Everything changes: What can we learn from product development in mobile interpretation?


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Museums look towards digital products that will help engage their audiences. The sector is alive with great ideas however how come only a few make into the hands of the visitors?

The mobile interpretation industry is over 50 years old and has had many, many highs and lows. What can we learn about developing and distributing innovative digital products from these experiences? What happens when disruptors come into the market? How do we create white label digital products for organisations who strive to be unique? And what happens if the organisations motivations are different to the audiences motivations?

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  • Consultancy working with cultural heritage organisations wanting to develop digital interpretation – specialising in mobile. Our work is a mixture of design research, strategic planning, concept development and getting in up to our elbows in the implementation.    
  • Technology and Digital in the Cultural Heritage Sector has grown huge over the last few years. More focus on how this technology can be used in cultural heritage experiences I think we ’ re all here because we believe that digital heritage products have the capacity to make magical moments for audiences My feeling though – is that we ’ ve already learnt a lot – we ’ ve created some magical moments already and we can learn from this to create more. In fact, I think we can use the experience of developing digital heritage products to make our future ones more successful in getting into the hands of our visitors. I ’ m regularly disappointed at the number of brilliant products that have fallen by the way side because they ’ ve either tried to re-invent the wheel, refused to look at the mistakes that have gone before them or learn how to put these products in the hands of the visitors.
  • So why focus on mobile interepretation… Believe it OR not – mobile interpretation is one of those digital heritage products that has managed to learn, adapt and make some great moments for visitors. The started from humble beginnings… Which was with the Walkman… The experience was designed to last 45 mins if you wanted more you had to instruct the visitor to take out the tape and turn it over. A great example of generic consumer technology and applying it to a particular use. It was very simple… Did what it was designed to do… It offered an immersive experience, linear storytelling often dramatic Has anyone been to Alcatraz and taken the tour there? This is basically the same experience and I would say still one of those audioguide that offers a magical experience to many of the visitors. But the key thing to note was that it's initial success was based on solving common problems for heritage organisations creating really interesting dramatic experiences (that appealed to/met visitor needs) for visitors. They have managed to build on that original success – And now one major audioguide supplier suggests they are delivering a mobile interpretation service to over 62 million visitors per year
  • So my aim today is remember some of the lessons learnt– inspire new thoughts.
  • This is our model we used to develop concepts for digital heritage projects: It looks at the three key drivers that need to converge to make a product that works in this sector. When developing digital products – the focus tends to be on the tech My first lesson in working in this sector is that if you ignore either the mission of the heritage organisation OR the audience – the product will NEVER get used However without meeting the needs of the other two – we miss the real opportunity In mobile interpretation terms – this used to translate to 40 audioguides sat under the information desk
  • A lot of my experience has been about developing new white label products that are an iteration of a previous product I cut my teeth in this sector with the introduction of the Multimedia Guide – it took on average two years for a cultural heritage organisation to commit to a multimedia guides – longer in some cases. Most digital companies couldn’t afford to It was piloted – in fact, it went through 5 iterations – and then it went to market… Very little research into Price/Positioning/Product to other Cultural Heritage Organisations – so actually heritage organisations could rarely afford the new types of content, didn’t see enough value in the changes for the price they were being marketed at, What we did have was research into impact on visitors that demonstrated it delivered on heritage organisation needs – this generated a lot of buzz and allowed organisations to take the product seriously. It also enabled them to apply for funding much more easily. So where are the possible shortcuts – The multimedia guide was marketed on the idea of giving MORE INFORMATION – a common need and not a healthy one – but it helped heritage organisations take on the product. We commonly here of these opportunities I would also say Prove it with real data of audience impact Commit to the experience not the technology – if the tech is moving faster than the organisation – talking about how the experience is developed rather than the technology will make it easier.
  • Digital cultural heritage projects – tend to be happening in a physical space Therefore it’s not just about knowing how the technology works but how the whole experience works in the context of a visit. Lots of disruptive new startups – free products come into the mobile market. Museums who have guides are keen to jump to take advantage but wary of losing some of what they already have. Have a brand and reputation to maintain of knowledge and quality and disappointed visitors complain. As you are likely to be disruptor to the market of a competing technology – learn from these other important areas covered and give yourself time to develop these insights
  • You want to develop a product that is financially viable and therefore has generic elements Which elements are generic and which are bespoke is an important question… Each cultural heritage experience is looking to offer something unique This tends to translate to looking for something bespoke, which tends to translate to more functionality , which leads to a tension in the product i.e. New products being developed that re-invent the wheel OR have lots of features on that audiences don’t need/want   i.e. Louvre? Getty?   These two drivers can cause much tension.
  • So we move from mission to
  • audiences
  • Sometimes easy to forget what it feels like to be an visitor Slightly overwhelmed with choice – looking for the best experience from the day And that’s your focus the experience… So can you describe your product in terms of the experience and not the functionality? I would say Mobile Interpretation is particularly bad at this… and has got worse as the tech has got newer. Which has seen take up drop Audiences are not interested in the newness of technology - The majority of visitors are visiting for a cultural heritage experience first If the technology becomes to big/difficult they just won’t use it – won’t commit to learning an interface So – multimedia guides – take up rate went down compared to audioguides Mobile phone tours – take up went down compared to the multimedia guide If you need help – get people to use it and ask them to explain in their own words. Recent research project for the National Gallery – feeling the kiosk technology was becoming out of date Not one visitor thought so – they focussed on what the screen provided them with. The content. The images. The activities they could use it for – ‘I can see the paintings really close up and then go and look at the real thing in the gallery’
  • Simpler products that mean focussing on audience motivation Product fits sightseer one off motivations – very few experts, experiential – BP + Alcatraz – content fits the motivations Because of the focus on delivering information and platform – most audioguide users are sightseers (one and only visit) + self developers However, developing products that fit these audience needs. Not experts – Know too much already Not families – specifically designed experiences/products Not social visitors/experiential visitor – take in the atmosphere – not particularly motivated by facts… Identify this audience motivation and you will find your perfect culutural heritage partner too – and it might not be in the UK For example – mobile interpretation is bigger in the US because self identify as learner visitors
  • Some of the work we do is content design and testing content Users are content sensitive – not in a ‘This content is terrible way’ more in ‘This content doesn’t work for me so I’m not wasting my precious visit with this’ Tate content example – testing content – exquisite corpse game didn’t situated learning They don't want to be doing something they could do at home and they don't want something that is not relevant and they don’t want anything that gets in the way and is full of itself (For developers – think of how you are going to get them to focus on the space… like to think about it in terms of second screen design)
  • Everything changes: What can we learn from product development in mobile interpretation?

    1. 1. Created for: Presented by: Date issued:Frankly,Inspiration DayREACT Green + Webb Lindsey Green 18th June 2012
    2. 2. Everything changes and nothing changes: Creating products for the Cultural Heritage Sector - what do we know already?Frankly, Green + Webb
    3. 3. Once Upon A Walkman… •Simple •Immersive •Dramatic •Solution driven rather than technology drivenFrankly, Green + Webb
    4. 4. Aspects we can learn from •How to put our products into the hands of as many visitors as possible •Create products that meet the needs of many cultural heritage organisations •Develop more magical experiencesFrankly, Green + Webb
    5. 5. What does the cultural heritage organisation need to achieve? Mission Technology What experience Audience does the technology offer? What is the audience doing already/motivated to do?Frankly, Green + Webb
    6. 6. Frankly, Green + Webb
    7. 7. Understand the factors that effect the time scale Regularly in a situation where technology has updated before money is available •Departmental budgets/funding processes •Organisational need is attached to finance Possible shortcuts: •Find out how similar products were funded •Opportunities for products that: • Learning skills • Looking for longer • Engagement of new audience • Improve visitor flow •Prove it •Commit to the experience not the technologyFrankly, Green + Webb
    8. 8. Understand the context Try out: •Different operations •New content design •Position the product to the Challenges of Mobile Audio visitor User needs • Unable to ignore sense • Can’t focus sense • Quality of playback Operational • Sound spill • Difficult to be discreetFrankly, Green + WebbFrankly, Green + Webb
    9. 9. Unique vs Generic •Visiting cultural heritage about a unique experience •This tends to lead to more functionality •Tension that leads to re- inventing the wheel OR completely ruining visitor experienceFrankly, Green + WebbFrankly, Green + Webb
    10. 10. What does the cultural heritage organisation need to achieve? Mission Technology What experience Audience does the technology offer? What is the audience doing already/motivated to do?Frankly, Green + Webb
    11. 11. Frankly, Green + Webb
    12. 12. What’s inside the shiny new grey box? Can you communicate the experience over the functionality… (now try without saying MORE INFORMATION)Frankly, Green + WebbFrankly, Green + Webb
    13. 13. Who’s your audience? Rarely does one size fit all Motivation for visit •Families •Sightseers •Learners •Social groups •Experts Level of experience with technology Whether they have been beforeFrankly, Green + WebbFrankly, Green + Webb
    14. 14. They have made the effort to get off the sofa to come and experience – don’t let them down •They know when the content doesn’t There’s their need a fine line between meet always been audio experience design and audio •They don’t want to be distracted they content. want to be supported As with visual experience design, the line is getting finer.Frankly, Green + Webb
    15. 15. What can we learn from digital heritage products? • Develop products with a • Identify the experience common cultural heritage over the functionality need • Design to specific audience • Understand the physical motivations context of a visit • Remember you’re not the • Find out which elements main attraction are important to be uniqueFrankly, Green + Webb
    16. 16. Images thanks to Flickr Commons: e: alyson@franklygreenwebb.com The hidden treasures of the Worlds e: lindsey@franklygreenweeb.com Public Archives t: @FranklyGW http://www.flickr.com/commonsCreated for: Presented by: Date issued:Frankly,Inspiration DayREACT Green + Webb Lindsey Green 18th June 2012