Putting the emphasis on the right syllable in computer-based interactive design

OK, so it’s almost the end of 2010, I’m up to my ears trying to hit deadlines that are toppling over like monolithic dominoes, attempting to keep working on my Master’s thesis, and watching the traffic to this blog spike thanks to Nina Simon, who gave it a very lovely shout out on this Museum 2.0 blogpost. So what am I thinking about? Something that isn’t on my to-do list, of course! Design for the gallery first, or the web first? The mind is a funny thing…

It’s not a complete non-sequitur  I am working on a grant proposal to IMLS that will involve developing a suite of computer interactives for in-gallery use, and web versions of the same that hopefully allow deeper long engagement than would be possible in a busy museum gallery setting, or at least that’s the way it seemed at 10AM this morning.  As I was feverishly writing the rationale for the project, I recalled an article by Luke Wroblewski about subverting the dominant paradigm of designing web sites for the traditional desktop monitor and then making a mobile version of that.  His contention was that mobile should be the default format for web design for reasons I won’t get into here. Go read the article, it’s short and good, like all his stuff. And I thought, “Huh! Designing the gallery interactives first and then the web versions is kinda bass-ackwards, since the web versions will have much greater potential reach. And the web versions can have more functionality, since there won’t be the time pressure of sitting in an exhibition with people looking over your shoulder waiting their turn to try. And it’ll be easier to design the full web functionality and strip out elements for a locked-down exhibit version, than it will be to add functionality into something we’ve built to be bullet-proof.” So I scratched my head and tried to recall if I’d heard of anyone attempting this in a museum setting, couldn’t, and claimed it as an innovation.  Sounds great on paper!

So, I’m writing and thinking and revising, and finally decided that deadlines needed to be obeyed and have dumped this blogpost on you, hoping that in your collective wisdom, you’ll have some insights to share.  Is there any merit/novelty/broad applicability to this idea of designing exhibit apps for the web first and the gallery second? Has anyybody tried?  Have you seen any different models that have developed apps for both that worked or stunk? What would such a development process look like? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Happy Holidays!


The tweets have started…

From Mia Ridge, in snowy London

Patty Toland, in snowy Boston

and Charles Outhier,in PA


Keep ’em coming!

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