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Usability Study: Museum Learning Tip Sheets for Visitors

· qualitative,messaging,quantitative,usability study,personas


My Role: Lead UX Researcher in a team of 2 researchers

Project Overview: The big overarching questions is to understand: Using Tip Sheets, can adult caregivers recognize that their children are learning through play at the children's museum?

Methods: shadowing, survey creation, interviews, and persona creations

Data Sources: interview transcripts, field notes, and surveys

Skills: interviewing, synthesis, quantitative analysis, and thematic analysis

Deliverables: 1) research report and 2) personas

Tools: PowerPoint, Google Surveys, and Excel

Background/Context: To better support the museum user experience, both adult and children, play tips and resource sheets were placed in the front of the museum (see Image 1 and 2). Tips include helping the user understand developmentally appropriate outcomes, spark opportunities to learn in the museum, and to help recognize when children are learning through play.

Client: Brown University's Causality and Mind Lab and Providence Children's Museum

National Science Foundation Award: 1223777

Image 1. Resource Area Board with Tip Sheets in the entrance of the museum. Each sheet is shown below (see below) and are organized by age band including preschool, toddlers, kids 5-8, kids 9 and up, and adults. Source.

Image 2. Tip Sheets used for Usability Study


1) Understand how adult caregivers perceive the usability of tip sheets

2) Understand how adults, if at all, recognize the importance of learning through play

Opportunity and Process

Opportunity. The resource tip sheets were installed in front of the museum for a few months. Anecdotally, many of the museum staff were unaware either what they were for or how to leverage and utilize them to improve the museum user experience and learning experiences. This became an opportunity to understand the museum user experience and their journey through the museum as well as conduct a usability study of the tip sheets.

Process. Interviews were the primary data that was collected. The reason behind this was to understand how the tip sheets could be used as a tool throughout the museum experience. Furthermore, interviews would provide an opportunity to understand the usability of the tip sheets in the moment of the museum experience. See Figure 1 below for the project timeline.

1. Provided participants with the resource sheet to use in their experience

2. Interviewed participants of their museum experience and usability of the tip sheet

3. Qualitatively analyzed tip sheets for feedback and usability

Figure 1. Project Timeline


Data Sources. 40 interviews and surveys were conducted with adult visitors to the museum who came with children. Interview questions included: 1) What message did you take from the tip sheets? 2) Did reading this make you think about your visit in a different way? and 3) What advice do you have for someone else with the same age as the children you came with?

Analysis: I conducted thematic coding of the interview questions and analyzed by tip sheet that was used (children and adults)

1. Protocol Creation. A survey was created as well as an interview protocol. Surveys were created using Google Surveys and Interviews were audio recorded.

2. Interviews about Usability of Tip Sheets. Adult caregivers were approached and asked if they would like to be interviewed. They were given an adult tip sheet, tip sheets that reflect the age of the child they are with, and time to look over the tip sheets.

3. Synthesis of Data and Report Creation. Interviews were transcribed and then thematically coded. Personas and reports were generated of the tip sheets (See Deliverables 1 and 2).


Objective 1) Understand how adult caregivers perceive the usability of tip sheets

Through thematic analysis of the interviews, I describe the different messages museum users experienced the tip sheets (see Image 2)

Image 2. Thematic Codes from Analyzing Interviews

Objective 2) Understand how adults, if at all, recognize the importance of learning through play

In Image 3, I compare how the different users of the tip sheets shifted their thinking about the museum experience.

Image 3. Changes in Museum Experience

For those whose thinking did change about the museum, I interviewed them on how their thinking changed. I thematically grouped the responses and looked at quantitative differences. Adults who changed their minds after using the tip sheets saw that there was more learning than expected at the museum.

Image 4. How Thinking Changed after Tip Sheets


1. Research Report of Visitor Responses to the Tip Sheets

Toddlers, Preschoolers, 5-8 years old, and 9+ year olds here.

Adult Visitor Tip Sheet here.

2. Personas of Two Users

Below are two personas of typical museum visitors: one who is a first time visitor (Paula) and visitor who believes the museum is for younger kids.

This project is supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Number 1223777 to Brown University in partnership with Providence Children’s Museum. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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