Now, returning to the talk and why we chose and how we used universal design as the framework. Looking back at the history of the interaction Courtney had been fortunate enough to visit Mona (the Museum of Old and New Art in Hobart, Tasmania, the museum from which Art Processors spun out of in 2011) and was, as are most people, blown away by the use technology. Knowing that they were re-opening the Freer | Sackler in 2017 she got in touch towards the end of 2015 to see if we would be able to assist. In conversation it was clear that, while the gallery knew they were hoping to achieve something for launch, the final decision on what that would be and what it might look like hadn’t be fully decided yet.
- Goals and objectives: We had everybody write down their one main goal and many other objectives they would like to see this technology solve. Again, designed to get everyone in the room to share their values so we could talk to them later.
- User studies: More empathy raising, this time to get everyone to understand how vast their audience is and how many different demographics we’re designing for.
In order to work out whether features would exclude anyone from the defined groups, we worked through a high level decision tree with applicable outcomes. This tree focussed on four key questions to which we could apply our answers to the problems we were working to solve:
We combined these two elements into an experience that would see the nature of the ‘podcast’ used as a narrative tool, that could be of value to visitors onsite by placing a digital layer on top of the physical visit by way of navigating people through the space and that these stories could also be accessible in all kinds of people offsite through the means of a standard podcast.
By placing the demographics we were testing for inclusion over the decision tree we were able to make key decisions in a simple framework that aligned with the vision of the organisation.
For instance, when looking at users who were hoping for an instant experience, we could look at the podcast example and note that we would need another means to access content. So, the first decision was to include not just the podcast content but also a standard highlights audio tour designed to be dipped in and out of, as the user saw fit.
For the handling of language concern, we were able to look at the design of the application itself and focus on making it icon driven rather than text driven (layout, once you start getting into heavy text, can be pretty un-fun).
This framework definitely shone when it came to working across abled and disabled users. We were able to make a lot of decisions based on knowing in advance that we were going to build these features in from the start. We were able to use a video for the on boarding, thus embedding closed captioning and handling multiple languages with significant ease. We were able to look at how we would use navigational queues and borrow from the work done in the renovations by the way finding company 2 x 4 to make sure we could leverage signage and language in a manner that felt natural. Even though we had used and created accessible applications before, we partnered with Sina Barham atto really help our developers understand how to take full advantage of the native accessibility features within iOS. We also worked with Beth Ziebarth, the director of the Smithsonian Institution Accessibility Program, who was able to bring in a group of expert users to test the application for us in situ prior to opening.
The feedback from the expert users and the design philosophy we implemented to build agility in our workflow meant that we could adapt to these changes and bring in more functionality in the three weeks we had prior to opening. In this instance we were able to leverage the indoor location technologies we were already using add in a visual description of each room that would be read out by iOS to visitors who had screen reading facilities turned on. A huge win at a very small price.
Overall the decisions have been justfied in the metrics. The application is getting almost 50% of its usage offsite (not something we anticipated when building it) and 10% of usage in foreign languages (with Chinese being the most popular, also not something we anticipated). The design framework we used really helped to make sure that the goals that were set at the start of the process (creating content that is accessible by as many people as possible) were able to be met throughout and delivered on time and to a happy audience.
As always, if you have any questions or would like to get in touch about this work or any other please feel free to reach out using the links below.