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By Catherine Elvin on

How we test Life Online exhibits

It takes a lot of work to develop the interactive exhibits you see at the museum. Audience Researcher Catherine Elvin looks at how we test them.

My role in the Life Online team is to find out how our visitors react to each element of the galleries, and to look for ways that we can improve their experiences. I go out and talk to our audiences, with the aim of discovering what they find interesting and engaging, and what might be confusing or difficult to understand.

One of the best things about my role is that I get to work with everybody on the team, and see how things are progressing with all areas of the project, from the exhibitions and galleries to the websites and workshops.

One of the largest areas of work for Life Online has been testing the new interactive exhibits with visitors. I’ve been involved all the way along in developing these exhibits, and my team are currently doing some testing with working prototypes.

For the Life Online gallery, all the interactive exhibits are touch-screen, computer-based exhibits. They look at very different elements of the history and use of the internet; how the internet has replaced older technologies; what the early web looked like; how online businesses have succeeded and failed. The prototypes aren’t always finished exhibits—usually we’ll be wheeling a computer around on a trolley—sometimes it will just be an idea explained using a slide show or on paper.

We ask visitors to have a go at the exhibit, and imagine they’ve just encountered it in a gallery, then we ask some questions to ascertain what they particularly liked about it and which bits still need work. When we’ve collected a range of different opinions about the exhibit, we talk to the design team about what they can do to improve the exhibit based on that feedback. This can be anything from making the key messages clearer, to changing where buttons are on the screen to make a game more intuitive to play.

We’ve nearly finished working on the interactive exhibits, and it’s exciting to see everything coming together as we get closer to the final install date.


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