Three students of the Bern University of Applied Sciences are cooperating with the Natural History Museum in Bern to learn more about the usability of QRpedia-Codes. As part of a pilot project, 20 QR-Codes with links to Wikipedia articles have been installed at different dioramas in the museum’s “Africa” section. The aim of the project is to analyse the usability of QRpedia and to make suggestions for its improvement.
Looking at Usability from a Holistic Perspective
The project is taking a holistic approach by analysing the QRpedia installation as a QR-Code system: Thus, we are not only studying the different technical components, such as the WLAN access, the size and colour of the QR-codes, or the scanning software, but also the perceived usefulness of the content, or the impact of the installation on the interaction between visitors.
Characteristics of the Museum and the Installation
A large share of the visitors to the Natural History Museum is made up by children and their parents. Often, they aren’t here for the first time. They walk past the dioramas and have a look at the mounted animals, often with the children asking and the parents explaining – a form of interaction the museum tries to foster. So one aspect the museum is particularly interested in is to find out how the QRcode installation affects the way parents and children interact with each other. Another particularity of the installation is that it is in a rather dark area of the museum, as the mounted animals shouldn’t be exposed to too much light. This means that scanning the codes sometimes requires scanning software that uses the smart phone’s flash. At the same time, the relative darkness prevents the museum from displaying a lot of extra information about the animals. In fact, the only information that is displayed is the name of the animal in various languages as well as its conservation status. Thus, giving the visitors access to complementary information by pointing them to Wikipedia might prove quite useful in this context.
First we carried out a literature research in order to identify best practices that would guide the design of a first test installation. Once the first test installation was in place, 30 visitors were interviewed to gather information concerning the positive and negative aspects of their user experience. Based on this information, the setting of the pilot was changed. And again, interviews were carried out in order to verify the impact of the changes.
So far, we have found the following positive results:
Most visitors appreciate the use of the QR-Code system to get more information; in particular because there is rather scarce information provided in this exhibition.
The reactions to use the system for knowledge transfer were positive; parents were for example found using the information from Wikipedia to give further explanations to their children.
The amount time spent by visitors in the exhibition increases with the use of the QRcodes.
The exhibition gains in attractiveness thanks to the QRpedia codes.
However, there were also some drawbacks:
The complexity of the WLAN key was a barrier to using the system (WLAN is necessary because there is no mobile signal in some areas of the exhibition).
The absence of a QRcode-reader app on visitors’ smart phones was also an important barrier to using the system.
The linked Wikipedia articles contained too much text; often it was difficult to find the requested information in the relatively large amount of text; furthermore, the different articles vary with regard to structure and content, which doesn’t make it easy to find a given type of information.
The light conditions in this exposition were pretty bad, so older phones were not able to scan every code.
Most visitors are not used to using QR-codes; they need guidance to use the system (in our case a poster with all the necessary information).
Next Steps and Wrap-Up of the Pilot
During the coming month we will focus on the final evaluation of the data gathered; the findings will be made available in form of a report that describes our experiences and makes recommendations with regard to the installation of a QRpedia system in a museum.
Very nice report. Reminded me that the first installation of QRpedia was in a Natural History part of Derby Museum due to Nick Moyes who was the curator there. The Swiss seem to have siezed the baton! This is the third QRpedia initiative I have heard about. So ask if you need any help. Have you thought about using NFC chips? They are much easier for users to use than QR codes as they do not need to load an app and it would also solve the lighting problems. You do have to have a pretty fancy phone so you can only use this in tandem with QR codes, but you can also offer visitors the possibility of borrowing a tablet which would cost less than 200 Euros. --Victuallers (talk) 08:15, 19 June 2013 (UTC)