Can I have some more, please?

This is the third post in a series detailing the lessons we are learning from our testing sessions with the wearable.

When we first started, our prototype was designed for the wearable to deliver one piece of content in each room at random. This was an easy way to start, but very quickly we started hearing the word “more.” In this project, “more” could mean three distinct things: more snippets of content per room, more words per snippet, and the want to take more home.

As we’ve gone through testing, we’ve had to work to tease out each specific instance to understand what more means on a device like this one. In each case, this is a matter of giving a little more, measuring, and then trying to figure out where the threshold is. On a device this small we will hit that wall somewhere and we just need to find the balance.

One important thing to keep in mind throughout this post? The unique thing about the Barnes is there are no didactic materials in the collection galleries. We’ve deployed a short form device into an environment that has no other scaffolding in the form of labels or chats. Given how much heavy lifting this little device is doing, the metrics are pretty promising even when they don’t seem like it.

More Per Room

The early version of the prototype delivered information about a single work and 94% of testers said they “would like to see content about more than one work per room.” In a second version which just hit the floor a couple of weeks ago, we introduced three pieces of content per room and the ability to swipe between them.

New version allows swiping between more content blurbs.

Now, 56% agree with this statement (from one of our testers), “At first I thought there wasn’t enough content, but once I started going through more of the rooms I felt like more than two or three per room would be too much.”

We’d like to see this percentage get higher and later tests will continue to tease this out by adding more to the wearable for each room. We’ve also got a “bench pilot” coming up where we’ll be testing access to longer form content via benches that are installed in each room. How the short form wearable works with longer form content installed in the benches will be a key part of a production deploy.

More Words

In our first round of content, each snippet about a work of art consisted of somewhere between 30–50 words. 34% felt this was too little. 66% felt this was “about right;” of those 41% felt it about right on its own and an additional 25% felt like it was about right if use of the wearable was combined with additional ways to access content in the galleries. This points to another reason why the “bench pilot” is an important one.

Next test will be to go from 30–50 words to 60–100.

To tease this out a bit more, we changed our survey method recently and asked people which statement — a comment from another tester — did they agree with the most. 41% agreed with: “The content was long enough that I learned something extra about the painting but short enough where it didn’t take something away from the experience. I thought the length per piece was just right.” 59% agreed with: “I think the content could be a little bit longer. It’s more “fun fact” related right now. If that’s what you’re going for, then it’s perfect. But if you’re trying to delve a little deeper into the pieces or the logic behind the layout of the pieces, the text needs to be a bit longer.”

This will be our biggest thing to work on in the coming weeks. The next step is to test with double the amount of text on the wearable. And then test the original length (30–50 words) and the slightly extended length (60–100 words) alongside access to longer texts as part of the “bench pilot.”

Taking More Away

In our early conceptualization of the project, we saw the wearable as short form content carried with you combined with longer form content delivered at other points in the space (benches where you might rest) and, lastly, extended content sent to you post visit.

We have not been testing actual post visit material, but we have been asking people about their expectations and we were surprised at how volatile this turned out to be; simply put, people were either on one side of this divide or the other and there was zero gray area in between no matter how we pitched it.

“Save for later” is presented after each blurb, but the UX is wearable specific and most people don’t know what to do with this button.

When asked in the abstract, 35% of users said they wanted post-visit content. To test the reality of this idea, we added a “save for later” button on the wearable which appeared after each blurb. 36% — roughly the same percentage of users who said they wanted it — pressed the button.

That said, this percentage may be a little off because our execution was prone to error; the “save for later” button and the nomenclature around it was confusing to users. The “save for later” action is something commonplace in wearable UX, but most users are not familiar with that yet. We think a bookmark icon or a heart icon might have gotten us a bit more, but each of those things, too, mean certain things to users. Even with confusion, 36% might be about right and it’s a similar statistic among projects at other institutions which incorporate post-visit materials.

In interviews people were adamant — either they wanted content later and they were totally psyched about the possibly or they didn’t want anything at all and they made that really, really clear. There was no maybe, no convincing, no middle ground.

Of that group that wanted it, 74% wanted extended content about the works they saw and 72% wanted that content via email. And are you ready for this? The percentage of users who wanted post-visit content via email didn’t change based on age. That surprised me.

Key Learning

All of this data points to a key lesson. We’ve deployed a short form device with no other scaffolding, but we think the product’s success will likely be in the balance of short form on the wearable combined with other parts of the program where people can access longer form content.

On its lonesome, 77% believe the wearable enhanced their visit. 72% agree with this tester statement, “It’s so natural. I don’t normally use audio guides and I find the paper guides a bit confusing. But this was on my wrist, it felt so natural to look at the screen and then up at the painting. It wasn’t obtrusive or distracting in any way.”

The wearable on its own — and especially in an environment like ours — needs a little support from other avenues, but the tool itself is proving to be accessible, conversational, and a fairly high percentage of testers are finding value in the small package.


The Barnes Foundation wearable digital prototype is funded by the Barra Foundation as part of their Catalyst Fund.

Want more info? Read more about the Barnes Wearable on Medium and follow the Barnes Foundation publication, where we’ve got multiple authors writing about our projects.