Mobile app for museum wayfinding

Way-finding around the museum

We have a problem…

Historically the Museum has struggled with way-finding, this has been for a number of reasons. With all the advances in technology in particular beacons, we saw an opportunity to solve way-finding.

In addition to this, given the way-finding solution would be giving specific location information within the museum (and all the work MoNA has done) we saw this as an opportunity to also provide richer content related to objects and galleries.

The Digital Team also wanted to evaluate how effective gamification would be within the museum engaging our visitors.

To solve way-finding and evaluate richer content and gamification we have embarked on a museum wide mobile application project utilising beacons.

We are in the initial stages of this project. Version one of the app is our beta version, we are evaluating:

  • UX of the app
  • Effectiveness of the beacons, optimising their use
  • Content of the app

Presented by Jen Cork, Acting Online Manager, Australian Museum.




Hi everyone. I’m Jen Cork from the Australian Museum. I’m a online digital producer, so a bit of a different background from the majority of people here. My background is in front-end web development, and I am responsible for running the museum website. But in recent times, I also run the majority of our mobile and digital projects at the museum.

So I’m here today to talk about digital, but also using analytics to inform our digital projects in a much more strategic way. I have a problem and I’m working towards a solution, and I’d love to talk about this more with people after this session. I call it “Way Finding Wonderland.” It’s a bit different from what’s on the website. I just thought the alliteration was a bit more grabby.

Has everyone here been to the Australian Museum over on College Street? As you know, it’s an old building. So that’s meant over time, extensions have been built here and then, not necessarily thinking of the big picture. So it’s meant that way-finding for our visitors is often a very big challenge.

So historically we’ve created maps. These have worked to varying degrees of success. And recently, they’ve actually had to become a little bit more location descriptive as opposed to content descriptive, because of the large volume of temporary exhibitions and smaller pop-up exhibitions coming into play. So it hasn’t been the most effective solution.

And to Google Maps– we thought when Google opened this up to allow us to actually put in maps of the gallery space that this would help solve way-finding. But we’ve actually found that GPS is much more used in a car or finding a destination. Once you’re at the destination, you put the device away.

Also updating these maps can be a challenge. It’s not a very streamlined process. And if we want to put more information on these maps, you’re very limited in what you can do. So we needed more. We needed another level of resolution. Enter beacons.


I loved that presentation, really. That was fantastic. When these new devices came on the scene, it was really exciting, particularly when Apple was pushing them so heavily, and they’re using them in their stores, which has meant a large developer community has popped up, and building solutions for companies to be using this technology.

We also found that at the museum we used NFC. I’m not sure if anyone– we can talk about the details of this later. NFC– there’s a big learning gap. People don’t know how to activate NFC on their devices often or how to use it. So with Bluetooth, it’s a much more used technology. People understand it. And particularly on Apple and Android devices, it’s very easy to activate. So this looks like it could be part of the solution for the museum.

But now we’ve got the problem of where to start. There’s such a huge array of companies saying yes we can solve problems for you. It’s just the challenge of now going, what do we actually want to use you guys to solve? For us, it’s way-finding.

I’ve worked on a number of mobile projects over the past couple of years, and the number one learning that I’ve gathered from this project is remember your number one goal of developing the platform. Often, buzzwords and wanting to put in too many features– particularly on mobile applications– dilutes what you’re trying to do, and it can confuse the interface and ultimately what you want your users– like what benefit you want your users to take away from the experience.

Also, if you know your number one goal, that also allows you to effectively structure and create features to support the device reaching those goals, like this application reaching those goals.

The next one is finding good help. Two things, I think. So for the museum, we outsource all of our development. We don’t actually have developers in house, but it works for both. They need to be passionate and proactive. Technology is always changing, and you want to make sure that whoever is delivering your product is passionate and out there learning about the changes.

I think often people think that they’ve got the solution, and they just hold on to that solution, and they’re not open to change. You know, beacons– in two years’ time, they’ll be something very different, and we just need to make sure we’re positioned to be able to adapt to those changes.

This is the current workflow that I’m using for developing the Australian Museum way-finding app. Note that the majority of these steps are actually gathering feedback from users and analytics. We often make so many assumptions in technology projects, and actually you’ve got the most capacity to find out if your assumptions are correct, because you’ve got access to the back-end– you’ve got access to the data– and you can talk to the people who are using them. They’re very open about giving you feedback.

This is what we’re currently up to. So two months ago, we released version one of the Australian Museum app. And we’ve had some initial– we published a test. We knew that it wasn’t the final product, but we wanted to get something out there quickly so that we could do proper evaluation of is this achieving what we want it to achieve?

And can I recommend running multiple analytics tools? I think in the past, Google Analytics has been the one that everyone has wanted to use because it’s free, but there’s also a few other analytics tools that you can also use to help give your data another level of interpretation, because Google does things in their own ways. It’s just good to get a bit more context.

And this is where we’re up to. This is what it looks like. And hopefully beacons will solve the way-finding issue at the Australian Museum. Thanks.




Australian Museum app (iTunes)

Using Beacons at the Museum – Stage Three Update (blog post)

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