Title:A seat at the table: Giving visitors a voice in exhibition development through user testing
Authors:Emily Hellmuth, Silvia Filippini Fantoni, Tiffany Leason, Jen Mayhill
Publication:MW2016: Museums and the Web 2016

Since the Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA) introduced a visitor-centered exhibition development process in 2013, user testing of analog and digital interpretive tools in both the conceptual and implementation stages has been a fundamental part of the process. User testing is an important tool in gauging visitors’ interest in a specific activity. It also helps to determine if interpretive tools are intuitive, engaging, and easy to use, so that changes can be made before installing them in the galleries. The systematic incorporation of user testing in the exhibition development process has resulted in the implementation of a number of successful interactives, which have realized high take-up rates and have received positive feedback from visitors of all ages, thus contributing to the overall increase in satisfaction with our exhibitions.

This paper will reiterate the importance of user testing, particularly when it comes to technology-based projects, and highlight some of the things learned in the past few years from using this strategy both in the front-end and formative stages. Staffers will also discuss different approaches to user testing and share takeaways from experiences with mobile testing stations and Test It Lab, including advantages and disadvantages of each model. At a time when many museums, and art museums in particular, are considering introducing user testing into their practice in a more methodical way, the IMA may be able to help these institutions make informed decisions about how to move forward.