Title:A New Look at an Old Friend: Reevaluating the Met’s Audio-Guide Service
Authors:Laura Mann, Grace Tung
Publication:MW2015: Museums and the Web 2015

In September 2013, the Metropolitan Museum of Art launched a new audio guide. This presented an opportunity—and a need—to take a more strategic look at this long-standing service. Although the Museum has provided an audio-guide service for more than fifty years, thus far it has had a limited understanding of who uses the service and what kind of impact it might have. Who is the audio guide serving? What is and is not working?

In an effort to answer these questions, the Museum conducted an evaluation of its new audio guide in collaboration with Frankly, Green + Webb. We took a comprehensive look at the service, seeking to understand the entire visitor journey from initial awareness to the effect of the guide on the overall museum experience. This service design approach—though well established in the commercial sector (Polaine, Løvlie, & Reason, 2013)—is relatively new in the museum field.

Our paper includes findings from the evaluation and insights we gained from the research process, as well as how these insights are applicable to the wider museum field. What can other museums learn from our experience? What is the value of evaluating an audio guide as a service rather than a product? How can museums move from evaluation data to insights and actionable recommendations? And perhaps most challenging: how can we design successful digital products and services in complex organizations with multiple stakeholders who have different levels of comfort with innovation and risk? These issues are not unique to the audio-guide service or to the Met; they are common to digital projects across all museums.