This statistics course, data collection and other stuff has taken up so much time that I feel I’m a bit behind on actual reading. Today is the first day I’ve been able to get into a back-log of things I thought might be interesting. And one thing that was near to the top of the list has proven to be a fascinating read, that’s worth sharing.
Ages ago, Kew Gardens announced a new app to help visitors find their way around and find out more about the gardens. I have a soft spot for Kew, having worked at the Palace, back in the stone-age, before its restoration. So I eagerly downloaded it and had a play. Of course I wasn’t at Kew, and so the GPS functionality was somewhat limited. I closed the app, and resolved to make a visit.
I never did.
So when I saw Delightfully Lost: A New Kind of Wayfinding at Kew, by Natasha Waterson and Mike Saunders, I was intrigued, and now I’ve actually read it, my curiosity has been rewarded. It starts off with a summary of previous digital projects and then the visitor segmentation work they commissioned from Morris Hargreaves MacIntyre. MHM originally did this sort of work for the National Trust, about seven years ago or so, and since then they’ve been touting the same sort of segmentation round other cultural institutions. Its a good model, segmenting visitors not by residence, income, lifestyle etc, but instead according to their motivations for visiting. So for example, were I to visit Kew with my kids, I’d be wanting different things than if I were planning a rendezvous with an old work colleague. Its a marketing tool really, but I think its focus on psychometrics, and classification of motivations (of course MHM do slightly different classifications for each of their clients !), make a useful shortcut to keep in mind when thinking about emotional engagement.
What came across at Kew was that many visitors to the gardens didn’t plan their walk in advance, and two of the most successful aspects of the app were the functions that encouraged serendipitous exploration. One pointed out which plants were looking especially good on the day of the visit, and another sent the user “off the beaten track” to discover a place they hadn’t visited before (or at least, for some time).
The evaluation also discovered some technical difficulties which impacted negatively on the user experience. The Augmented Reality wasn’t accurate enough, and there was a signal black spot which given the app required on-the fly updating, caused some frustration.
Overall, “delightfully lost” proved to be “a successful design principle for Kew” and I can see it (or rather something like it, I wouldn’t want to nick Kew’s theme) being a useful concept for many National Trust places. I’d really like to look at some of the numbers behind this research though – the paper focuses on the qualitative rather than the quantitative. I’d be interested to see an analysis for the download/usage numbers, and more about the 1500 visitor tracking observations they mention.
There is one line which especially resonates with the phase of research I’m just starting now though, looking at the commercial creative relationship between suppliers and clients.
“Our original vision was hampered by difficulties in procurement—in our experience, the UK government’s e-tendering portal actively discourages digital agencies from tendering for work.”
I’ve heard similar sentiments expressed elsewhere, and not just in relation to government agencies, so I’ll be trying to get to the story behind this quote.