We’re very excited that our new Welcome Wall has been installed today. The new design shows off some of our great collections and gives us the flexibility to highlight our fantastic events and exhibitions and how you can get involved in the museum. However our lovely designers Fuzzy Duck didn’t just dream this design up overnight. Over the past few months we’ve been testing out their ideas and observing our visitors to see which design they engaged with the most. This blog post will give you a bit of an insight into the process behind the Welcome Wall redesign element of the Play Your Part project.
The original design of the Welcome Wall was installed when the museum reopened in February 2010. Text heavy, the design didn’t meet the needs of our visitors and was not an accurate reflection of the museum. We wanted to embrace the experimental nature of Play Your Part and test out a number of approaches to redesign the wall in order to ensure that the final design was audience focused and has longevity.
After researching examples of foyer spaces in other museums, we came up with a wish list of what we wanted our new Welcome Wall to look like. However we knew that it wasn’t just us that mattered – the design needed to be something informative and eye-catching for visitors. We needed to objectively measure how the different designs impacted on the visitor experience. For this we brought in audience research specialist Marge Ainsley to train us up on observational research and for the past few months we have been dutifully observing how visitors use the foyer and their levels of engagement with the various Welcome Wall designs.
- Original Design
Observational research phase 1a: unstructured research to establish pre-defined behaviours, 27 Oct – 9 Nov 2014
Observational research phase 1b: current design of Welcome Wall, 10 Nov – 23 Nov 2014
Observational research phase 2: white wall, 25 Nov – 7 Dec 2014
- Design 1
Observational Research phase 3: design 1, 9 Dec – 28 Dec 2014
- Design 2
Observational research phase 4: design 2, 30 Dec 2014 – 18 Jan 2015
- Design 3
Observational research phase 5: design 3, 20 Jan – 8 Feb 2015
The data made for interesting reading. We found that on average 40% of visitors interacted with the information desk during their visit, with 23% of visitors going straight to or from the cafe, 14% going straight in and out without visiting the museum and only 20% of visitors going straight to the toilet or museum without interacting with the information desk. This highlights the importance of our Front of House team as the first point of contact for visitors.
We found that the number of visitors not engaging with the Welcome Wall significantly decreased in all three of the test designs, compared to the original design. Test designs 2 and 3 showed similarly greater levels of passive and active engagement compared to design 1. Therefore when analysing the impact of the three test designs, we focussed on designs 2 and 3 to take forward to the final design.
The final design is based on test design 3. Whilst most visitors do not pass the Welcome Wall at the start of their visit, the museum hosts many public and private after hours events. During these events the museum galleries are often closed, and the foyer is used as a breakout area, or for food and drink receptions. Therefore we wanted to highlight the museum’s collections and encourage guests to return when the museum is open.
As only 21% of visitors go past the Welcome Wall at the start of their visit, we decided to keep the information as simple as possible to avoid conflicting messages. Most of the information is framed to allow for flexibility. Collections highlights are in A1 frames, which we can’t update in-house, but will mean that they are easy to update in the future. What’s On information is in A3 frames, which we can update in-house. This will allow us the option to test out different approaches, for example highlighting Family Friendly activities during the school holidays, or to sell the frames for corporate branding during venue hire events.