Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Online survey drop-outs

The online survey platform, SurveyMonkey, examined 100,000 surveys to determine how the length of the survey affects the drop-out rate.

They looked at surveys with lengths ranging from 1 question to 50 questions. The following graph shows the drop-out rate by number of survey questions.

Source: SurveyMonkey

It shows that people drop out at every point. Even 5-question surveys have drop-outs. The data also shows that the drop-out rate increases with every additional question. The rate of dropping out tapers off for longer surveys. This may be because longer surveys may be aimed at 'captive' audiences (e.g. employees), or specialist audiences who are well-prepared (e.g. technical surveys), or surveys with incentives (e.g. panels).

Some implications:
  • Keep your survey as short as possible
  • Make sure every additional question is worth the loss of some responses
  • Use skip logic to allow respondents to skip questions that don't apply to them.

Source: SurveyMonkey blog.

Posted by Gillian Savage

Monday, November 29, 2010

Small museum websites

Aust Country Music Hall of Fame

Barrie Brennan, an EVRSIG member who volunteers at the Australian Country Music Hall of Fame in Tamworth, asks how small museums can find out more about the people who visit their website. He has a couple of questions:

  1. Who is visiting the website?
  2. What do they want to find out?

My first suggestion is to use Google Analytics to gather general information about the number of visitors, where they are from and which pages they visit. Google Analytics is a free service and not too tricky to set up. You open an account at Google Analytics and go through a few steps to generate some code that you put on your website. I have set this up for this blog so I know how many are visiting.

Finding out why people visit your website is much more labour intensive. If you have a large volume of visitors, you could try setting up a very brief online survey, or you could incorporate a couple of questions into surveys you might run during the Country Music Festival.

What advice do others have? Do you have any suggestions for small museums?

Contributed by Gillian Savage

Visitor Touchpoints

The concept of Visitor Touchpoints helps us to regard the visitor experience as a multi-faceted whole comprised of a variety of contacts or touchpoints. Each place or time where the visitor makes contact with you is a touchpoint and an opportunity to influence their overall experience. Museums and galleries can provide  stronger and more positive visitor experience by identifying the full range of touchpoints and working to ensure that they offer consistent experiences across all potential contacts – including website, telephone, printed resources, physical site and staff/volunteer contacts.

Many visitors will go to your website to prepare for a physical visit, or other purposes. Some may contact you by phone, or interact with your booking system. Then there is the physical visit where the first touchpoint may be your car park entry, or the task to find the front door!

For ticketed venues, the ticket counter is an important touchpoint where various bits of business are transacted.

Museum Boijman van Beuningem, Rotterdam

Repeat visitors will probably have a routine guided by what they want to see. In contrast, first-time visitors want to know how best to spend their time – what is there to see/do, and where things are  located.

Once onsite, first impressions and first contacts set the tone of the whole visit. This concept has been widely adopted in retail, hospitality and tourism settings where staff are trained to greet every customer/guest with a smile and welcoming statement.

Without care, there is potential for important touchpoints to be less positive. In many museums and galleries visitors are left to 'self-manage' which can leave first-time visitors adrift. In some venues, the first contact may be with security personnel who focus more on compliance issues than enhancing visitor experiences. An instruction about backpacks is not a warm and friendly first personal touchpoint. 

Wayfinding signage and interpretive signs/devices are some of the most extensive touchpoints throughout museums and galleries that help to create the full richness of a visitor experience.

Some museums use functional touchpoints as interpretive devices in themselves.  At the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg visitors are allocated tickets saying either 'white' or 'non-white' and they enter through different doors. Once inside, 'whites' and 'non-whites' are kept apart for a short while before visiting groups can reunite.

Apartheid Museum, Johannesburg

What issues arise at your venue with respect to Visitor Touchpoints?

Contributed by Gillian Savage

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Graduate Certificate in Survey and Market Research Methods

Some of you may be interested in this new course that teaches some of the social research skills used in Visitor Studies.

The new Graduate Certificate in Survey and Market Research Methods, will be delivered by the University of Wollongong (UoW) at its Sydney campus from January next year.

The certificate is the result of a partnership between AMSRS, AMSRO and University of Wollongong and has been developed to reflect the needs of the social research industry. 
The course has been structured so interstate travellers might also attend. Over the year, students will need to attend lectures for a total of 20 days over four terms. Classes will be held every second Friday at the Sydney Business School located in the Sydney CBD, starting in late January. 

The course fee in 2011 will be $8,820 ($2,205 per subject).

Entry requirements
Applicants must have a bachelor degree in a relevant discipline from a recognised institution and at least two years relevant professional work experience. 

Professor David Steel - Centre for Statistical and Survey Methodology
University of Wollongong
Wollongong NSW 2522
Phone: +61 2 4221 5435

Email:  dsteel@uow.edu.au

Contributed by Gillian Savage

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Living histories

When a town passes its heyday or a tool or craft or industry is superceded, it is consigned to 'history'. Once it is dead and buried in history, it loses substance and becomes a wraith with little power other than that of curiosity.

Museums that house these wraiths of past times have little pulling power for new audiences. But museums that invoke the life in their stories and collections remain relevant and attractive to audiencs across the generations.

I'd like to share three examples where museums and historic places have brought life and relevance to their heritage material.

At the Queensland Art Gallery in October, I wandered past one of the most loved paintings in the collection. The vibrant 'Under the Jacaranda' was painted in 1903 by Richard Godfrey Rivers portraying the first jacaranda grown in Australia, in Brisbane's Botanic Gardens.

I was delighted to see a scattering of jacaranda blossoms on the floor under the painting.

Under the Jacaranda by Richard Godfrey Rivers

I'm not sure who scattered the petals there, but it is clear that they are acceptable to the Gallery. This little touch of whimsy tells visitors that someone, today, appreciates the way this painting celebrates one of the beauties of our world. Bringing a smile, it surprises and enlarges the visitor experience. 

Visiting Salisbury Cathedral in 2008, I was struck by the facade of the West Wall. Most medieval cathedrals struggle to keep the roof intact and when decorative bits fail, they are rarely replaced. Many a niche is empty or has little more than a worn remnant of the original statue.

At Salisbury the West Wall is full of statues, though only 10 date back to 1300 when the wall was first completed. In recent centuries, old statues have been replaced by new ones. But they are not replicas of the originals, instead they represent contemporary people while still conforming to the original iconography based on the Te Deum.

The latest addition was in 2008, when the cathedral added a statue of Canon Ezra, a Sudanese a priest who was killed by cross-fire during the civil war in 1991.

Canon Ezra

This contemporary statue has the remarkable effect of transforming the West Wall into a living history wall. Suddenly, you are not really visiting a medieval cathedral, you are visiting a contemporary workplace that happens to be housed in a remarkable building.

There's nothing more energising than a shift in framing!

Finally, the Australian War Memorial keeps alive a practice of commemoration that is meaningful and moving for many visitors.  Daily and annual rituals refresh appreciation for the dedication, courage, commitment and sacrifice of those who have defended Australia and served in the armed forces.

Anzac Day 2001

Living ritual is one way to engage visitors and nurture meaningful connections. What rituals does your museum have?

Contributed by Gillian Savage

Thursday, November 4, 2010

New entrance at NGA

The new entrance and galleries at the National Gallery of Australia trigger some thoughts about the visitor experience.

Firstly, the new entrance is visible from the street and easy to find from the car parks. It sounds simple, but the previous entrance failed this test. 

As well as being visible, the entry provides shelter which is a transition between outdoors and the interior. Even on a fine day, a sheltered porch conveys a sense of welcome. On hot, cold, windy and wet days, this welcome is even more important.

New entrance to National Gallery of Australia

The cafe umbrellas and trees beside the entrance provide a contrasting human-scale social zone that invites visitors to linger and enjoy conversation. Our research has shown that the conversations that follow a museum/gallery visit play an important role in synthesising the experience and consolidating learning.

Of course, the simple pleasure of relaxing outdoors with companions also enhances the experience of a museum/gallery visit.

I am coming to think that the pleasure of being there is at the core of most successful visitor experiences.

Contributed by Gillian Savage

Monday, October 25, 2010

Valentino Exhibition at QAG/GOMA

I visited the Valentino, Retrospective: Past/Present/Future at the Queensland Art Gallery / Gallery of Modern Art and I was impressed by how well it worked for visitors.

Key image for the exhibition

The exhibition was shown in two large exhibition halls with a connecting space that hosted shop, cafe and video lounge area. The two exhibtion halls used a simple display of dresses on generic models, grouped on wide plinths around the room and on a large central plinth in the large gallery space.

Spacious layout of models on plinths

This layout had many benefits for visitors:

  • Plenty of room to move around, zig-zag, look back and forth, and compare.
  • This amount of space is really helpful for blockbuster exhibitions.
  • Many of the dresses could be seen from several angles.
  • It gave opportunites to look ahead and make sense of the organisation of the exhibition.
  • With no glass cases, there was a sense of immediacy and closeness that made it easy to inspect the fine workmanship.
  • It supported opportunities for visitors to play 'games' – before leaving the gallery we did a quick review and picked out the dress we would like to take home and our favourites for sisters and friends.
Another benefit of this minimal display was that there were no exhibition design features to compete with the dresses and this made them the rightful stars of the exhibition.This is a key marketing technique: make the product the hero. In a way, the non-design of the setting provided a strong contrast with the elaborate designs and workmanship of the dresses.

The layout had other benefits too, namely it is not expensive and it allows the exhibition to be re-configured for the various galleries that will host it.

 From the visitor perspective, the layout of this exhibition worked a treat.

Photo: ABC News

Contributed by Gillian Savage

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Exhibition Evaluation

An exhibition may have some goals that do not relate to visitors – perhaps the exhibition will help develop staff expertise or extend the collection – but all exhibitions will have some goals that relate to visitors. Exhibitions are more effective when visitor-related goals are articulated clearly during the development phase. For one thing, these goals can help keep the exhibition focused and on track, avoiding those tendencies towards mision-drift that can occur all too readily.

If an exhibition aims to deliver learning outcomes to young children, a clear goal will keep this in view.

Hot and sweaty learning at AWM's 'A is for Animals'

Visitor research is the tool you use to determine how effectively you met your goals with respect to visitors. Evaluation can assess how well the exhibition achieved its intended outcomes and also record unintended outcomes, both positive and negative. This valuable information can feed into future practice.

The Informal Science website is a treasure trove of Visitor Evaluation studies carried out in US museums, Science Centres, Historic Sites, etc.

A 2010 study by Randi Korn, Summative Evaluation: Art of the American Indians: The Thaw Collection Exhibition for the New York State Historical Association makes the following findings.

  • The Thaw exhibition was a tremendously successful exhibition; visitors left the exhibition with the messages that NYSHA intended. 
  • First, visitors articulated deep appreciation for the artistry and craftsmanship of American Indian art—one of the goals of the exhibition. This emerged immediately in the interview process, indicating that the idea was most top-of-mind as well as inspiring.
  • Second, the exhibition strove to convey the message that American Indian arts of the various regions are different from one another. Not only did more than one-half of interviewees articulate this message during the interview, some demonstrated a concrete understanding of how the arts were different, including that American Indians used the materials available to in order to create the things they needed.
Exhibition evaluation doesn't have to be large-scale. Regular, small-scale evaluations are very effective in building knowledge about visitors and exhibition practice – knowledge that is vital for staff professional development.

Contributed by Gillian Savage

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Aunts and Uncles Impress Young Minds

Reach Advisors manage a large scale self-completion visitor survey conducted at a couple of hundred museums, mostly in the US. The sample is drawn from museum email lists and social media so the survey results are not representative of museum visitors in general, but the study does throw up some interesting findings.

In a recent blog post, Reach Advisors look at the impact of childhood museum visits with aunts/uncles.

Aunt and child at Childrens Museum

They dug around in their data to compare the behaviour of people who visited museums in their childhood with aunts/uncles.

They found:
As adults today, they enjoy a wider variety of museums, and are significantly more likely to enjoy history museums, historic sites, art museums, natural history museums, and botanical gardens and arboretums.  When they visit museums, they also enjoy a wider variety of interpretation methods, including guided tours, talking with staff, programs and events, and object-based experiences. 

It appears that childhood visits with aunts/uncles were likely to be special occasions when children had the undivided attention of the aunt/uncle. And they often received a memento from the giftshop.

No wonder these childhood visits were remembered years later!

Contributed by Gillian Savage

Photo: Flickr Creative Commons, RSMiller.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Audiences with special needs

In a blog post today, Alison Russell describes some of the ways the Imperial War Museum in England caters for the needs of sight-impaired visitors.

Imperial War Museum (Jim Bahn on Flickr)

It is not surprising to see her report that the Museum finds that interpretation aimed at special needs visitors is very popular with general visitors. We often see adults having fun in child-oriented areas.

I particularly like her description of audio tours developed for the sight-impaired:
The language and descriptions were beautifully evocative, describing size, colour, shape, detail and history of some of the aircraft on display.

No wonder these interpretive devices have broad appeal!

I recall our 'Knowledge Quest' project where we studied family visitors to museums. One of the visiting groups comprised a mother who was blind and her two primary-aged children. We saw the two boys helping her to engage with the Chinese Dinosaurs exhibition at the Australian Museum. For example, they stood her at the head of one of the skeletons and they all counted the number of steps it took to walk to the tail, and they read text panels to her. In our follow-up interview in their home a couple of weeks later, we noted that these children had more specific memories of their museum visit than most other children we interviewed. 

I often think that parents who accompany children to museums have a strong experience partly because they act as interpreters for their children. Just as the car driver remembers the route better than the passengers, the active party is more engaged than those who just follow along.

This could be the kernel of an idea for new programs that put the audience in the driving seat.

Contributed by Gillian Savage

Thursday, October 7, 2010

New Committee

We have an enthusiastic new committee this year working under the continuing presence of Rachael Coghlan as President.

With specific roles for each of us, we can be more effective in covering a range of responsibilities.

President Rachael Coghlan r.coghlan@nma.gov.au
Vice President  Lynda Kelly lynda.kelly@austmus.gov.au
Treasurer Tiina Roppola tiina.roppola@canberra.edu.au
Secretary Georgia Conduit g.conduit@nma.gov.au
Member – web presence Gillian Savage gillian@environmetrics.com.au
Member – visitor studies update Gillian Ridsdale g.ridsdale@uq.edu.au
Member – Museums Australia liaison Carolyn Meehan cmeehan@museum.vic.gov.au
Member – member events Marketa Dressler luke.marketa@gmail.com

You can contact any of us with your suggestions or queries.

Contributed by Gillian Savage

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

About our members

Currently, we have nearly 100 members across Australia and New Zealand. The following graph shows where our members are located.

EVRSIG has members in all States
Most members are in NSW and Victoria, however the ACT, Queensland and WA also have local groups.  Every state has at least one member, and we have two in New Zealand.

Because we are so spread out, the Internet is our main form of communication. Committee members meet by teleconference several times a year.

We have some thoughts about activities in the coming year. We'd love to hear your ideas about events in your local area that you'd like to support. This could be a workshop or seminar for yourself and colleagues/volunteers. Or a social event.

Add a comment here, or send an email to another member. Spread the word.

Coming next -- details of Committee members for the coming year.

Contributed by Gillian Savage

Friday, October 1, 2010

Online ticketing

At the Museums Australia 2010 conference, Elizabeth Cole described online ticketing at the Melbourne Museum for exhibitions like Pompeii and Titanic. People can buy tickets for specific blocks of time online and avoid onsite queues.

A survey showed that 40% of online purchasers looked to buy tickets online simply because that is how they buy tickets these days. They expected this is how things are done now.

Elizabeth spoke about how the Melbourne Museum grappled with the problem of multiple ticket vendors -- the tickets are sold online by major ticket vendors and the Museum, and also by phone and on site.

If people miss their timeslot, the Customer Service staff use their discretion whether to let them in straight away or ask them to wait.

Large screens in foyer areas show how full the timeslots are, so when visitors get to the counter they know what sessions are available.

Online tickets are scanned to prevent fraudulent copying. 

"The voracious appetite for buying tickets online drives our implementation of online solutions," said Elizabeth.


I note that earlier this year the NGA in Canberra had massive queues to their blockbuster because they had not solved the problem of time-based ticketing. Now that they have launched a new look along with their new building extensions, they have implemented online ticketing.

Contributed by Gillian Savage

Thursday, September 2, 2010


The EVRSIG AGM 2010 will be held in Melbourne during the Museums Australia Conference.
  • Friday, Oct 1 at 11-11.30
It will be no nonsense, fast and fun, quick and dirty, and entirely professional! 

Re-inventing ourselves

The EVRSIG was the first Museums Australia SIG to have an online presence. Back in 1997, the MA website did not have FTP capability and we got our information online by mailing floppy disks to the web managers.

Things have changed over the years and the MA website has gone through several iterations. It seems to have gone full-circle and we no longer have direct control over the SIG page there.

So, we decided to try this blog as a simple way to have our own online space.

We plan to provide industry news, links and resources. It is also a place for comments, questions and answers.

You can–
  • add comments to posts
  • get updates by email (enter your email in the Feedburner box on the left)
  • add us to your favourite blog reader
  • become a follower (lower on the left) and share with other followers.

How's that for convenience?

Contributed by Gillian Savage