British Museum audio guide

The audio guide is the flagship digital product offered at the British Museum to help communicate and share knowledge fn the Museum’s permanent collection to over 6.7 million visitors each year.

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Category: Mobile app

Team: The British Museum

Collaboration: Mentally Friendly

Problem: The audio guide was in dire need of an update. The sponsorship with Korean Air was renewed with the Museum, which allowed us to update the product and offer new content and functionality. Some key challenges included providing translations for over ten languages, as well as finding a content management system to support this amount of localisation. Also, the sales of audio guides have been fairly low, so the project team had to understand the reasons why visitors were not taking an audio guide to support their visit.

Audience: The targeted audience for the audio guide was our international visitors, since the audio guide was the only product available that provided content in their native language. The signage and interpretation for the majority of the objects in the Museum are all in English.

Stakeholders: We had a responsibility to deliver the product before December 2015 due to sponsor agreement. The development team was a stakeholder, ensuring that sponsor credit was acknowledged. The marketing team was a stakeholder, ensuring that the product met the standards of the Museum’s visual language.

Process: We used a user-centred design approach focussing on empathy with users (and the collection) through in-depth research, interviews, and testing with hundreds of Museum visitors. We started with the central question, “Why do you not want to use an audio guide on your visit today?” We found that the perception of time was a key factor. Most visitors felt like they didn’t have “enough time” to make renting an audio guide worth their while.

The audio guide was re-launched on 1 December 2015. Since then, the project was nominated for two awards in 2016. During the summer of 2016, the project team performed an evaluation of the product, which led to refinement of both design and features. At the end of 2016, the retail team reported record high numbers for the uptake of the audio guide since its re-launch.