Natural History Museum - user observations
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Today, we are studying the ways in which design can shape user behavior, the differences between different groups of users, and the gap between design intentions and what people do in reality.
When you arrive at the museum, split into groups of two or three. You will be collaborating with the others in your group for the rest of your visit. Take a little time to explore the museum, then get on to work.
Choose two exhibits to study. Aim to spend about an hour on each exhibit – that will mean a large amount of time looking at the details of how the exhibits work and at what people do. Take notes, make sketches and plans, and take photos.
You will want to be able to answer a series of questions, and to explain how you know this and why you think that it is the case. These questions are a start, but only a start – you will want to think more deeply about the exhibits and user behavior on your own, asking your own questions.
- What are the primary audiences for the exhibits?
- Who is using the exhibit right now?
- How do design decisions shape a user’s experience of the exhibit? Consider signage, lighting, labels, displays, audio/video, digital displays and kiosks, hands-on activities, demonstrations, and sequencing.
- What senses does the exhibit try to excite?
- What do you think the exhibit designers/curators intended people to do? What are people supposed to spend the most time on? Are these intentions different for particular audiences?
- What do people actually do in the exhibit?
- Is there variation between different people?
- Where do different types of people actually spend their time? What are people most interested in? What seems the most memorable or engaging?
- Where do people spend the least time? What areas seem offputting in their effect?
- What areas are most and least successful? What parts of the exhibit achieve effects that are most closely aligned with the designers’ intentions?
- How could the exhibit better appeal to its audience? How could the exhibit better achieve the intended results?
For class on 1 October, your group should give an eight-minute presentation to the class about your findings. Edit your presentation down – you will need to distill your material to a few key points. You should include visuals, on screen or in handouts. Please rehearse the presentation.
Handed out 2012-09-24.