Weeknotes: 01.2017 – An Annual Catch Up

On October 20th, 2017, posted in: weeknotes by

Welcome back, it has been a while (over a year, in fact). But I have missed the weekly ritual of interfering with your inbox.

At this point I feel the need to write a “previously on ER” bit to get you all caught up. However, I’m going to start by setting the scene of where I am right now because I think that will tell you the amount of change we’ve been riding here at FGW HQ.

I’m currently at my desk in our (not-so) new office at Roco Creative Co-op in Sheffield.  I’m sat opposite Annie (our new team member) and next to Alyson. That’s right, after 7 years of working remotely, Alyson has moved from London to Sheffield. The Northern induction has begun. Meanwhile, I’ll be speaking to Laura this afternoon, as she sits in her new office in the Central Building in Oakland with her new colleague Pratyusha. An eventful year. I hate to sound like we’re not really in control of this organisation. But I did not see that coming.

 

Laura, Pratyusha, Lindsey and Alyson. Just need Annie and we’d have a full house.

 

We also managed to do some work on great projects while all this was going on this included:

  • Tate – Research and consultancy on how Tate could use digital experiences to improve the experience for priority audiences during a first time visit.
  • National Galleries of Scotland – Training and mentoring to design and create audience-centred digital content using live briefs. The outcome has been new insights into possible processes for the organisation and a deeper understanding of what worked and didn’t work for their new and existing audiences.
  • Scottish Ballet – We were asked to shed light on who is their current audience and how they could encourage them to keep returning. This informed their a new visual identity and helped them to think about their offer for first time and less confident audiences. It’s worth checking out their Digital Dance Season
  • English Heritage – Advising on the best way to implement mobile interpretation for Stonehenge – in short, to app or not to app? It’s a common question – and I wrote an article for spokes magazine on the topic last month.
  • Oman Across Ages Museum – A huge new museum project in Oman working with interpretation designers Barker Langham to advise on how they can use digital to support the visitor experience .

 

Behind the scenes at Scottish Ballet: Each ballet dancer has their own box of ballet shoes. 

 

While in the US:

 

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum: The Courtyard of the “Inside Out” Venetian Palace in Boston

 

Back to where we are right now – I’m surrounded by a map of a huge report we’re working on with Laura. It’s for Bloomberg Philanthropies – a major supporter of museum digital programs – and we’re looking at the impact their Bloomberg Connects programme has had on museum audiences across 16 organisations and across 53 projects. This has included 7 evaluations over 6 months. It is a fascinating, spidery beast and an absolute privilege to work on. The second phase started in January, has been rumbling in the background but has now reached the homestretch and should be all sorted before the end of the year.

Looking ahead, Annie is planning and prepping for a trip over to Utah to carry out research at the Natural History Museum of Utah (NHMU). We’ll be evaluating how the recently launched Utah Climate Challenge is performing. We helped NHMU get to a brief last year and Preloaded won the bid in spring. Our work now is to understand how the game is working for the audience and what support is needed in the physical space to make sure the visitors get the most from the game. I’ll share more on that as the project moves along.

I’m planning a workshop in Copenhagen with associate Isabel Froes and a conference session at MCN in Pittsburgh with Laura, Lawrence Chiles from the National Gallery and Michelle Grohe from Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Alyson is working away on a couple of new proposals for exciting projects.

Laura just got back from Omaha where she is working with the Cloisters on the Platte, a new retreat center designed around the teachings of St. Ignatius  and Pratyusha has been getting on with an evaluation of the Exploratorium’s online audiences. This week, the US team is also kicking off a new qualitative research project with SFMOMA into the audiences for their online artist videos. (Actually, don’t click on those links you’ll skew the data)

Whenever the next weeknotes is, it may be next week but I’ve learned not to promise, normal service will resume. 

If you made it all the way down to this point, maybe you would like to have this spat into your inbox whenever they arrive (hopefully more than annually!) you can sign up or you can follow the Frankly, Green + Webb Publication on Medium for just the long reads.

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We’re recruiting: Design Researcher and Consultant, Sheffield

On March 31st, 2017, posted in: news by

Based in Sheffield, Full time – up to £30,000 dependent on experience.

At Frankly, Green + Webb, we work with museums and cultural organisations – who, right now, are feeling the impact of digital technologies, changes in audience attitudes and behaviours and reduced budgets. We’re looking for a new team member who wants to use their research and design skills to help our clients navigate these challenging times and build places for people to learn, be inspired and engage with the world around them.

We help our clients to understand their audiences and evaluate, design or improve the experience for both online and in-person visitors. Digital is at the heart of what we do but we work strategically and we’re platform agnostic. Sometimes we’re designing a service, sometimes evaluating a mobile app. We focus on getting to the core of what’s important to the client and making things that are useful and enjoyable. It’s unique work – we love it, and we think you will too.

 

ABOUT THE ROLE

This is a job with lots of variety. For example, over the last year you could have been helping the National Gallery in London create a visitor experience that engages people who aren’t confident about art. Or helping Scottish Ballet inspire more of their audiences to keep coming back. Day to day you might be:

  • Analysing existing data to identify new opportunities for digital services
  • Helping to design new research methodologies and experiments that deliver robust data about audience needs, behaviours and experiences
  • Listening to, speaking with and observing how different people use cultural organisations
  • Co-analysing data with clients using journey maps and storytelling techniques to generate deep and actionable insights; or
  • Working collaboratively with our clients, internal teams, external digital, branding and wayfinding agencies to create concepts for digital and physical services.

 

WHAT THAT MEANS FOR YOU

You’ll have some experience in applied research, not necessarily in the museum sector – we’re happy if you’ve worked in a complementary field like theatre, a wayfinding company, or if you’re a human behaviour specialist. You may be working in a design led role currently and interested more in the research side of things. A genuine interest in the cultural sector and its audience is an absolute must, though.

You’ll have sound project planning and co-ordination skills. You’ll be able to implement and manage design research / applied research projects, plus ideally understand how research is integrated into human-centred design and service design processes.

You’ll be gathering and analysing both qualitative and quantitative data, so excellent analysis and problem solving skills are bread and butter to you. Many of the problems we get aren’t clearly defined, so it’s important too that you’re comfortable working with ambiguity and figuring out your way to a solution. You want to get to the core of a problem, are open enough to know solutions can be big and impressive or small and impactful, and humble enough to test and learn what works and what doesn’t.

An ability to interact with clients is key – you’ll be helping them to understand data, develop ideas and project concepts, and spot opportunity areas that fit with their strategy. Being able to work collaboratively is essential too – with clients, our US office and with our partner organisations.

You’ll be creating reports (including short visual ones) that flip research insights into actionable design recommendations, so your capacity to convey complex data in an accessible and meaningful way is very high on our list of requirements.

We’d also love you to support us with our workshops – both in their development and presentation. And help us share our insights and processes through presentations at conferences, written articles and blogs.

You’ll be crafting concepts and ideas for products and services that use digital, human and physical interventions so an appetite for all three – and how they can be used together to deliver a great customer experience – will definitely make us smile.

…AND A BIT MORE ABOUT YOU

As a person, you’re a naturally curious, ‘big picture’ type. You have high standards, but you’re a pragmatist too – you understand the value of compromise sometimes. You’re always wanting to improve, are open to new challenges, and receptive to feedback. You don’t just want a job, you’ll want to contribute to and be part of our growing business.

Non-negotiable is that you’re interested in and respect our clients, users and visitors, and that you want to understand and enhance their experience. We really CARE about our clients, and it’s vital to us that you do too.

To be a great fit for this role, your attitude and values are as important as your skills and knowledge. We’re a small, nimble business and we’re busy! We need you to be up and running quickly and to have the flexibility to be able to respond to client needs, which sometimes might mean working in the evening or the occasional weekend. In return, we can be flexible too.

It would also appear that you have an ability to read through very long job adverts. We like that too.

WHAT WE OFFER

You’ll be based in our office in Sheffield, a vibrant city, well connected and with the beautiful countryside of the Peak District on your doorstep. You’ll work directly with our founders – with Lindsey Green in Sheffield, and remotely with Alyson Webb who’s based in London – with the benefit of their in-depth experience and knowledge about museums and cultural organisations. You’ll have the opportunity for regular travel to London and throughout the UK. Occasional trips to Northern Europe and the USA are likely too.

Excited? Have a go at the application activity below. Then send your response to the activity, your CV and a cover letter that tells us exactly how and why think you fit the bill to work@franklygreenwebb.com.

If you want to discuss the role, then please send an email to work@franklygreenwebb.com and we can set up a call to have a chat.

Applications are open until 24th April. We’ll be in touch about interviews shortly after. If you’re the one for us, we can’t wait to get you on board.

Application Activity

Please share with us a project you worked on in where more than one research method was used, and tell us how the methods were chosen and what the output looked like.

When describing this case study:

  • Mention any useful insights and tell us why and how they were useful in getting to the output.
  • How you helped other people – your team, your clients – to understand and use the insights

 

 

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Weeknotes 38. 2016: Minding the gap: What we can learn from listening to what visitors don’t say

On September 23rd, 2016, posted in: weeknotes by

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It was about four years ago that we started noticing. Silence, gaps, spaces in visitor experiences and it’s started to become a bit of an obsession. Because it seems that listening to what isn’t said is sometimes more important that listening to what is said.

We noticed it first in one of our very earliest pieces of work in which we gave visitors a recording device to carry with them during their visit.  The recruitment and fieldwork had gone exceptionally well.  Visitors were happy to take part and we quickly accumulated hours and hours of recordings.  We started listening eagerly but quickly felt overwhelmed by the scale of our task and began spooling through the long passages of silence to get to where visitors chatted and pondered their experience.

And there’s the thing.  We instinctively focussed on what visitors said, the questions they asked, how they spoke and what they did. Days into the process we realised that we had been unwittingly ignoring the real insight.  For much of their visit, people moved quickly and quietly through the site. Where we, and the organisation, imagined visitors moving slowly, looking carefully, discussing the objects, there was… well, a gap.  These objects, the displays weren’t, in the words of Peter Samis, ‘sticky’

In fact a whole series of galleries were acting as a route to the ‘interesting stuff’ that did halt them in their tracks and did provoke lots of verbal reaction. One group of participants could even be heard pacing through gallery after gallery until they finally announced “So this is where the interesting stuff is!”

This insight allowed us to shift our focus – was there anything that might sloooow them down or open them up to these less obviously appealing displays for example.  Or could we use the energy from the ‘interesting’ stuff to open them up to new experiences.

The silences and gaps are still with us and we continue to try to ensure our attention is not too caught up in what is being said or done.  But it brings with it some challenges such as how do we talk about what isn’t there and when is a silence or gap significant or not?

Why does this matter for digital project?

A common issue we come across is that organisations have spotted digital gaps not audience gaps. For example, we hear we have lots of information that we haven’t been able to give to people without cluttering the exhibition space and a mobile guide lets us fix that issue. But the truth is most visitors don’t want access to lots of information during their visit.  They just want the right information written in a way they can understand and is easily accessible to them.

We need to refocus our gap detecting powers on to our audiences. Because what we have begun to realise is that the gaps and silences often occur because our audiences aren’t always very good at either articulating their needs or even knowing things could be better.   

A nice example of this follows on from Lindsey’s recent post on planning.  As part of that work on planning we’ve been listening to front of house staff talk about the type of questions visitors ask them, how they tackle them and where they place themselves. In the entrance hall, some people ask “Where’s the [insert name of famous object]?”, “Where’s the cloak room?” or “Where do I start?”. But observation and further questioning suggested that some audience segments simply weren’t interacting with staff at that point. They tend to shoot off into the museum and wander. In silence. The staff’s operating assumption was that these visitors ‘didn’t have any questions’.  This turned out to be true – sort of – but not quite in the way that was expected.

We came to realise that a lack of purpose, low levels of knowledge about a venue or lack experience of museums can mean some visitors – often those who need help most – simply can’t formulate a specific question, have no destination in mind or assume everything will become clear if they just keep going. In other words visitors who need most support aren’t accessing it and may have no idea their visit could be better with just a bit of help.

Digital could help this group identify what is interesting to them but relying on them to seek it out is unlikely to work. They need active intervention. Active interventions might be in your face marketing that talks to the need OR a person located in the right place, supported by a digital tools. We’re not the first to think of this by any means – many museums combine tablets and staff, however thinking about how you train these staff and the types of questions they need to ask can only be identified by understanding what they aren’t asking.

As we start to dig into more and more of these gaps and silences, we can see there are lots of opportunities. We just don’t know what they are yet.

In weeknotes – Lindsey and Laura have been preparing for their visit to Boston and workshops at the Isabella Gardner Stewart Museum. If you would like to join them for a beer and some museum related chat they are going to be at “Drinking about Museums” at The Hong Kong in Harvard Square at 6 pm on the 29th.

Meanwhile Lindsey and I have sharing with Scottish Ballet the outcome of the research phase as well as managing all the logistics for a series of phone interviews. Plus a few top secret things that we can’t share right now but hopefully will be able to soon.

No links this week but double next week!

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Weeknotes 37.2016: Do visitors really use a museum website to plan their visit?

On September 16th, 2016, posted in: weeknotes by

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We’ve recently been doing a lot of visitor journey mapping. Sometimes using the data we’ve gathered in a research process and sometimes working with the internal teams existing knowledge and experience. When we map a visitor journey with clients using their knowledge, it’s common for teams to insert a moment before the person arrives where the visitor plans their visit using the website. This often includes looking at what there is available to do, what is available to see and making a decision about why they should come and what they should do.

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Mapping the journey at Battle Abbey for English Heritage

When we are using real data to plan a visitor journey there is often a moment where the people in the room realise

a) how few people use the website to plan a visit
And…

b) when they do how shallow the planning is.

What do we think planning means?

A common assumption is that lots of visitors are using the website to carefully plan their visit and therefore become aware of the wide range of programmes and services available to them. It would seem to be a good assumption to make. Data commonly shows that the majority visitors to a museum’s website do so “to plan”. But that isn’t to say that the majority of physical visitors have used the website. And if they have used the website – the “planning” activity rarely looks the way we expect. Visitors may call it planning but what they actually do doesn’t match our understanding of that activity.

One of the challenges is that all too often we use the term planning to describe both an activity AND a moment in time – before visiting.  If we think of planning as an activity where we make an effort to understand what is available and make some decisions around what to do, the order to do things and when to do them then it can – and does – happen at anytime during the visitor journey – pre, during and even post-visit. And what more commonly happens before a visit is what we have come to call “checking” – how to get there, when is it open, do they have a car park.

The reality is that it’s rare for people to review what’s available to them and begin making detailed decisions and prioritisations about what to do and when before they arrive. On any platform. Including the museum’s website.

Does the difference matter?

If we assume people have used our website to plan then we believe that people are well prepared to understand what is available to them before they walk through the door. They know about the cafe and the shop, the events and the tools available to make the most of their time. They will have prior knowledge of types of things there are to see and do and how long a visit might take. And that they enter the building with a purpose.

The truth is that many people walk through your door have no idea about who you are, and what you offer.

The impact is that people who don’t plan often experience “non-planners regret” and start blaming themselves for not planning better. This is often a moment in the visit where they realise they have limited time and/or energy and want to make sure they get what they need from a visit or they spot a sign for a talk that they would have enjoyed but will now miss. This is often in the middle of a visit, where all the planning tools provided are on the outer edges of the experience and is often articulated as “I should have got a map”, “I probably should have checked what was on” or they start to ask any staff they can see.

Planning favours the knowing

Clearly there are people who plan before they arrive however they seem to have two strong defining elements. The first is a strong motivation to get the most from their visit for example “I have to see X”. They tend to have more knowledge or purpose or significant, practical needs, for example, families are often planners.

There second element is about “understanding how to visit”. Experienced visitors to cultural attractions know some of the pitfalls and unwritten rules of visiting a museum i.e. what type of things may be available that they are interested in. They understand the framework of an experience and are able to navigate through to what they personally enjoy. A challenge here is that as seasoned museum professionals it’s difficult to put ourselves in the position of those who rarely visit a museum and therefore we design using symbols and language that we assume everyone understand or we bury things thinking that people will know how to find them. So for example the “plan you visit” area often includes things such as the mobile guide – which in turn is often designed to be aimed at people who are new to the subject or museums.

Why don’t people plan?

If a visitor isn’t a regular museum attender and/or you don’t have a huge drive to engage with the subject matter of a museum then you aren’t likely to plan. Their assumption is that there is little on offer beyond what is available in the exhibition space and they will be able to understand the depth and breadth of whatever there is to do within the first few minutes of their visit. Which is commonly a busy and dis-orientating time.

This means you are potentially making the exact people that you want to encourage to have a great experience and return work super hard.

They will check details – and they will do that using your website – but right now we don’t make the effort to flip them into deeper planning or acknowledge that if they don’t plan before they visit there may be a moment where they do need support to prioritise their time and energy.

So what to do about it? Here are some things we have been thinking about:

  1. Look at the visitor journey and start to identify where people will identify the need to think about managing their time and energy – what is the best mechanism for supporting them?
  2. If your visitor doesn’t plan then providing a section called plan your visit is unlikely to work – can you use new language that fits with their motivations?
  3. Begin to think about planning as an activity rather than moment in the journey


Note: This post was indirectly inspired by this great post by Rob Cawston at National Museums Scotland about how they are looking into developing their new “What’s On” page. You should check it out.

This weeknotes is quick because I’ve eaten up all my time on this post but…

Alyson has been working on a discovery report for Scottish Ballet and supporting Laura on proposals. Laura has been working on the proposals whilst wrapping up on some work for MCN. I’ve also been working with Laura to plan the workshops for Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (ISGM) and hammering out the ssGreat Britain report.

In fact – this all ties up nicely, Laura and I are going to be heading to Boston to work with ISGM in a couple of weeks and I just found out that I’m going to have a whole day free so I’m also checking out things to do or you might even say I’m planning.

And this weeks reading:

Association for Independent Museums reporting on to charge or not to charging entry

The Atlantic posted on the increased acceptance of mobile in museums

Future of Museums on what would happen if educators ran museums?

Hyperallergic post on artificial intelligence being used in the new Tate IK Prize winner project

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