Imagine a museum experience elevated by technology, where personalization and seamless navigation are at the forefront. After extensive research on top museum apps worldwide, the Sparkr team and I have noticed that most apps are missing the marks when it comes to user experience. So we thought: “What would the ideal museum app look like?”.
And we have asked AI as well – with some controversial results.
The outcome is presented in this article. Read further as we explore the insights gained, essential features, and a captivating AI experiment.
What even the best museum apps are missing
Months of immersive research uncovered the strengths and weaknesses of museum apps globally. These digital platforms go beyond information repositories, seamlessly guiding users through a world of art and culture.
You can download here the full study on museum apps.
Unfortunately, we’ve also discovered that around 2/3 of museums don’t even have an app. This situation poses significant damage to museums, as users associate these apps with the institution, forming a negative perception of the museum’s digital brand.
While some apps do stand out by offering intuitive interfaces, igniting curiosity, and delivering a user-centric experience, even these well-designed apps often fall short on accessibility, interactivity, and post-visit engagement.
As I immersed myself in the world of museum apps, certain patterns began to emerge. Combining these patterns with the existing best practices in terms of usability, user experience and accessibility, I have crafted a blueprint for a genre-defining museum app. My idea is to offer guidelines both for institutions who already have an app and want to improve the existing one, as well as filling the void left by the majority of existing apps and addressing the pressing issue of unofficial and detrimental alternatives.
Let’s have a look at these guidelines.
The essential features of a genre-defining museum app
Based on the study, there are seven main screens that in my opinion every good museum app should have.
- Home Page: The gateway to the app, featuring clear navigation, a call-to-action for tickets, and captivating exhibitions to entice users from the moment they enter.
- Exhibitions Page: Showcasing current and upcoming exhibitions, this page enables users to filter and sort based on their preferences. “Learn More” buttons provide detailed information about each exhibition.
- Collections Page: Enabling users to explore the museum’s permanent collections through images and concise descriptions. Filtering options and “Learn More” buttons offer deeper insights into each artwork.
- Calendar Page: Providing a comprehensive overview of all museum events and activities, with smart filtering options to help users find precisely what they seek. “Learn More” buttons offer detailed information about each event.
- Map and Floor Plan Page: A clear and intuitive map of the museum’s layout, allowing visitors to navigate easily between exhibits and facilities. Interactive features guide users effortlessly to their desired destinations.
- About Us Page: Delving into the museum’s history, mission, and values. Most importantly, this part should have information on physical and non-physical accessibility.
- User Profile Page: Beyond just functionality, the users’ profile page should offer the chance to adjust preferences, view tickets and so on.
Enhancing the App Experience with AI and Midjourney
Once I had refined these requirements, I turned to the power of artificial intelligence. Leveraging Midjourney, I asked for a first input on the look and feel of each page.
For the ones who don’t know it, Midjourney utilized AI to generate captivating visuals based on the input it receives. For each screen, I provided input to Midjourney and received suggestion on the screen UI. You can have an idea of the outcome below.
By using AI I could quickly get inspiration on how to design each screen. However, the outcome is not exactly something you can use, because it lacks text and some things need to be refined.
So it was time to take the images generated by AI and turn to Figma.
The end result: designing the perfect museum app
Here is the end result of each screen, with an explanation of the essential elements it should have.
The Home Page serves as the gateway to the museum app, setting the stage for an immersive and personalized experience. Clear navigation ensures easy access to app features, while a prominent call-to-action for ticket purchases or reservations encourages seamless entry into the museum. It’s important that the home page offers clear accessibility settings (e.g. language). As a plus, captivating exhibitions showcased on the Home Page spark curiosity and engage users from the moment they enter the app.
- Clear and intuitive navigation menu for easy exploration.
- Personalisation and accessibility settings (e.g. language)
- Prominent call-to-action buttons for ticket purchases or reservations.
- Eye-catching visuals and compelling descriptions of featured exhibitions.
Common App Mistakes: Many apps fail to provide a clear call-to-action on the Home Page, leaving users confused about how to proceed with ticket purchases or reservations. Additionally, most apps don’t pay attention to accessibility at this stage.
The Exhibitions Page acts as a curated showcase, allowing users to explore current and upcoming exhibitions. Users can filter and sort exhibitions based on their preferences, enabling them to tailor their experience. “Learn More” buttons provide detailed information about each exhibition, including artist background, artworks, and related events. The ability to access detailed information about each exhibition enables users to make informed decisions about which exhibitions to prioritize during their visit.
- Filtering and sorting options for personalized exploration.
- Concise and engaging exhibition descriptions.
- “Learn More” buttons for in-depth information.
Common App Mistakes: Many apps lack robust filtering and sorting capabilities, making it challenging for users to find exhibitions that align with their preferences. Inadequate or uninspiring exhibition descriptions fail to capture users’ attention, potentially leading to missed opportunities for engagement.
The Collections Page provides users with a virtual tour of the museum’s permanent collections. Users can explore artworks through images and concise descriptions, gaining a comprehensive overview of the museum’s holdings. Filtering options allow users to narrow down their search based on artists, genres, or themes, while “Learn More” buttons offer deeper insights into each artwork. By providing a virtual gallery experience, users can appreciate and learn about artworks at their own pace. The filtering options help users navigate through the extensive collections to find artworks that resonate with their interests.
- High-quality images showcasing the artworks.
- Concise and informative descriptions of each artwork.
- Filtering options for personalized exploration.
- “Learn More” buttons to access additional details.
Common App Mistakes: Insufficient filtering options limit users’ ability to explore collections based on their specific preferences or areas of interest.
The Calendar Page serves as a comprehensive overview of all museum events and activities. Users can easily browse through upcoming events, workshops, lectures, and performances.
- Clear display of upcoming events with date and time.
- Smart filtering options for event type and audience.
- Detailed event information, including descriptions and requirements.
Common App Mistakes: This asset, which is great for engagement, is missing from many museum apps. This way users lack a strong reason to re-engage with the museum after their first visit.
Map and Floor Plan Page
The Map and Floor Plan Page is a vital component of an ideal museum app, offering users a clear and intuitive map of the museum’s layout. Interactive features guide visitors effortlessly to exhibits, facilities, and amenities. Users can easily navigate between floors and wings, ensuring a seamless and efficient exploration of the museum.
- Clear and detailed map of the museum’s layout.
- Interactive map visualization
- Highlighted exhibits, facilities, and amenities.
- Option to search for specific artworks or points of interest.
Common App Mistakes: Most apps affer a map, but it’s not interactive. This kind of experience is quite outdated for today’s standard, when you benchmark it against the likes of Google Maps.
The About Us Page offers users an opportunity to delve into the museum’s history, mission, and values. It creates a sense of connection by providing context for the exhibited artworks and showcasing the vision behind the institution. Users can learn about the museum’s founding, notable achievements, and the dedicated individuals who contribute to its success.
- Concise and engaging description of the museum’s history and mission.
- Information on accessibility (physical and non-physical usability)
- Profiles of key individuals or teams involved in the museum’s operations.
- Chance for users to interact by sending feedback
Common App Mistakes: Many apps overlook the importance of an engaging About Us Page, providing minimal or generic information that fails to capture users’ interest. Most apps lack information on physical accessibility of the museum.
Personalization is key, and the users’ page can be more than just a functional one. This page is useful to empower visitors to view their ticket purchase history, save favourite artworks or exhibitions, and receive tailored recommendations based on their interests.
Next Steps: Introducing a White-Label Solution for Museums
With the prototype in hand, the journey doesn’t end here. The ultimate goal is to share this solution with museums worldwide, to enhance the accessibility of museum visits.
By partnering with museums, we can help them tap into the potential of personalization, providing tailored recommendations, and curating unique experiences for each visitor. This not only deepens visitor engagement but also fosters a sense of connection and loyalty. Furthermore, a white label solution is an accessible way to digitize for the 2/3 of museums who don’t have an app.
To initiate this transformative journey, we are actively approaching museums, presenting them with the white-label solution and showcasing the prototype’s potential. We envision a network of museums equipped with a unified and immersive digital platform, revolutionizing the way visitors experience art and culture worldwide.
Shaping the Future of Museum Experiences
We embarked on an exploration of the world’s best museum apps, distilling their essence to create the blueprint for the perfect user-centric experience. It was an interesting experiment to test the boundaries of AI and Midjourney to bring this vision to life.
With each step forward, we reinforce the importance of prioritizing user experience and accessibility in the museum industry. By helping museums embrace technology, we can unlock higher engagement and connection between visitors and art. If you want to know more about it, feel free to reach out to us or download our study.