Title:Designing digital experiences for families
Authors:Martha Henson, Alyson Webb, Lindsey Green
Publication:MW2016: Museums and the Web 2016

Are you doing enough to meet the needs of your family visitors?

Families are a major audience group, but making sure they have a good visitor experience is often left to the learning or programming teams without integrating it into the overall approach. And whilst families may seem to be an obvious target for digital products, many seem to assume that they are a homogeneous and consistent unit. In fact, a family group may cover a range of ages and knowledge levels, have varied attention spans, and have more practical requirements than adult-only visitors. Also, we know that most parents are keen for their children to learn and engage with objects in the museum, but often despair at guides in which they only engage with what’s on the screen.

So, how do you design good digital products for this diverse audience group? Firstly, we will suggest, by making sure you have a clear understanding of their needs. You can only do this by talking to and observing your family visitors.

Frankly, Green + Webb use audience research to help create successful digital experiences for the cultural sector, especially on mobile. We’ve uncovered a range of fascinating family behaviours which we will share in this session, some of which may surprise you.

We will start the session by looking at methodologies for carrying out family research. We will then share findings from work with family audiences for the Van Gogh Museum, British Museum, Museum of London, and Natural History Museum of Utah. From this, we have developed a set of principles that all museums and galleries should keep in mind when designing for families, based on a service design approach that aims to integrate digital into the whole visit experience for greater impact. Some short activities within the session will give you the opportunity to see how you could apply these principles to your own institution.