Welcome Wednesday 10 April 2013



  1. DC teens test the Smithsonian Mobile website
  2. Review of new release: NPG 2013 Portrait Competition app

DC teens test the Smithsonian Mobile website

Three DC teens went to three museums at SI one morning to use the mobile website. They took photos to upload through the app and to use afterwards.

The teens told us they and their friends, especially the “artsy” ones, are into Tumbler. One student created a Tumbler page for her visit pulling out comments from the app by other visitors alongside their own photos of their visit. Instagram is also popular (should people be able to log in for commenting with their Tumbler and Instagram accounts?)

Comments pulled out included:

  • “This app tells you way more than where museums are located…”
  • “cool #SImobile app!”

The iconic photos on the museum info pages helped them remember which museum was Natural History (the one with the elephant in front).

How the app could be better:

  • Just blue and white is boring – “like an educational website that a teen would not go to unless they had to.” Use more colors and shapes! Make it look like the ArtLab – makes it cool, teens want to spend time here. Primary colors can be bright and intense but not too funky.
  • These teens do expect the Smithsonian to be educational, “but when I go there, I don’t think about that – I just have fun!”
  • The app has a Facebook feel (FB is for old people)
  • A bit hard to navigate: you don’t know where you are on the google map so the directions can be hard to follow. Verbal navigation instructions and landmarks would help people who can’t read maps easily.
  • Inside there is no wayfinding. Would be useful to be able to scan barcodes or similar in each gallery to tell you where you are and help you get where you want to go.
  • App should contain labels because it can be hard to read them if the galleries are crowded.
  • Also include content that’s not in the galleries: fun facts, links to artists’ websites etc.
  • Liked the comments and photos section but didn’t leave any. Thought this section was really cool, made the app more interactive.
  • Teacher didn’t like that you had to have fb or twitter to use the commenting function.
  • See instagram site “Smithsoniani” the students built; prezi and Tumbler site
  • Liked being able to look at info on their phones, not just on the wall labels – easier to see when crowded, take the info home with you.
  • Best way to market the visitor tips and photos section would be to put signs in the museums.
  • Direct links to/integration with Instagram or Tumbler accounts
  • Teacher recommends a field trip program using the app – how can we develop/point to content to help a field trip?
  • Teens also use Twitter & YouTube.
  • Their teacher would like the app to be like a virtual field trip; also use it as a research tool. Mobile version useful because most kids have a smartphone and schools don’t always have a computer for each kid. Easier for kids to use their own device too.
  • An English teacher teaching Sojourner Truth’s speech could use the app to research abolition, women’s rights, etc. The app has some of this info already, but could be beefed up. Apollo 11 command module research was totally possible through the app: the info may seem basic to us but for the kids it’s a great start; after they can go online to get more detailed info. (& SI could link to more info…)
  • The teacher also liked the idea of the SI Mobile in-service learning idea – brand as SI version of the “Genius Bar”.
Here are the “Marketing” products the teens built for the Smithsonian mobile app today:

Review of new release: NPG 2013 Portrait Competition app

  • App is designed for use inside the exhibition but also from elsewhere
  • Didn’t call it a “tour” – don’t really want to prescribe a route through the exhibition. Really more that a tour because useful even if you’re not on site and includes more than what is traditionally considered tour content. However, can be used as a tour.
  • Continually updated throughout the exhibition with new content and video interviews
  • Links to blog for longer text content
  • Signed and promoted within the exhibition
  • Tristan matched the wall color of the object info in the app with the colors on the wall in the exhibition to help you find the right artwork/info
  • Map is a bit difficult to find because icon not recognizable as a map for some, but the map itself is great – zoomable and clickable! The thumbnail icons are really helpful.
  • Pop-up instructions useful for first-time user and not intrusive
  • Over 3,000 entries. Artists’ statements only used as tie-breakers; award-winners chosen on artworks alone.
  • The “Dialogue” section isn’t really a dialogue – based on Artists in Dialogue 2 feature, which had more real conversation (not just fan mail) – why?
  • Cost less than a catalogue! NB American Art Museum app coming up will be instead of a catalogue
  • A designer donated an ebook catalogue of the NPG competition too.

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