Designing for a social visit.

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

Remember this post way back when we first started? In it, I described the hum of visitor conversation throughout our spaces and watching as our current tool — the audio guide — had visitors taking headphones off in order to talk to each other. The audio guide, though well received by visitors, flooded people in already content rich physical environment; the result was a shorter than average visit — 88 minutes — for those using it versus the 107 minutes of those who were not.

At the Barnes we’ve got a few things things to consider. Technology and its content will need to support a social visit as the main way to move through the collection. Short form content rather than long should combat fatigue. If content is being delivered in written form we’re still looking for a way to deliver an “eyes on art” experience. The wearable performed well in all of these respects.

In our prototype, we designed the wearable to deliver one piece of content in each room at random. If two people took the wearable and were visiting the collection together, more often than not the wearable would show each person something different in the same room. The idea we were testing was pretty simple: if we give each person different content and it’s short enough, are they more likely to discuss it and keep the conversational tone in the galleries?

84% reported discussing content on the wearable with those in their party.

Yes, is the answer. 84% reported discussing content on the wearable with those in their party. In this incredibly simple content design, you could see the results instantaneously and while this may not be exactly where we land content-wise, we’ve seen this working and it’s a solid place to start.

If you could describe your experience in one word or a short phrase, how would you characterize it?

In terms of the fatigue factor, it’s a little difficult to track timing with accuracy in a testing environment where visitor behavior will, by nature, present itself differently. However, there are some clues we can look to in what people say about their experience that can help us. In interviews with testers we ask, “If you could describe your experience in one word or a short phrase, how would you characterize it?” The top repeated words in order of use — easy, interesting, informative, fun, convenient — were in double digit percentages of the total. Overwhelming was used, but only represent 2% of the total — the same as “unobtrusive.”

A wearable tester going in for a closer look.

The wearable also did well in the “eyes on art” objective with 83% reporting finding themselves looking more closely at works of art because of the content shown on the wearable. This is a solid initial finding because it demonstrates that even in an incredibly short payload you can still direct eyes off screens effectively.

Our first generation prototype was engineered to show just one piece of content per room and 94% of testers have also told us they would like to “see content about more than one thing per room.” Our second generation prototype has been modified so we can deliver as many or few works per room as we’d like to test. The “more” test will hit the floor next week and we’ll be looking to see if the dials move in different directions on any of these primary objectives.


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.