- January 2013 – March 2013
Born through design ethnography practices and other forms of user research, In Their Footsteps is a concept based on a brief 20 years from now where technology allows any surface to be a screen in the McManus Galleries, Dundee.
Users register their feet and select a category based on their interests, with paths then displayed for the user on the floor of the museum based on their selection. These are created through crowdsourcing data from paths that previous visitors of the same category have taken. Visitors can also change their path through a floor-based menu via a series of simple foot gestures. This concept allows visitors to navigate around the museum in a manner which is entertaining and novel. The concept also allows the user to keep track of their partners, by enabling them to view the paths that they have taken.
Aimed at addressing how museums can continue to adopt future technologies to improve the experience of visitors, In Their Footsteps was a speculative project based on a brief from the McManus Galleries designed to create debate and inspire thought around the use of technology in museums - a place where often technology is not used to its full advantage or is lacking sound user experience.
By observing visitors to Dundee's McManus Galleries on several occasions we were able to gain an insight into the types of behaviour that is common amongst visitors. We observed that the museum's current technology was not immersive enough meaning it was nothing more than a brief distraction for a few seconds.
In a speed dating style exercise with other designers, around 30 concepts were generated based on the issues observed from ethnographic research at the museum. From these concepts we formed project groups of 2 designers and chose a single concept that we wanted to further develop. Another interaction design student and I chose a concept that focused around the idea of crowdsourced footprints appearing on the floor of the museum to guide visitors around the museum and take them to the exhibits that would interest them the most.
Storyboarding, wireframing and rapid paper prototyping were used in order to visualise how the interaction between museum visitors and the concept would work, to gain insight into foot gestures and movements that could potentially be used to control the concept. Paper prototyping and user testing allowed us to discover whether these felt natural or awkward and finally to show how the interactions with the floor menu could work.
Interviews with expert users were conducted based on the paper prototypes. This allowed us to collect and analyse valuable feedback to facilitate the development of the simple prototypes into an overall stronger concept.
Users register their feet and select a category based on their interests, with paths then displayed for the user on the floor of the museum based on their selection. These are created through crowdsourcing data from paths that past visitors of the same category have taken. Visitors can also change their path through a floor-based menu via a series of simple foot gestures. The concept allows visitors to get to where they want to be in a manner which is entertaining, adding a new and vibrant aspect to navigating the museum. The concept also allows visitors to keep track of their partners, by enabling them to view the paths they have taken.
The ethnographic research, rapid prototyping and user feedback sessions resulted in a concept that would provide a very unique and personalised experience tailored to each individual user’s interests. The concept’s nature allows it to be scaled up for larger museums that would exponentially improve as more and more visitors provide data for each museum. Additionally, the concept would allow the McManus Galleries to retrieve and analyse valuable feedback on the paths its visitors take around the museum, thus allowing them to make ongoing and informed decisions on exhibit design that maximises the visitor experience.
On reflection, the concept has major issues with accessibility for disabled users. If technology allowed for it and the project was brought into reality, this would have to be explored as a priority.