Science Museum — Navigation App Design

The Science Museum boasts some really fantastic facts, they are the foremost destination for learning about science in the UK, they capture the imaginations of 3.2 million visitors a year and as a company, they are passionate about inspiring the future of science.

How can it not be exciting to get the chance to work on a concept project associated with such an institution. This particular project consisted of a group of four of which I was one of them. We were able to divide the work into four distinct areas. Research, exploration and ideation, testing, and prototype creation.

The brief required us to create an app that would make visits easier and more engaging for their visitors, they also wanted to include the option to allow guests to be able to mark exhibits of interest whilst browsing the museum. They also wanted their visitors to be able to keep track of interesting information, a function that allows visitors to learn additional information from displays, and finally to allow guests to be able to plan future visits via the use of the app.

Image of the brief specifics

So the first thing we did, was to create a screener survey, we wanted to get some insights into actual museum users, and get more information about their pain points and areas of difficulty. We were lucky to get 53 respondents and their insights really helped us to identify areas of focus, but first, I will give you some insight into their demographics.

90% of respondents were between 25 and 44 years old, of those 98.1 actually go to museums. Additionally, 75% of our respondents visit at least 3 times a year.

We found this core user base a great foundation in order to dig deeper, and that’s what we did. We did further in-depth interviews with around 15 of those users, to get a feel for what they are thinking and feeling during museum visits.

Myself doing a user research interview

This lead us into some affinity mapping, organising our feedback and identifying key areas of focus. We developed a persona who represents a summation of all the key users, and named him Alex.

Our persona Alex

Alex is our typical user, and he represents so many museum visitors nowadays, they are overwhelmed with the magnitude of resources, and really do not know where to start. We developed user journeys and started thinking about the process one follows when visiting a museum, either for the first time, or on subsequent visits.

Outcome statement of Alex’s Journey.

Scenario: Alex loves learning. He has two hours spare and decides to visit the Science Museum to find out more about Atoms.
Problem: He finds the museum is a confusing place. He has a short attention span and has trouble retaining information.
Solution: He installs the Science Museum’s MapApp. It helps him plot his route without distraction and also saves facts and pictures of his discoveries to look at again later.
Outcome: Alex loves the buzz he got from learning about Atoms! He later replays the info he’s learnt and makes new connections in his head.

This further image also shows our creative process of thinking about how to represent and solve Alex’s problem in an effective and engaging way.

The highlights show, navigation ideas, learning and also colour coding ideas.

Next based on our research and learning, we deemed the following design principles to be appropriate.

Simplicity is Key
The whole focus of our app is to allow a user to be immersed in the museum visit experience, in the simplest way possible while providing lots of added value.

Seamless Feel
The experience of using the app should complement the use of resources that are already in the museum, meaning that the app is an extension for enhancement rather than a separate tool.

The user is already learning, and their brains are probably working more than average. Every aspect of using the app will just make sense because it follows typical and known conventions. Visual language should also be welcoming and accessible.

Now it was time to start building prototypes and testing our product. We gained so many insights along the way, we had paper prototypes, 2 versions of mid fidelity prototypes built in sketch and finally onto high fidelity prototyping of which there were also multiple iterations. Continuous rounds of testing and feedback was key in shaping the way our app now works.

The above images show some insights into how our design has evolved and changed throughout the sprint.

Different screens of the onboarding process

Due to the simplification of our design, we had to add a small on-boarding process, as shown above which orientates the user as they use the app for the first time. Which testing revealed was really important in order for the use of the app to be understood.

Did we meet the objectives of the brief?

This gif demonstrates a simulation of the app, guiding you through the museum while keeping you up to date with where you are.

If I were to have more time to work on this idea/concept, I would also look at adding language options, the science museum has guests from all over the world every year and I cant think of a better way to improve engagement than to offer insights and additional information in the native tongue of the visitors. I would also work on improving the navigation so that you can input multiple stops and the app would be able to guide you through the museum and your entire visit in the most effective and useful way. Lastly, I would like to include some personalisation, so that the app can learn about you as a user and what you particularly like, and tailor recommendations based on your own preferences.

Feel free to contact me anytime if you have any questions about this project. Thank you!

Chris Davies-Anipole

Written by

UX Researcher, Life Coach, Traveller.

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