><ul><li>Street signage </li></ul><ul><li>Transportation approach/parking lot </li></ul><ul><li>Branding </li></ul>
    18. 18. Website
    19. 19. Directions
    20. 20. Street signage
    21. 21. Entry gate
    22. 24. 2. Welcome <ul><li>Front gate/entrance </li></ul><ul><li>First impression </li></ul><ul><li>Physical condition of facilities </li></ul><ul><li>Personal greeting </li></ul>
    23. 25. Gatehouse
    24. 26. 3. Orientation <ul><li>You-are-here </li></ul><ul><li>Maps </li></ul><ul><li>Wayfinding/directional </li></ul>
    25. 28. You-are-here maps
    26. 29. Bases are color-coded
    27. 30. 4. Comfort <ul><li>Rest rooms </li></ul><ul><li>Food/water </li></ul><ul><li>Child safety </li></ul><ul><li>Seating </li></ul>
    28. 31. Restrooms
    29. 32. Snack bar
    30. 33. Water
    31. 34. Seating
    32. 35. 5. Communication <ul><li>Interpretation </li></ul><ul><li>Content </li></ul><ul><li>Tone </li></ul><ul><li>Type size & label length </li></ul>
    33. 36. Take-home materials
    34. 37. Interpretive signs
    35. 38. 6. Sensation <ul><li>All five senses engaged </li></ul><ul><li>Activities </li></ul><ul><li>Surprise and randomness </li></ul>
    36. 39. Sounds
    37. 40. Textures
    38. 41. Surprise (bubbles)
    39. 42. Surprise
    40. 43. 7. Common Sense <ul><li>Pricing/programs </li></ul><ul><li>Asking the audience </li></ul><ul><li>Partnering </li></ul><ul><li>Trends </li></ul>
    41. 44. Collaborations
    42. 45. Donor recognition
    43. 46. Partnerships
    44. 47. 8. Finale <ul><li>Follow up/memberships </li></ul><ul><li>Mementos </li></ul><ul><li>Memorabilia </li></ul>
    45. 48. Plant store
    46. 49. Gift shop
    47. 50. Signature products
    48. 51. Arrival Engagement Enjoyment Social Outing Return Membership Friends Word-of-Mouth Lifestyle Volunteer/Donor Regular Visits Adopt As “Third Place” Convert Browser to Buyer
    49. 52. Conclusion <ul><li>Analyze overall experience </li></ul><ul><li>Pay attention to details </li></ul><ul><li>Follow trends </li></ul><ul><li>Try new ideas </li></ul>
    50. 63. 1. Creating a common sense of identity.
    51. 65. Creating a common sense of identity
    52. 67. Levels of Association with Plants Relative Weight Graph Garibay Group
    53. 77. Visitor Studies to Support Interpretive Planning <ul><li>Association of Midwest Museums </li></ul><ul><li>Chicago - 2011 </li></ul><ul><li>Wendy Meluch, MA </li></ul><ul><li>Visitor Studies Consultant </li></ul><ul><li>Visitor Studies Services </li></ul>
    54. 78. Visitor Studies
    55. 79. Visitor Studies <ul><li>Yogi Berra </li></ul>You can see a lot by observing.
    56. 80. Visitor Studies <ul><li>Richard Feynman </li></ul>You just ask them.
    57. 81. Visitor Motivation
    58. 82. Visitor Motivation <ul><li>John Falk’s visitor identities </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Explorer </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Facilitator </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Experience Seeker </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Professional/Hobbyist </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Recharger </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Simple card sort </li></ul><ul><li>activity upon entry </li></ul>
    59. 83. Framework for Evaluating the Visitor Experience <ul><li>Clarify goals for communication elements at each phase of the visit experience </li></ul><ul><li>Does this piece </li></ul><ul><ul><li>offer the right information at the right time/spot in the visit? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>effectively communicate its message? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>motivate and guide? </li></ul></ul>
    60. 84. Steps in Evaluating the Visitor Experience <ul><li>For each phase… </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Self assessment </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Observe visitors </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Talk to visitors </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Test prototypes </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Consider findings </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Affect changes as necessary </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Repeat </li></ul></ul>
    61. 85. Invitation <ul><li>Pre-visit, pre-decision </li></ul><ul><li>Assess marketing materials, web site & exhibit titles </li></ul><ul><li>Self assess & pre-test </li></ul><ul><ul><li>attractiveness </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>usability / understandability </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>motivate and guide </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>what would you expect based on this... </li></ul></ul>
    62. 86. Invitation <ul><li>Survey ( best at entrance, can be wrapped into exit) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>How did you hear about…? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Did you use the web site? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Was it helpful? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Was it easy to find (location)? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Was it easy to navigate parking and find entrance? </li></ul></ul>
    63. 87. Welcome and Orientation <ul><li>Arriving... </li></ul><ul><li>Self assess </li></ul><ul><li>Observe visitors in the parking lot and in the entry/lobby areas </li></ul><ul><li>Ask visitors about their experience </li></ul>
    64. 88. Welcome and Orientation <ul><li>Entry… </li></ul><ul><li>Self assess, then observe... </li></ul><ul><li>What do people do as they enter? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Transition zone </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Where do they notice + look for information? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Experiment with placement & observe again. </li></ul></ul>
    65. 89. Welcome and Orientation <ul><li>Short intercept interviews </li></ul><ul><ul><li>I see that you just bought your tickets, can you take a minute to tell me about your experience in our lobby? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Was it easy to find/get what you needed? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What would make this easier, more obvious? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Is there any information that you’d like but haven’t seen? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What would make you feel more welcome? </li></ul></ul>
    66. 90. Welcome and Orientation <ul><li>Short intercept interviews with visitors who appear to flounder </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Can I help you find anything? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Is there any information that you’d like to get you started? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What would make this easier, more obvious? </li></ul></ul>
    67. 91. Experience <ul><li>Exhibit evaluation </li></ul><ul><ul><li>front-end , formative , summative/remedial </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Label writing </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Beverly Serrell’s book </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Other delivery systems </li></ul><ul><ul><li>audio tours </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>video components </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>printed materials </li></ul></ul>
    68. 92. Experience <ul><li>Formative Evaluation </li></ul><ul><li>Observe </li></ul><ul><li>Short interviews </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Ask the visitor to read, listen or watch the information element. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Ask her to paraphrase. (“in your own words”) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Explore: Are there any parts or words that might be confusing to others? </li></ul></ul>
    69. 93. Experience <ul><li>Formative testing </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Controlled vs. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Naturalistic </li></ul></ul>
    70. 94. Experience <ul><li>Naturalistic </li></ul><ul><li>Observe visitors </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Where will labels/panels be seen + used? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Experiment with placement and observe again </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Intercept, ask... </li></ul>
    71. 95. Field Trips <ul><li>Information network for teachers & students </li></ul><ul><li>Work through teachers, plan ahead </li></ul><ul><li>Don’t overlook chaperones </li></ul>
    72. 96. All Purpose Information Network
    73. 97. Summary <ul><li>Framework for evaluation: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Use Stephanie’s visit phases as a guide </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Clarify function/goals of each information element </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Take small bites, narrow your scope to help you get started </li></ul></ul>
    74. 98. Summary <ul><li>Self-assessment </li></ul><ul><li>Observe visitors </li></ul><ul><li>Talk with them as necessary </li></ul><ul><li>Make indicated changes and repeat the process </li></ul><ul><li>Be logical, consistent and honest </li></ul><ul><li>Albert Einstein </li></ul>Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.
    75. 99. <ul><li>Wendy Meluch, MA </li></ul><ul><li>Visitor Studies Services </li></ul>
    76. 100. Revisiting Interpretive Planning; A Holistic Approach to Crafting Your Visitor Experience PRESENTERS Mary Kay Cunningham, [email_address] Stephanie Weaver, [email_address] Robin Cline , Wendy Meluch ,