Our entire ASK program has been built upon regular user testing and evaluation, which we’ve always completed ourselves…until now. Since we’ve been trying for over a year to increase the use rate with limited success, we felt like it was time to ask for help. In the fall of last year, we hired ERm, a marketing and research firm here in New York, to bring fresh eyes to the problem. The evaluation had several objectives, including:
During the months of October and November, ERm conducted online surveys, which were sent to email addresses visitors shared with us at the admissions desk and in the museum shop. We also completed four focus groups, two comprised of pre-recruited individuals who downloaded the app and used it during their visit, and two comprised of regular visitors intercepted and recruited in the galleries. Let me tell you, those focus groups were super enlightening! Since app use is anonymous, we’ve rarely had the opportunity to speak with users about their experience (once we were past beta testing). We’ve mainly relied on app store reviews to give us insight.
We are still processing all the information, but ERm has provided some actionable items related to overall awareness and user experience that we can begin to work on right away. According to the study, awareness is quite low. Only 56% of survey respondents had never heard of the app at all. Interestingly, by comparison, the vast majority of respondents (87%) had not downloaded an app from any other museums either. For those that had heard of ASK, their main source of information were staff members (52%) and museum signs (32%) like the labels pictured below. This is good news since we are in the midst of building an ASK Ambassador team that will provide that much-needed personal invitation to ask.
Despite our fairly extensive testing around messaging, our current version still leaves visitors unclear of how ASK might enhance their experience. They assume it’s a tour app with a map (an assumption we’ve been fighting all along). Additionally, they are unsure of the usefulness of the app in this age where you can Google anything. A few focus group participants felt that the interpretation already provided was enough information and weren’t compelled to investigate further. (Great news to those of us who have ever written a wall label!) A few respondents felt that being on their phone would detract from their museum-going experience, however 76% of survey-takers said they used their phone at some point during their visit. All of these factors contribute to an overall apprehension to download an app for a few hours’ use. Overcoming these factors through different messaging in particular, is an important next step.
ERm also reported three key areas where users like the app most:
We will explore these elements further in the coming months as we move toward ASK 2.0. The good news is, nothing we heard from the evaluation is a surprise. Much of the results cover things which we have suspected for some time. It’s nice to have some solid evidence, as opposed to just anecdotes, behind our assumptions. Stay tuned for more on this as we roll out changes, test solutions, and put these ideas into practice.
Sara Devine joined the Brooklyn Museum as Manager of Interpretive Materials in 2011 and is now Director of Visitor Experience & Engagement. A vocal visitor advocate, her expertise lies in crafting accessible and engaging visitor experiences and reaching audiences across platforms. She works with curators, designers, educators, technologists, and editors on all aspects of visitor experience and engagement. Sara is also a visiting assistant professor and curriculum coordinator at Pratt Institute’s School of Information for their graduate program in Museums and Digital Culture. She was previously Senior Content Developer and Project Manager at Hilferty, a museum planning and design firm in Ohio, where she developed comprehensive interpretive master plans and exhibitions for a wide variety of museums. She has also worked at Assistant Curator, Special Exhibition at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello and as a Curatorial Assistant at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.