Can we improve the experience of art in a museum or gallery? Art is made to be experienced, but many visitors of art museums and galleries don’t get the full experience of a piece from just the wall description.
GalleryPal is an app that allows users to understand the context of the art they are viewing, but in a way that’s tailored to them. Users can easily use their cameras to scan any work. They then can listen to or watch an engaging audio/video guided experience and read more about the piece and artist.
Users will also be able to use the app from home to discover local exhibits, view the museum or galleries’ hours, and purchase tickets.
I created GalleryPal as a part of a modified Google Ventures Design Sprint. As it was a solo project, GalleryPal was a prompt from Bitesize UX, a company that prepared the problem, research, and name of the app. However, as an art grad, I brought in my own experience with art theory and pedagogy to support my ideas for the app.
Specs: Designed in Figma & prototyped in Marvel
Timeframe: Oct 1-9, 2021
Role: UX Designer, UI Designer, Usability Test Moderator
- Improve the experience of art in a gallery or museum
- Make the experience of the art easily accessible
Museums and galleries want to increase the satisfaction of their visitors. Research shows that there are a few factors that contribute to this:
- A lack of context about a particular piece. Visitors may want to know more about the background of the artist, the meaning of a work, the artist’s intention, how it was made, and other interesting anecdotes that are currently not provided in the wall description.
- Visitors want the information that may be provided on a group tour with the freedom to experience the work on their own.
- When visitors do look into the art or background on the artist by googling it, they tend to be frustrated by only finding long articles on it.
From the perspective of the gallery or museum, the majority of visitors don’t know anything about the art before going into it. They want the guest to experience a story of the work, understand the content, and ultimately get something out of it.
"Art is made to be experienced."
Each piece is open to interpretation, and the excitement comes from how it resonates differently with each person. Viewers should be able to have a full experience of a work, which GalleryPal will enable.
The three initial end-to-end experiences that I mapped each sought to create an experience for the visitor in different ways, audio, video, and text. Each one began with scanning either the piece itself or a QR code near a piece.
While the 3rd end-to-end experience would only work for some pieces, it would enable the user to hold their phone up to a piece of art and interact with it in an audio/visual animated experience of the piece. (Think: Living Wine Labels app)
It wouldn’t necessarily be as kitschy, like a talking portrait, it could simply animate an abstract piece or landscape.
Day 2 of the Design Sprint involved research into similar apps, rapid sketching,
and sketching the critical screens.
Lightning demos are a critical step in the design sprint process which allow the designers to generate inspiration. They involve a quick analysis into similar apps or apps which use similar UI features that would need to be included in the final prototype.
I evaluated two art museum apps, The National Gallery of Art app and Smartify, as well as one gallery app, Artsy. I also got UI inspiration from common apps that use players (Spotify) and the alignment used for pins on Pinterest, which reminds me of salon-style hanging in a museum.
Crazy 8 Exercise
The Crazy 8 Exercise allows for quick experimentation and idea generation. After setting a timer for 8 minutes, I sketched a few key ideas, from the “scanning the artwork” page to the “my gallery” page.
The 3 Critical Screens
After I generated multiple screens, I decided that the critical screen was a combination of the second and 5th screens. The critical screen would be an audio player of key details and a short experience of the work, depending on the work.
There would also be a scroll-down option to read key details about the artist, the work itself, and how it was made. In each section there would be the option to view the artist.
The screen before the critical screen is the scanning screen, and the screen after the critical screen would be the scroll down to learn more about the piece. This screen would involve the accordion style or dropdown menus to allow the user to learn more without feeling overwhelmed by the amount of information.
“Art is the space between the viewer and the rectangle on the wall”
—T. Allen Lawson
Day 3 of the Design Sprint focused on deciding the direction to go towards the solution
and storyboarding low-fidelity sketches.
I came to this decision because it would give users the most flexibility to experience the piece in a way that they are most drawn to. Art is subjective and comes from the experience the viewer has with the piece rather than objective facts about the work or artist, so I prioritized the audio/video guided experience.
The guided experience would be more than just a recitation of anecdotes about the piece and the artist, it would give viewers suggestions on what to look for, ask questions, and allow space in between to simply look at the piece, almost like a guided meditation.
This would give the viewer time to engage and think about the work, drawing their own ideas and conclusions about its meaning.
The first six screens of the storyboard are opening the app, scanning an artwork, and listening to the guided audio/video, reading along, or then reading more.
The last 5 screens detail opening the Explore & My Gallery screens. The explore tab would give you first an option to Allow Location to find nearby galleries and museums. However, it can still work without allowing the location.
I chose to enable the Explore section despite it being beyond the requirements for a solution of the problem outlined in the Bitesize Design Sprint because I felt it would be a very helpful addition to the app for visitors exploring new cities or wanting to check out what current exhibits are in their area.
In addition, any of the users’ liked works would appear in My Gallery. If they don’t have any likes, a page with a link to explore would appear.
I created the high-fidelity screens in the style of “a realistic façade,” to test with users, as Design Sprint author John Zeratsky said.
Keeping this in mind, I focused on the big picture by designing only the key screens that the user would need to complete the main tasks—
- Learning more about a work by scanning it
- Scrolling down to read more about the piece and artist
- Browsing nearby exhibits and museums on the “Explore” page
- Checking out the “My Gallery Page”
The focal point of the individual work page is the action to “Play Guided Experience,” as this would be the centerpoint of the app. Once playing, there would be an option to rewind 15 seconds, fast forward 15 seconds, or listen at 1.25, 1.5, and 2x speed.
The secondary actions on this screen would be viewing more about the artist, the piece, How it was made, and viewing suggestions.
Building the Prototype
I used Marvel to build the prototype. Access the prototype here. The goals for my user testing will be to complete the key task, scanning an artwork and learning more about it. I will also ask users to find a featured exhibit at MoMA and view their gallery page.
I’m hoping to find out if users find this a useful tool for exploring galleries.
The ability to find nearby galleries and museums, while not a crucial aspect of the app, would definitely be a helpful feature.
As previously mentioned, the goal for the usability test is to ensure that this app is a working solution to the problem.
I interviewed two people remotely and three people on-site at a wedding I recently attended.
The Pre-Test Questions
As I didn’t do any of my own research for this project as it was part of the assigned Design Sprint tasks for Bitesize, I was interested in hearing the previous experience that participants have as gallery and museum visitors. I asked a few questions about this, for instance:
- Do you regularly attend art museums and galleries?
- Is there anything that you feel like is lacking from your typical experience in an art museum/gallery?
- Do you ever go on museum/gallery tours?
To find out if the GalleryPal app was properly working, I asked participants to complete a few key tasks:
- Scan a piece to learn more about it
- Learn more about the artist
- Browse the featured MoMA exhibits
- Check out the My Gallery page
All the participants were able to complete the tasks successfully, so I knew the app was working pretty well overall. However, there were a few additions and changes to the app that the participants suggested.
The Key Takeaways
- “On the explore page, the one thing I’m thinking about would be a map of the museum. Say I wanted to see “Egyptian art” and I want to know how to get there”
Suggestions: Implement a map
- “I would like to see upcoming exhibits and be able to purchase tickets from the museum’s page”
Suggestions: Add in a purchase tickets section
- “I would want to be able to fast forward or scroll through the audio tour, especially if it was longer than a minute”
Suggestions: Add in scroll bar/scrub bar for player
- “How would this work for video or audio installations? What would you scan?”
Suggestions: Think about time-based works, how would this work? Is it only for paintings/still work? The guided experience may get in the way
- “It would be cool if I could also keep track of all the art museums I’ve been to over time, to see like “All my trips” or something and to be able to go back and listen later”
Suggestions: Perhaps adding in the “All my visits” section for people who frequently go to art museums and galleries.
Implementing a map. This feature would be especially helpful for larger museums. Using the Explore section with the location enabled, users can navigate to exhibits or particular works within the museum.
Considering time-based works. The MVP is mostly designed for static works, but contemporary work frequently spans many other forms, such as video, installation, and performance. A guided experience may not necessarily work with these media. Instead, scanning a QR code near the work and being able to read more would be appropriate in these cases.
Refining and adding to Augmented reality experience. While it was not feasible for this iteration of the app, creating a larger augmented reality library of guided experiences would be a very engaging way to allow viewers to interact with works, in addition to audio.