My Work

Prototyping to Increase Exhibit Audio Guide Use

Senior User Experience Researcher and Designer, US Holocaust Memorial Museum

Project ran from January to August 2023

The museum launched an “audio-first” temporary exhibition on the genocide in Burma, but it had low visitation and most weren’t using the audio guides. Additionally, the exhibition had launched during Covid protocols and required a staff person to give audio guides to visitors. We used research and prototyping to learn about the current visitor experience and test ways to increase audio use.

I presented a one-hour session about this project at the 2023 Visitor Studies Association Conference.

Research Goals

  • Learn barriers to entry for the exhibition
  • Understand if and how we can reduce the need for staff at the entrance 
  • Prototype solutions for self serve audio guides

My Responsibilities

  • Conducted literature review about audio guide use in museums
  • Observed 1,000 visitor groups at exhibition entrance to understand current behavior
  • Recorded time spent in exhibition by over 150 visitors 
  • Interviewed over 30 visitors at exhibition entrance and exit
  • Logged visitor questions at entrance over two days
  • Helped create prototypes at varying levels of complexity for testing
  • Observed over 1,000 visitor groups at exhibition entrance to assess prototypes
  • Wrote final findings report for stakeholders

Key Learnings from Baseline Research

  • Many thought the exhibition was closed or required a ticket. Of those that didn't enter, 67% were confused.
  • Visitors spent an average of 4 ½ mins in the exhibition. Just 4 groups used the audio guide and 21 scanned the QR code. Of those that didn't use audio, 45% were tired or didn’t want to, and 41% didn’t know it was available.

Key Learnings from Prototyping

  • Self serve audio works! If the audio guides are obvious and available, those who are open to audio will use it.
  • Photos work better than icons in audio guide instructions.
  • Visitors like knowing how much time they can expect to spend in the exhibition.

Early prototypes modified the existing staff booth to distribute the guides. 

Prototypes increased in complexity as we learned what works. 

We tested several versions of the audio guide instructions.

I sat on a bench outside the exhibition entrance and recorded entrance and audio guide usage data for over 2,000 groups of visitors before and during prototyping.