I had a hybrid role between Exhibit research and evaluation and Interactive design departments with mentors from both the departments to guide me through the re-design of interactive digital exhibits.
My job responsibilities:
Planning and implementing usability evaluation studies for four digital exhibits from Dinosphere.
Translate findings from evaluations into requirements, ideate design changes, create wireframes, and conduct a formative evaluation to guide the visual design.
Re-designing informational kiosk
T.Rex attack is the first interactive digital informational kiosk in the gallery with content about the main attraction of the gallery. However, the interpretation staff members observed that the usage of the kiosk was very low and that the visitors didn’t actually consume the content.
Who were the target audience?
What messages did the designer plan to give the audience through this kiosk?
What was the intended experience of the kiosk?
Problem Space exploration
To answer the open questions, I was given access to the paper archives and had to collaborate with the Archives department.
It was initially intended for 8-12 yr old children who could read without assistance. The goal was for them to ask interpretation or paleontologists for more questions and understand how to study fossils better.
I found that the intended messages (highlighted in yellow below) were present in content of the kiosk and through other mechanics throughout the gallery.
Analysis - Summative Testing
I chose concurrent mixed methods to meet the below criteria:
Observe behaviors directly
Examine issues other
I used a semi structured shadowing approach. I collected data on usage time, interaction patterns, and family learning using a template 100 groups of visitors. I collaborated with dept. of interpretation to understand the flow of visitors in the gallery and how we position ourselves at what times to observe their interaction with the gallery in general and kiosks in specific. As the main goal of any exhibit in the museum is family learning and engagement, each family is treated as a single unit of user. I interviewed 25 of the families about their experience with the kiosk.
The gallery attracted a younger age group than intended, i.e., 4-8 yr old children. So they required the chaperone to read it out.
Though the flow of traffic at the kiosk is heavy, experience of the gallery had so much sensory stimulation that the younger children seem to get distracted so the entire group follow them. This was confirmed by an an old ethnographic study that used a go-pro to understand what a child sees - the entire gallery is dark and the exhibit at the end is bright so they automatically ran towards that.
Though content on the kiosk was in line with the mental models of the users, the wordy presentation isn’t engaging enough and only 5% of the visitors were engaging with the content enough to learn the content. This wasn’t enough to keep their attention
The content had to focus on what the intended age group of children (8-12 yrs. who could read) found interesting and use mechanics that could engage them.
To understand that, I collaborated with the education department at the museum to come up with a co-design activity for children in the age groups of 7-9 yrs.(n=20) and 10-12 yrs. (n=15) that could be integrated into their summer camp activities. The activity lasted 45 min. and required the participants to make cue cards and collages explaining the central exhibit.
After transcribing and analyzing the data from the co-design sessions, themes about content and mechanics emerged.
They were interested in content around hunting strategies, defense mechanisms, body types, and diet.
Storytelling and gamification were the overarching themes for content delivery.
I also found out that the children in this age group had many misconceptions about the time period of dinosaurs and study of paleontology.
So, the purpose of the kiosk was also to clear these misconceptions alongside presenting the content and drawing attention to the fossils.
I collaborated with the paleontology department to verify accuracy of the content and then with the interpretation department to present it in a digestible way for the age group of children. After translating the user requirements to design specifications, I created wireframes to tell the story of dinosaurs using gamified affordances.
I used wizard-of-oz testing by pasting the wireframes on the kiosk and simulated the interaction. 25 visitor groups used the paper prototypes and then selected the words that corresponded to their experience on the product reaction checklist. I also interviewed the children to understand their reactions and made changes to the wireframes based on that.
Overall, the children seemed engaged and able to understand the content.
Usability evaluation of educational games
Construct-A-Saurus, Family Crests, and Track your Herd are games designed to reinforce the content the visitors learn through the gallery with 3-4 intended takeaway messages corresponding to each game. Although touch screens were later added to each exhibit, they retained the trackball and button that were the original input devices
The evaluation involved inspecting the space to decide if the kiosks were set up at the right place to deliver and re-inforce the content that was intended. Some of the intended takeaways were also displayed on plaques on the walls beside the kiosks.
To understand the design and content, I was provided decade-old design documents which revealed that the primary intended audience of the gallery were children between the ages of 8-12 yrs. old. But my initial inspection showed that these exhibits attracted children between the ages of 5-7 yrs. old. So, one of the goals of the evaluation was also to investigate why the exhibits failed to engage the intended audience.
After evaluating each exhibit with 15-25 users, I wrote a report and presented my findings to the stakeholders from various departments and listed re-design suggestions to engage the intended audience.