Listening to Visitors - Research Findings on Mobile Content

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What kind of mobile content is most engaging for museum visitors? And what impact does it have? There is surprisingly little research data on this question. This is a presentation that looks into both of these questions and provides principles for designing audioguide content that really works for visitors. Conference paper available here: http://mw2014.museumsandtheweb.com/paper/listening-to-visitors-research-findings-on-mobile-content/

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  • We work with organisations to help them to design and improve their digital services. We particularly specialise in mobile for the cultural sector.
  • First a confession – this session isn’t about mobile – it’s about audioguides
    We used to talk about audioguides but we’ve kind of rebranded this to ‘mobile’ now.
     
    Because let’s be honest audioguides have a bit of a reputation.
  •  
    When I started this presentation I thought that audioguides were like a problem child
    A bit of a pain, difficult to manage and a reputation for being expensive.
  • Our partner who was meant to be speaking to you today, Alyson thinks their an embarrassing parent
    A bit old fashioned, not as cool as they once were.
     
    This is my dad.
     
    This was at my wedding when after months of worrying he stood up to give the father of the bride speech
    with a pair of fake eye brows on because he thought they made him look like George Clooney.
    So here’s my embarrasing parent
     
    But we’ll come back to him later.
     
    So anyway – I’m going to be talking about audioguide content. And there’s the next thing. I have to say because when you’re talking about content you have to say this.
  • ‘Content is King’
    [Content is King]
    We’ve heard this statement so many times that it no longer means anything
     
  • Content is King. Respect the content. Value the content. Make the content work hard.
    [hardworking content = valuable content
  • Content working hard for us in the past has meant
     
    [low cost + bigger audience = Value]
    And to make it better value = reduce cost and increase audience by distributing on multiple platforms.
     
    For audioguides we try and reduce the cost by making the hardware and software work around it.
     
    We deal with content by managing it, structuring it, giving more access to it, tagging it, allowing people to use it.
     
    Because that’s easy to test, it’s tangible and we can discuss easily in concrete terms and therefore we can quantify the risk.
  • And here’s a provocation for you - I think Audioguide content is difficult to transfer to multiple platforms because it’s a totally unique experience – another issue for our awkward embarrassing parent.
  • Here’s why
    Watch a film – the audience is fixed but the content moves
    You can change the location, shape, size of this screen – the action will still happen, the experience will change a bit BUT not so much that the meaning will lost.
  • Slide 7
    With audioguides, the experience is created by putting the viewer in the scene and moving them through it. It’s an incredibly unique experience and not easily transferrable because that content should be and has to be designed to work intimately within the physical space.
  •  
    And I would suggest that’s what makes them unique but that's also what makes them tricky to put across multiple platforms without seriously compromising or degrading the experience
     
    So under these terms – audioguides not only come with a shed load of irritating issues but they are also difficult to deliver value.
     
    [low cost + bigger audience = Value]
  • But what about looking at value in a different way?
     
    [Value = having a big impact on how our visitors engage with our collections and understand the world]
     
    It can be so amorphous, so difficult to discuss and so subjective to measure this – but if it audioguides can deliver on this then surely there is value.
  • Back in 2012/13, we started working with the National Gallery, London.
    Charlotte Sexton, the then head of digital and responsible for the guide wanted to understand how their audioguide service was delivering and whether or not they needed to refresh some of the 40 hours of content.
  • Which let’s be honest, refreshing 40 hours of content sounds like giving it a quick rub with a face cloth but is a mammoth task and an expensive one too.
     
    So a bit of back story most of the content was produced back in the mids 90s.
    It was produced as part of a tech driven project –
    the intorudctoin of a random access CD ROM player that was said to be able to hold almost unlimited content!
    so a ton of content was produced super quick, using crap narrators, at low cost, without any interpretation strategy. no testing in gallery
     
    There was also new content where an editorial team had actually sat and thought about what they wanted the experience to be in front of the different works.
    We wondered if the visitor could spot the difference.
  • Charlotte wanted to understand the value of the guide to the visitor experience,
    but also she wanted to be able to articulate internally to get those who needed to be involved, engaged and interested.
    Any money spent went in the areas where it was going to deliver.
     
    We did a large piece of quantitative work evaluating the whole service
    – marketing, distribution, users, non-users perception.
    We interviewed the internal staff to map the user journey to understand the key moments where the visitors interacted with the gallery (the touch points)
     
    We also set about evaluating the existing content,
    but knew that Charlotte would need to make new content and
    so we wanted to know any underlying principles so that she knew it would work for the visitors.
  • We thought there was an opportunity to understand if audioguides work, but more importantly understand what are the principles for making content work?)
    [Do audioguides work? What are the principles for making content work?]
     
    We had to recruit people before they visited, mainly because we were hijacking an hour of their day. We then gave them a list of paintings and an audioguide and asked them to note down their thoughts in the moment. Finally, we interviewed them about their overall experience.
     
    Researching content is hard and there were some definite flaws in this methodology but it’s given our first glimpse into answering these questions.
  • We had to recruit people before they visited, mainly because we were hijacking an hour of their day. We then gave them an audioguide with content chosen to represent different styles and techniques of content that were available on the audioguide.
     
    We developed a series of structured questions to help them note down their thoughts in the moment
     
    Finally, we interviewed them about their overall experience.
     
    We recruited through facebook There were some definite flaws in visitors self selecting – so we had a group that were fans of the gallery. But interestingly, it meant we had a majority of people who weren’t audioguide users.
  • Asked users whether guide had led them to… less, the same or more
    No negative impacts
    Over 80% of users reported the tour as having led them to ‘enjoy their visit more’
    Three quarters of participants reported that the tour had led them to learn more and discover more about art.
    These indicators correlate closely with Gallery objectives for learning and engagement suggesting that the audio guide is a good ‘fit’.
     
  • We also hear from visitors how the experience of listening to audio helped them, increase their skills, their capacity to look, increase their confidence.
  • What was interesting was that they really valued the experience offered by the audio in front of an object – this is what the core of audioguide is
  • So back to my embarrassing parent – my dad didn’t embarrass me during his speech because it turned out
    he was brilliant at story telling and public speaking. And as I get older I realise that he’s actually great at being many things including being a parent
    Audioguides are good at being audioguides. They have a really good impact when we let them do what they are good at.
  • There is a good body of literature on audioguides
    There is surprisingly little data on this when it comes to content
  • The overall insight was that the visitors appreciated quality.
    the visitors nailed it when they talked about the content
    they could spot the rubbish stuff
    they could see elements of the old stuff that worked and elements that really didn't and they loved the new
    Now I don't for one minute think that anyone sets off to make poor quality content
    Just as you know many people in your organisation have lots of different views on what is quality content.
    Well guess what it turns out that visitors also have quite strong views on what was a quality experience for a mobile guide.
  • So these are some of the principles for great audioguide content that we identified after reviewing the research
  • This is not the medium for information; I can see there is something there. Help me understand
    what I am looking at. Have opinions, provoke, challenge me to think.
     
    When we think that we are delivering ‘information’ we lose the focus of what we are trying to achieve.
     
  • Choose a narrator or interviewee that can really deliver meaning through their voice. They need to be able to deliver a performance that brings the content to life else the meaning is lost
  • Visitors don’t have a preference for a particular style
    They liked interviews
    They liked archival,
    They liked debate and conversation
    And they liked narration
     
    But whatever the style when the production is done badly – that narrator is phoning it in, the interview edits are forced, then the production becomes a distraction and they’re not able to focus on the content
  •  
  • introduce the person speaking. Why should I listen to you?
    Address my needs by addressing my questions first
    Choose a voice that matches your organisations voice
  • Visitors link perception of time to how engaging and entertaining the content was.
    Entertaining content was too short, boring content was too long.
    So it turns out that visitors saying something was too short is actually a complement – it doesn’t actually mean you should make more
  • Visitors can recognize when experience hasn’t been created mobile and created audio
    There are certain small differences in how you direct someone view that change when something is in front of you
    Your processes should reflect audio and mobile – so draft content in audio first, draft it inside the gallery if you can.
  • We’re a consultancy working with cultural heritage organisations wanting to develop digital interpretation – specialising in mobile.
  • Listening to Visitors - Research Findings on Mobile Content

    1. 1. Frankly, Green + Webb t: @lindsey_green @lhmann @franklyGWCreated for: Presented by: Date issued: Museums and the Web 2014 Lindsey Green + Laura Mann 3rd April 2014
    2. 2. Frankly, Green + Webb t: @lindsey_green @lhmann @franklyGW Listening to Visitors: Research Findings on Mobile Content
    3. 3. Frankly, Green + Webb t: @lindsey_green @lhmann @franklyGW http://www.reasonsmysoniscrying.com/
    4. 4. Frankly, Green + Webb t: @lindsey_green @lhmann @franklyGW
    5. 5. Frankly, Green + Webb t: @lindsey_green @lhmann @franklyGW
    6. 6. Frankly, Green + Webb t: @lindsey_green @lhmann @franklyGW hard working content = valuable content
    7. 7. Frankly, Green + Webb t: @lindsey_green @lhmann @franklyGW hard working content = valuable content = low cost + large audience
    8. 8. Frankly, Green + Webb t: @lindsey_green @lhmann @franklyGW Difficult to transfer to multiple platforms
    9. 9. Frankly, Green + Webb t: @lindsey_green @lhmann @franklyGW Film/TV Hat tip to: Dale Herigsgard
    10. 10. Frankly, Green + Webb t: @lindsey_green @lhmann @franklyGW Film/TV Audioguide
    11. 11. Frankly, Green + Webb t: @lindsey_green @lhmann @franklyGW hard working content = valuable content = low cost + large audience
    12. 12. Frankly, Green + Webb t: @lindsey_green @lhmann @franklyGW hard working content = valuable content = big impact on engagement and understanding
    13. 13. Frankly, Green + Webb t: @lindsey_green @lhmann @franklyGW
    14. 14. Frankly, Green + Webb t: @lindsey_green @lhmann @franklyGW 40 hours of content Some designed some not designed
    15. 15. Frankly, Green + Webb t: @lindsey_green @lhmann @franklyGW Value of the guide to the visitor experience?
    16. 16. Frankly, Green + Webb t: @lindsey_green @lhmann @franklyGW 1.Do audioguides work? 2.What are the design principles that makes great content for visitors?
    17. 17. Frankly, Green + Webb t: @lindsey_green @lhmann @franklyGW Methodology 1.Recruitment before visit 2.Representative styles of content 3.Structured notes in front of the works 4.Follow up interview
    18. 18. Frankly, Green + Webb t: @lindsey_green @lhmann @franklyGW 1.Do audioguides work? 2.What are the design principles that makes great content for visitors?
    19. 19. Frankly, Green + Webb t: @lindsey_green @lhmann @franklyGW It tells you things you don't see at first sight Impact: Visitors Report Overwhelmingly Positive Effects On Their Experience I know what to look for now I stayed much longer than expected and discovered new works Q. Based on your experience today, has the Audio Guide led you to...
    20. 20. Frankly, Green + Webb t: @lindsey_green @lhmann @franklyGW Queen Charlotte was not overall favourite but the way it pointed to detail made you follow in a way you wouldn’t normally and you might notice that kind of detail next time. Gives me confidence that what I see isn’t that far off and I feel ok about what I appreciate. Would help me go and look at others. Applied knowledge Increase skills Increase looking Increase confidence Conversations tended to bring in something from the 'outside': that 'extra' makes you stay and look longer.
    21. 21. Frankly, Green + Webb t: @lindsey_green @lhmann @franklyGW Visitors enjoy listening to audio in front of objects Biggest experience today was surprise at how good it was. Really felt I learned something. (I have just finished an art history degree!) Even when they really don’t expect it
    22. 22. Frankly, Green + Webb t: @lindsey_green @lhmann @franklyGW
    23. 23. Frankly, Green + Webb t: @lindsey_green @lhmann @franklyGW 1.Do audioguides work? 2.What are the principles that makes great content for visitors?
    24. 24. Frankly, Green + Webb t: @lindsey_green @lhmann @franklyGW Visitors appreciate quality
    25. 25. Frankly, Green + Webb t: @lindsey_green @lhmann @franklyGW Some content design principles from the visitors
    26. 26. Frankly, Green + Webb t: @lindsey_green @lhmann @franklyGW Principle #1 Information is important but meaning is more important https://flic.kr/p/4TnCFZ
    27. 27. Frankly, Green + Webb t: @lindsey_green @lhmann @franklyGW Liked the fact that Higgins was giving another angle on Constable. That was interesting. Was happy not to hear lots of facts - interesting insight was enough. Assumption is that guides are 'basic knowledge' for people who don't have a background in art'. So this experience was a nice surprise. It drew attention to new details. Helps you as a lay person see it through expert eyes and they pick out what they think is important. Principle #1 Information is important but meaning is more important
    28. 28. Frankly, Green + Webb t: @lindsey_green @lhmann @franklyGW Principle #2 Choose a style of content that matches your resources and skills https://flic.kr/p/cqrgTu
    29. 29. Frankly, Green + Webb t: @lindsey_green @lhmann @franklyGW Principle #2 Choose a style of content that matches your resources and skills All the contextual/curatorial information can produce overload. There are other ways in the gallery that that can be delivered. Learning Director was very interesting. Sounds like they are very knowledgeable and relaxed in how they deliver it.
    30. 30. Frankly, Green + Webb t: @lindsey_green @lhmann @franklyGW Principle #3 Respect that this is an intimate personal experience
    31. 31. Frankly, Green + Webb t: @lindsey_green @lhmann @franklyGW Couple of narrators were very old fashioned - more formal tones make you switch off Totally held by the commentary. Disagreed with the interpretation and that was a bit distracting, but great story - hideous person! Relish in the voice and passion of narrator really came through Annoyed that Alison Watts wasn't introduced properly - understanding who she was would have completely changed my appreciation. Principle #3 Respect that this is an intimate personal experience
    32. 32. Frankly, Green + Webb t: @lindsey_green @lhmann @franklyGW Principle #4 Make the time in front of the object count
    33. 33. Frankly, Green + Webb t: @lindsey_green @lhmann @franklyGW A little background is fine but it shouldn't dominate. A lot was rather old fashioned - too detailed description that doesn't add value. I can see it anyway - prefer story or something that adds to the experience rather than describe. Prefer punchy short. All the contextual/curatorial information can produce overload. There are other ways in the gallery that that can be delivered. Principle #4 Make the time in front of the object count
    34. 34. Frankly, Green + Webb t: @lindsey_green @lhmann @franklyGW Principle #5 Connect the experience with the space
    35. 35. Frankly, Green + Webb t: @lindsey_green @lhmann @franklyGW Frustrated by details pointed out by restorer that weren't visible. Need reassurance that you're listening to the right thing Principle #5 Connect the experience with the space
    36. 36. Frankly, Green + Webb t: @lindsey_green @lhmann @franklyGW Audioguide Content Design Principles 1.Information is important but meaning is more important 2.Choose a style of content that matches your resources and skills 3.Respect that this is an intimate personal experience 4.Make the time in front of the object count 5.Connect the experience with the space
    37. 37. Frankly, Green + Webb t: @lindsey_green @lhmann @franklyGW hard working content = valuable content = big impact on engagement and understanding To answer this…
    38. 38. Frankly, Green + Webb t: @lindsey_green @lhmann @franklyGW hard working content = valuable content = low cost + large audience But more importantly this
    39. 39. Frankly, Green + Webb t: @lindsey_green @lhmann @franklyGW I want to go at my own pace Compromise on Principle #3 Make time in front of the object count Barrier to use Solution Experience
    40. 40. Frankly, Green + Webb t: @lindsey_green @lhmann @franklyGW Barrier to use Solution Experience
    41. 41. Frankly, Green + Webb t: @lindsey_green @lhmann @franklyGW I don’t have my headphones with me Reduction in amount of looking Barrier to use Solution Experience
    42. 42. Frankly, Green + Webb t: @lindsey_green @lhmann @franklyGW Would you like an audioguide? We have an iPod Touch tour! Download the app!
    43. 43. Frankly, Green + Webb t: @lindsey_green @lhmann @franklyGW Be surprised by what you can see Let us take you on a journey around our collection so you don’t miss a thing! Feel what it’s like to be inside the paintings
    44. 44. Frankly, Green + Webb t: @lindsey_green @lhmann @franklyGW Our Take Aways •Use audioguides for what they deliver well •Focus on delivering meaning over information •Understand what makes your content valuable to the experience of the visitor •Start mobile and stay mobile - in how you think and produce content
    45. 45. Frankly, Green + Webb t: @lindsey_green @lhmann @franklyGW e: laura@franklygreenwebb.com lindsey@franklygreenweeb.com t: @FranklyGW @lhmann @lindseygreen Images thanks to Flickr Commons: The hidden treasures of the Worlds Public Archives http://www.flickr.com/commons
    46. 46. Frankly, Green + Webb t: @lindsey_green @lhmann @franklyGW If you’re wanting help thinking more about this and the other opportunities and challenges around digital interpretation – get in touch. Our work is a mixture of: •Design research for helping understand how audiences use digital technologies in the cultural heritage sector •Strategic planning and concept development - for funding applications such as heritage lottery funding •Implementation i.e getting in up to our elbows in order to help these types of projects get up and running. Find out more at: http://www.franklygreenwebb.com

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