Understanding differences in user behaviors with mobile apps developed for in-gallery experiences and offsite uses is a fundamental consideration when designing content for mobile devices. The user experience and engagement with mobile products are greatly dependent on a multiplicity of factors such as social context, time availability, noise and distraction level, personal comfort, and individual goals, all of which are related to the users’ setting. Developing an app that bears user location in mind can ultimately assist with successfully reaching a larger audience and extending the mobile product’s life cycle in the sense that mobile apps are disposable products.
In order to understand user behaviors with one mobile app in different surroundings, we turn to analytic tools. As simple as this may seem, knowing the location of the device (and therefore the user) is not a trivial exercise, yet this information is paramount for comparing other user metrics. We suggest comparisons of user metrics with inaccurate location data compromises the study. For example, Google Mobile Analytics, one of the most popular tools, reports not on the location of the device but rather on the location of the Internet Service Provider, meaning that international or out-of-state visitors at the museum may be misleadingly reported as engaging with the app at their place of origin.
Using the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History mobile app, Skin & Bones, as a case study on location-based user behavior, we describe how we customized Google Mobile Analytics through events coding, filtering and segmentation analysis to retrieve accurate location data, which allowed us to compare app sessions taking place inside and outside of the Museum.