Weeknotes: 41.2015 – expanding teams and transcontinental working

On October 15th, 2015, posted in: weeknotes by

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Weeknotes is back! A long and busy summer for FGW ended with a new team member on board, me (Martha Henson). Am very happy to be joining FGW, having been working with them for the last couple of years as a freelancer. We’re all feeling our way into new modes of collaboration, especially doing so from four different sites, three cities and two countries with very different time zones. It seems to be working so far, thanks to Slack, Dropbox, Google Drive and Docs, Float, Skype, GoToMeeting, Gmail (of course) etc etc. Might include some thoughts on this remote working practice in future posts.

Week 41 saw all four of us beavering away across a range of projects. Stateside, Laura was looking at what motivates visitors to create and share personal stories as part of the prototyping phase of a platform for capturing and sharing family stories. I’m sure that motivation issue is something a lot of other institutions have been wrestling with. Inspiration comes from looking at what other museums have done, what’s worked and what hasn’t, but also the work of people like Nina Simon.

She is also wrapping up our work with Wellcome Collection on the evaluation of their Digital Stories project.  The evaluation offers interesting insights into the opportunities and challenges of long form narrative online experiences and we’re discussing how best to share the results of the research with the sector.

In the UK, Alyson and Lindsey continued the long term project with the Van Gogh Museum (VGM) in Amsterdam to help develop their multimedia guides for adults and families. They both went over to Amsterdam and worked with Fabrique on prototyping the user onboarding for the VGM guide (“user onboarding” is the process of increasing the likelihood that new users become successful when adopting your product). This was about bringing together the physical UX, digital UX, content and staff to smooth out that moment when the experience moves from staff to device.

They tried it out using Axure (an interactive prototyping tool) directly with visitors. Lindsey says: “There was a wonderful moment in the gallery when we were stood with the Fabrique team and a visitor and we realised that we had designed a help tutorial that was TOO heavy handed. We had realised we had to give the visitor direction and choreography almost on how to interact with the space. Initially we looked at doing this by visually spelling out what they needed to do before they started. When we prototyped that in the actual space, we realised that it was too strong. It diverted attention from the physical space, the screen was too bright in the dark gallery and it paced the visitor rather than letting them direct the action. So we moved to supporting them to try it out as they interacted with the space and then to more intuitive support as they focussed on the content.”

Finally, Alyson and I have been wrapping up the last of three evaluations of English Heritage multimedia guides, at Eltham Palace and Gardens. Shamefully, even though I don’t live all that far away, I hadn’t been before. What a beautiful property, and with such an unusual history – a medieval Great Hall (Henry VIII spent a lot of time here as a child) that became part of a 1930s Art Deco mansion owned by the Courtaulds.

Mah-jongg the Courtauld's Lemur

Mah-jongg the Courtauld’s Lemur

Their guide puts you in the role of a guest at one of the Courtauld’s party, and features oral histories from people who were there themselves. It also has archive footage from that features their various animals, most surprisingly Virginia Courtauld’s naughty pet lemur Mah-jongg. Whilst Mah-jongg is long gone, you can still see his  cage, with jungle murals and a ladder that allowed him to roam around the building, biting ankles, apparently.

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