Enhancing the online museum visit experience
When Orange, French biggest telco, contacted us in 2010, they had already tried to pave the way for some cultural-centered projet. But they hadn’t find the right agency to work with yet. This time, they wanted to enhance the museum visit experience. And the project briefing they gave us at the beginning of the project was a bit large. In fact, there was only one line written on it: “What should be the digital experience of a museum?”.
And you know what? We love that kind of brief! Starting with a blank page, the infinity of ideas. And beyond! That’s all we live for ;) It was a one of a kind project, because we had to track all the service experience. Does it start at the museum, or before it? When does it stop? What would our service be useful for? And what modalities and functionalities should we invent to answer theses uses? Theses are some questions we were trying to give an answer to. And as far as we can see, we’ve pretty much succeeded ;) Of course, we were asked to enhance a museum visit, not substitute it. To say it briefly, our task was to imagine a new museum experience by enhancing it throughout the digital medium.
That’s how we work.
This sounds pretty easy. But a museum experience is a complex one. Thierry Curiale, Marketing Director at Orange, was our “internal” partner during this project. To start with, we established a multi-disciplinary project team within the company, gathering designers (us, of course ;), engineers and marketing profiles, in order to benefit from all kind of competencies. Workshops and internal development were the two phases we alternate during the project period. Why? Because ideation was led in groups, and the development phase was then carried on by every team: design, engineering and marketing.
Then our creative process started with an immersion phase in which we visited a lot of museum, in order to understand the overall visitor experience. But also to find out what were the difficulties he could encounters or the various curation choices one could came upon in a museum. Here, we wanted to map the visitor journey with the intention of identifying each contact points between him and the cultural ecosystem. When does he start to find information about an exhibition? When does he buy his ticket? Does he enjoy a guided tour? There a fundamental element was to explain that a museum experiment does not start when you get into a museum and close as you get out. The moments before and after the exhibition have an equal weight in the experience.
Starting from this experience mapping we then thought about how we were going to tell our story. You’re aware that every smartphone app has to tell a story, aren’t you? You’ve to engage your users within your universe, whatever your universe is. So we started to sketch and draft. After some workshops dedicated to this first step, our design team created the information architecture of the service, adapting it to each device it would exist on.
As soon as we had the story, we needed to page it, to create its digital shape. We were now working on wireframes, which then conduct to the last step: web development and prototype design.
A museum visit experience that last longer
Throughout all theses steps, we were able to imagine various way to enhance the experience of a museum visit, in order to conceive a truly interactive and desirable one. Just take a glance to our diaporamas ;) You would notice that an idea has guided the entire development of our product. The system we built communicates in a user friendly way. For example, it displays “You’ve 6 hours of visit yet” instead of “The museum closes at 5 p.m.”.
Moreover, our system doesn’t display all the information whenever. It displays only the informations that best fit your needs at a specific moment. A smart system, in a way ;) In fact, it’s not because it works on various devices that the system works the same way on every of them. The iPhone app is deeply useful during the visit, when the iPad app would better match your expectations after it, to enjoy informations add-ons as soon as you’re comfortably installed in your sofa for example. Visiting a museum becomes a personal and cultural experience, that everyones want to share.
The way we sensibilized Orange’s teams towards this conception process was one of the factors they truly enjoyed. The best thing in this project is that visiting a museum is not the only kind of experience that you can enhance. There is so much opportunities to redesign the things humans really care about… One of the several evidences of that assumption is the number of startup that disclose huge market opportunities!