How do you stop visitors staring at the tiny screen?
The iPhone is a beautiful, seductive but jealous mistress that craves your attention, and enslaves you to its jaw-dropping gorgeousness at the expense of the world around you.
It halted the noodling as it resonated with me so much, in particular ‘At the expense of the world around you...‘ It occurred to me that we’re currently designing apps for devices that possibly ‘enslave‘. I’m not particularly sure we really want to ‘enslave’ visitors to a tiny screen when they are making a special visit to a particular museum/gallery/historic site, possibly paying to enter, for a once in a lifetime visit. Personally, I want to look at the world around me, experience the space and the stories.
One of our key questions when designing content and concepts for mobile in-gallery experiences (and one of the reasons that I enjoy so much about the work we do) is:
How do we make sure that the visitor remains in the space and not transfixed by the tiny screen in front of them?
For me, there’s something very magical about entering a space and having a tiny machine that helps you navigate, interact and understand that space. However, when that machine demands you give it maximum attention and you lose contact with that space – there is nothing worse. I haven’t come to your house just to be barked at by your dog.
When we work on multimedia tours or guides we work to a really simple, tried and tested rule – more audio than video. In fact, we use a ratio; maximum 30% screen time and 70% audio i.e. the visitor should only be looking at the screen for 30% of the time otherwise they feel dislocated from the experience they have come to enjoy.
This definitely works if you are providing content, particularly linear tour content with audio component. But, as Ed Rodley mentions here, museums are, and increasingly need to, move beyond the tour format when it comes to apps and explore more of the functionality available. The opportunities are endless but that key design principle of keeping visitors in the space makes it all super interesting.
I’m really looking forward to the next couple of years as these challenges and opportunities start to be addressed, as a new set of principles and ideas are tried and tested.