Launched in the Summer of 2019, the Jewish Museum’s Mobile Tours aim to expand the diversity, depth, and accessibility of digital storytelling at the Museum. The project was designed to complement the Jewish Museum’s new, dynamic, and rotating collection display, Scenes from the Collection, aiming to both reach broader audiences, and deepen connections to existing ones. In our Mobile Tours, interface design, content, and implementation of technology as part of a visitor experience strategy all work in tandem to extend the Museum’s ability to forge meaningful connections between art and audiences.
Mobile Tours are designed as a platform-agnostic single-page web application on Tours.TheJewishMuseum.org, accessible and responsive across all devices, with no app downloads required. Visitors are easily directed to the mobile experience upon connecting to WiFi, lowering the barrier to entry and inviting new audiences beyond the traditional audio tour user. Visitors may also access the platform off-site, allowing deeper engagement before or after a visit to the Museum. For visitors who do not have their own smartphone, devices are available for loan free of charge.
As a Jewish institution, the Museum’s audio guides were previously unavailable to visitors on Saturdays—the most diverse, and highest attended visitation day. On the Sabbath, the Jewish day of rest, admission is free, and no interactive technology could be distributed. In an age where over 90% of visitors now bring their own smartphones to the Museum, our Mobile Tours served as a design solution for allowing visitors to interact with deep and engaging content during, before, or after their visit, while still observing the laws of the Sabbath.
The Museum’s content strategy for audio and video, developed alongside the technology, underwent a parallel transformation. The tours underscore the unique experience of visiting the Jewish Museum by placing expert analysis in dialogue with personal recollections for stories that are illuminating and surprising. While looking at a single object, visitors may listen to a rabbi discuss the origins of Purim rituals, Isaac Mizrahi tell stories about his childhood in Brooklyn, or listen-in on a group of 4th graders laughing over a surprising encounter. The tours bring together the voices of historians, curators, artists, spiritual leaders, writers, chefs, and kids, for nuanced, in-depth conversations. Taken together, Mobile Tours allow visitors to seamlessly navigate the collection while investigating the complexity and nuance inherent in Jewish identity, and any identity.
Since launch, our Mobile Tours have seen significant increase in usage and pick-up rate, compared against the Museum’s previous wand devices, which were only available on-site. Data from Google Analytics reveals that the tours have been accessed by nearly 20,000 users, both on and off-site. As will be expanded upon in later sections, usage rates for the tours have increased more than six-fold, pointing to the Mobile Tours as a powerful tool to expand engagement. Further, users of the Mobile Tours are significantly younger than the Museum’s average visitor, with length of engagement nearly twice that of our previous audio tours. These factors underscore that the Mobile Tours are not only attracting new audiences, but keeping them captivated.
Among several usability evaluation studies performed, an initial evaluation conducted by the Pratt School of Information’s Usability Theory and Practice course revealed that a total of 87.5% users reported that they would use the guide in a future Museum visit, and 100% reported that the guide enhanced their Museum experience. Feedback from visitors also affirm that the content compelled them to continue their engagement outside the walls of the Museum, saying, “I would like to keep it and keep listening to some of the audio tours.” and “It’s exactly the information I’m looking for in a museum app.”
Mobile Tours at the Jewish Museum activate the visitor experience and bring the history of art and Jewish culture to life through personal and dynamic storytelling. With a new approach to mobile technology, user-friendly interface designed for all, and dynamic audio/video content strategy, Mobile Tours augment the Museum’s strategic vision to not only expand audiences, but propel the quality, nuance, and depth of their experience.