This week Melissa Dusette, Museum Liaison for Time Traveler Tours, shares our first experience of alpha-testing In the Footsteps of Giants. Enjoy!

With just a partly completed first chapter of In the Footsteps of Giants, I had the pleasure -- and privilege -- of taking our app out of the digital garage for its first trial spin.

We wanted feedback on our proposed User Experience (UX) design. So I brought it to a group of Museum Studies students at the University of Washington-Tacoma. Their instructor, Stephanie Lile, was my supervisor when I interned the Washington State History Museum back in my student days.

The goal was to verify whether the navigational flow of our app makes logical sense. Do the button placements, copy, and linkages between screens flow without a hitch to the user? Are the colors, textures, and graphical elements pleasing and effective? Is it intuitive to use?

We don’t want you reaching for an instruction booklet while you are walking around Florence! But while the design makes sense to us, that doesn’t necessarily mean it will to you.

So it was time to put the app into the hands of our target audience and watch them use it, even if 5,500 miles away from the Duomo in Florence.

First, I made a short presentation on UX theory and design – they are future museum directors, after all.

Then I gave the students a tour of In the Footsteps of Giants as it existed at that point. 

Finally, I gave them a test URL of the app to view on their own devices. I asked them to review the app based on the various UX criteria upon which we build the Time Traveler Tours experience. Then, I watched them interact with our app.

It was very difficult to keep my mouth shut and not direct their journey through the story and tour. But it was gratifying to watch them navigate just as we’d hoped and intended.

Their verdict: “Cool!”

I breathed a sigh of relief and then, after the awkward classroom silence when no one wanted to be the first to speak up, ideas and questions started pouring out. The students were extremely insightful. They gave us valuable feedback regarding our first chapter design:

The navigation was intuitive and responsive, but the artwork seems dated.  

We have since modernized the graphic interface.

We think it would benefit from the inclusion of social sharing.

We have now incorporated optional links to Facebook, Twitter, and email, with Instagram on the way.

Learning history through story and treasure hunts and challenges is good idea, but the app doesn’t seem interactive enough. We think you could go even deeper and ask future users to search for historic clues and details.

We have added to our interactive sequence, therefore, an element called History Hack that did not exist in Sarah’s first app, Beware Madame la Guillotine.
Our students-cum-alpha-testers are closer in age to our intended audience and gave us interesting insights into their evaluation process as well:

Can I put In the Footsteps of Giants down and get some pizza with my friends in between stops?


Can I swipe my finger across the screen easily?

The current generation prefers swiping to tapping evidently, but the OnCell platform limits us to the latter. So we agreed if we make long horizontal buttons, someone with a swiping habit will be satisfied.

Can I take a selfie and post my experience on social media?

Now you can!

They also got us thinking about our marketing strategy:

Do you want teens and 'tweens to be accessing and downloading the app, or will it be their adults passing it down to them?

Our answer, BOTH!

Then you better change up your website – it’s too adult looking – and start an Instagram channel for TTT&T because that’s where young people are hanging out. 

Check out what we've done here.

It was great feedback, and we are already implementing their suggestions, as you can see. It was also a great reminder that I’m no longer as young as I feel – and that my view on technology will always be one of an 80s-90s kid whose earliest technology was tethered. These students and our target users are the real mobile technology natives. As a result, their instincts are right on point.

Bringing the fun and joy of history to the student generation is exactly the mission of Time Traveler Tours & Tales – and it’s exactly at the center of the Venn diagram that expresses my passions and skills. I love speaking with museum educators about how we might aid them with their programming; I enjoy chatting via social media with those interested in the work TTT&T is doing to #TurnHistoryOn; and I’m thrilled to be part of the team’s efforts to find new and innovative ways to tell amazing historical stories.

I’m excited to be working with Team TTT&T and I look forward to connecting with all of our supporters in the future! Send me an email, Twitter, or Facebook message today.

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