Air and Space Museum Companion App Case Study

The Challenge:

The Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum wants to set itself apart by creating an innovative and interactive mobile experience for its visitors. The Air and Space Museum wants to provide their visitors with a unique experience by giving their visitors new ways to learn and interact with the exhibits. In addition to an endless amount of activities and knowledge in the palm of their hands, it will be easier for visitors to find a clear way to navigate to their exhibits of interest, making room for more exploration of their specific interests.

The Process:

My team and I started off by looking at people who visited the museum.

User Research.

First we came up with a survey to help us understand who are users are and why they are visiting the museum.

60% Featured Exhibits & Exhibitions

Once we saw that majority of our users were visiting specific exhibits, we wanted to know how they went about navigating to them.

72% Prefer to Wander

We quickly realized that with most people preferring to explore on their own, we needed more information to get the “why”. We then created questions to conduct user interviews, and once we had a set of questions we visited a local museum to find real life museum goers. I soon realized that this was harder than anticipated. The one family I interviewed were visiting the DC area for only one day and were in a hurry to get everything in. To top it off, they didn’t speak English fluently, which made it difficult to not ask them leading questions. Luckily, I did end up getting some useful insight to bring back to the team. Time was of the essence for my museum goers, and they wished there was an efficient route to go through an exhibit quickly and learn about them along the way.


Next, our team of three went through an ideation process, looking at the different people we interviewed. How were we to come up with an app for all these different visitors?

Affinity Map Session

By creating an affinity map, we were able to find a pattern which helped us create our three personas. Each persona had a pain point we wanted to address, but one persona stood out to us the most.

Vistor Personas (Primary Persona is Lynda)

Lynda, a mom of three who wants to keep her kids engaged but also wants to plan ahead with an itinerary. Then with the help of competitive analysis we were able to narrow down key features to help Lynda and her family out.

Design. Test. Iterate.

Lynda’s User Flow

After deciding we want Lynda to be able to create a customizable itinerary, we wanted to include ways to get her family engaged and immersed in their museum experience. We wanted to focus on learnability, discoverability and enjoyment.

This is where we decided that we wanted to include AR and Beacon technology. We had a lot of great ideas, but soon we began to loose sight of our scope. Our ideas began to take over, and our group felt we needed to design everything. I believe this is what hurt us most. Her user flow was quite helpful in determining what her visit may look like, but as you can see there are many features.

The main deliverables were with visual mockups of the proposed interactions.

Beacon Popup Iterations

The first iteration of the beacon pop up didn’t test well with users. They thought it was too intrusive. They much preferred the second iteration, where the beacon notification was subtly displayed at the top. One thing they noted was it was easy to miss, and they weren’t sure how to get rid of it. Our final iteration included the beacon popup sliding down from the top, in front of the Nav bar. To engage with the beacon the user would swipe down, and to dismiss they would simply do the opposite and swipe down.

AR Experience Iterations

Much like the beacon, we tested the first iteration of our Augmented Reality experience. Our users thought it was great idea to see the AR overlaid on top of real life. However, they did not like the “Info” icons, and thought it was too much work clicking on them to see the AR. The users liked that they could just lift their phone and pan around to see AR interaction.

AR Navigation Iterations

Lastly was the AR Navigation. One of our team members pushed for this specific feature. Though, I thought it was unnecessary and didn’t bring much value to the app or the users, I went along anyway. Users are able to select “AR Nav” from their map view, and the AR Nav will take them to the next exhibit of interest.

Future Forward

Though I believe our app is pretty good for what it’s worth but I do think it could have been tremendously better. I didn’t stop and take a step back to assess what we were doing. If I had spoken up and said we should rethink a few things, I believe we could have honed in on one specific feature and made it great. Instead, we ended up creating a bloated app with features that probably aren’t needed. If I could go back and redo this again, I would definitely raise my hand more. I would listen to my intuition and frame my opinions in a way that is constructive and useful.

Another thing I would most definitely change is identify our roles and expectation as a group, and most importantly as individuals. We ended up doing everything together most of the the way, which didn’t do anything for us. We had great time management and teamwork, but we were lacking in individuality. We did not bring our strengths to the table enough.