User experience (U. X.) is important at any location that aims to attract visitors/ consumers through their doors. This is even more important when talking about public institutions’ interaction with their intended public. When this occurs in GLAM, the public expects a seamless and easy process. This, however, is not always the case. It is a museum’s job to make sure that every experience is visitor- friendly. This post will focus on different museums and their attempt to efficiently achieve peak user experience. Every museum needs efficient user experience, whether they use digital devices or not. In some instances, user experience can be as simple as having clear maps drawn up. As museums transition into technological areas, it becomes more and more difficult for museums to create devices and exhibits that will give everyone an enjoyable experience. In some cases, U. X. refers to creating an exhibit that’s accessible to many people at once. In some cases, it’s about having only one or two people interact with the exhibit at a time. The good thing that comes out of studying U.X. exhibits is that anyone who wants to move forward has the past “mistakes” to look at and can know what not to do.
Interactives offer people opportunities to engage with exhibits in ways that is not possible when there is just “dry” information on the wall. However, it is very important to note that many times it is not possible to allow multiple people access at the same time and it is also important to leave room for interactivity for co- participants (people standing in the background). For example, in Free2Choose there are six people sitting down and answering questions, but there are groups around each individual chair that talk and contemplate what the humane and rational answer should be.
Thus, interactivity in a museum is an attempt to turn the museum from a ME experience into a WE experience. The idea in a “me to we” is to get individuals see the museum as a place for social engagement. Designing experiences that allows more and more people to invest their time and use them to help them get better is a way of getting a better user experience. While many people go to museums to have a social interaction they don’t necessarily want to be talking to other people the entire time they are there. Successful “me-to-we” experiences allow there to be both individual time and group interactivity. For example, the Ontario Science Centre’s Facing Mars doesn’t have a direct interaction with users, but using a LED board showing participation numbers may cause people to pick one side or the other. The two choices laid in front are choosing to go to Mars or not. On the outside of the exhibit the bright LEDs shows how many people choose to go to Mars and how many did not. On the other hand, after going through the Mars exhibit and seeing what life would be like on Mars, they were again asked to choose whether they wanted to go to Mars or not. Again the numbers were shown. The numbers showed that more people wanted to go to Mars before the exhibit then afterwards. This illustrates the Network Effect: translating individual’s actions into something the community can benefit. It begins with individuals interacting with the exhibit. The computers then collect the data of the interaction and process it. Then, the machine relays the collected information and displays it where the community can see and process. This is the one of the essential for good user experiences- many people benefitting from the actions of a few.
However, having people directly interact with each other may not always be good. For example, Exploratorium’s Spinning Blackboard was setup to provide a high-quality, multi-user experience. They invited visitors to make patterns using a spinning disc of sand. In the exhibit’s original version, everyone worked together on one big disc. They were able to easily and unthinkingly mess up all the surrounding patterns, which led both to confusion and frustration. The shared platform hindered rather than improved individual experiences. On the other hand, the Cooper Hewitt doesn’t seem to have this problem. Their interactive tables can be used by one individual or six, and whatever one person does, does not affect his or her neighbor, unless that person intends to. For example, if someone sees a person building a chair on the table then they may want to “throw” them a similar chair. Once they throw the chair it is up to the receiver to say whether they want to use it and if not, they can remove it without an issue.
All the available digital and social interaction is great. However, it does not account for the many existing social barriers that prevent many from taking advantage and successfully engaging. The Dallas Museum of Art or DMA found that making admission free it allowed for many more people, who were not able to find money in their budget, to visit and experience this social interaction. The DMA also found that they had created “a civic platform where education and citizenship go hand in hand.” Another social barrier, the first being available funds to spend on admissions, is that many museum- goers come from various backgrounds and lived experiences poses another social barrier. As was seen in Free2Choose, each and every group had a different reaction to the questions. While in one group the answers might have been 90% that X is definitely the answer, when looking at the data as a whole it came out that only 60% of people felt that indeed X was the answer. Evidently, not everybody is alike and will have differing beliefs. Thus causing distinctions in the way people interact with other visitors and the way they interact with the museum. Using each and every example of less-than-perfect user experiences can help every museum design exhibits that will address the faults and lead to a rise in positive user experience.