Visitors’ preference for computers, Part One

Oh no! I feel another multipart post coming on… How many parts, I don’t yet know, maybe just two. I’ll strive for brevity.

Reach Advisors have come out with a new finding from the large museum study they conducted in 2010, and I love it, though maybe not for the reasons that others will.  You should go read the post. It’s short (2 pages) and isn’t weighed down with charts or facts. It’s just findings and lots of helpfully highlighted bits ready to be tweeted and emailed broadly.

The gist of this post is that computer interactives are one of the least attractive ways visitors prefer to receive content, coming in at only 11%. This is across a big national sample of visitors (n=40,000+) to all kinds of museums. This is pretty earth-shattering stuff, right? Well, yes and no…

The first time I read this post, I sat there and said, “Whoa! That doesn’t jibe with my own experience or evaluations I’ve seen previously, so what’s up? If computer interactives suck so bad, that’s a big deal.” Better go dig into it a bit more and see what’s there.

The first thing I did was look at our own findings.  Our Star Wars exhibition was evaluated at two venues, and the results for both venues are largely the same.  Go read the report.  At MOS the percentage of diligent visitors (%DV) was 51% and the sweep rate was 208, what Beverly Serrell would classify as an exceptionally 

thoroughly used exhibit. It was also full of computer interactives, two of which were in the top ten exhibits in terms of holding power. Considering their competition included Luke’s Landspeeder, Darth Vader, and Yoda, their inclusion in the top ten doesn’t jibe that well with Reach’s finding.

Now before you get all snippy and make rude comments about people who come to Star Wars exhibitions, let me say that the exhibition drew a broad family audience. There might be a dork in the group visiting, but there were more non-fans than fans. But I agree it is not a typical case, being a paid exhibition. People who have plunked down a wad of cash to see a timed-ticketed show are more likely to use as much as they can.

So what other data are out there? Luckily for us, we can all look at the findings from a study Smithsonian did in 2010 of preferences and expectations for information and electronic services by Smithsonian visitors. It’s a pretty thoroughgoing look at what average SI visitors (not just the ones who volunteer to fill out an online survey) felt about technology. They asked over 1,000 visitors, and found that 26% felt that computer kiosks were useful tools. Not surprisingly, text (brochures and labels) comes out on top, followed by live guides, and films. Are Smithsonian’s visitors’ more than twice as interested in computers than the U.S. visitors polled by Reach?

Next part – What’s going on here?