Walking in the shoes of our visitors: Human-centered design and organizational change at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum


Thursday, April 04, 2019: 11:00am - 12:30pm - Independence East West: Papers: What is the Visitor Journey?

Michelle Grohe, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, USA, Laura Mann, Frankly, Green + Webb USA, USA

Published paper: Walking in the shoes of our visitors: Human-centered design and organizational change at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

Our paper will review the Gardner Museum’s 2016 journey mapping process and explore the impact on both the visitor experience and on the museum’s internal working process. Journey mapping is increasingly being used by museums but there is little published documentation of the outcomes of this human-centered process. This paper provides a model for how one might move from journey mapping that identifies specific visitor pain and gain points to an ongoing process of designing for and addressing visitor needs.

The journey mapping was instigated by a digital project – the redesign of the museum’s website – but the process yielded insights into all aspects of the visitor experience. It fostered a shared understanding of the visitor experience among stakeholders from across the museum, many of whom do not have regular contact with our visitors.

Visitor journey mapping led to the creation of:
1) A set of visitor experience principles
2) A cross-departmental visitor experience (VX) working group
These provided a visitor-facing framework (what are we trying to deliver?) and a governance structure (who is responsible?).

Insights from the journey mapping led us to develop a mobile pilot and the – sometimes surprising – results of the pilot informed the design and development of a new audio guide service.

Changes in digital have also led to significant changes in our way of working across the organization. User research has become a part of the organization’s working process. The paper will explore how we prototype new ideas, test and gather data from visitors and how we incorporate observational data from front line staff (including security guards) to inform new products and services.

Digital teams are often at the center of museum efforts to become more visitor-centered. The opportunities and challenges faced by the Gardner are relevant for the entire sector and will be especially useful for small to mid-sized institutions and museums without large digital teams.

Nielsen Norman Group, “Where and How to Create Customer Journey Maps” Published July 31, 2016. Consulted September 30, 2018. https://www.nngroup.com/articles/customer-journey-mapping/

Devine, Catherine, "The Museum Digital Experience: Considering the Visitor’s Journey." MWA2015: Museums and the Web Asia 2015. Published August 15, 2015. Consulted September 30, 2018.

French, Ariana, "Service design thinking for museums: Technology in contexts." MW2016: Museums and the Web 2016. Published January 29, 2016. Consulted September 30, 2018.