At the end of 2014 the digital team performed user evaluation of our latest mobile beacon project and had some interesting findings.

More about beacons
More about beacons Image: Creator Jen Cork
© Australian Museum

As part of the travelling Aztecs exhibition audio content was supplied enabling venues to create audio guides for visitors to listen and view additional content relevant to the exhibition. The Australian Museum built a mobile iOS app to run the audio, with the ability to interact with beacons (low-power bluetooth devices) located around the exhibition, directing visitors to items highlighted in the audio guide.

The evaluation process involved choosing visitors to the Aztecs exhibition of differing ages asking them to complete a survey after they had used the audio guide in the exhibition.

Primary take-aways

The user-evaluation process highlighted two key areas to address:

  1. Confusion of tour order
    The location of the objects did not follow a clear liner path, causing frustration for users. User said they eventually found the objects but explained the experience was difficult and unintuitive. Note: This can be mainly attributed to the show being a travelling exhibition and not originating for the AM venue.
  2. Beacon Notifications
    The design of the beacon notifications were successful in meeting their goal, as user understood their purpose (directing them to content they were near). However they were not always used (60%), this highlighted what we anticipated in that the beacons were a nice add-on but were not critical to the experience.

Secondary take-aways

  1. Text Labels were important
    The labels on stops were used as much as the audio for the stops. This was an unexpected outcome as the audio was the focus of the app. It highlights the importance of providing text for users to read as well as audio.
  2. App UX/Design
    The user experience of the app was received very positively. The feedback from visitors was that the design was easy to use and understand. The text size was large enough to encourage reading and navigating between stops was seamless.

Importance of User Testing

User testing is crucial when building any digital application as it confirms or disapproves a design hypothesis. During the audio guide development we performed two rounds of user testing. This involved interviewing people from our target audience and asking them to perform specific tasks within the app. From these sessions we updated aspects of the design and re-tested the changes. The testing confirmed our design hypothesis and allowed us to move to production better positioned for the project to succeed.

The evaluation highlighted a number of things but the most important, usability. We can create experiences for our visitors using the latest technology but if the design and implementation is not intuitive we have failed to utilise the opportunity for rich engagement with our visitors.

Our digital projects should be about allowing visitors to engage with our knowledge and content in exciting and enriching ways.

For further reading on the AM’s use of beacons read about our mobile beacon strategy.