Thursday, October 4, 2012

Cheap & Cheerful Approach to Analysing Tracking Data

At the Museums Australia conference last week, I presented a paper with Jenny Parsons from the South Australian Museum about how the museum used volunteers to collect tracking data and the method I used to analyse the data and get a highly visual 'hot and cold spot' map of the gallery. The slides have been posted to slideshare:

The abstract of the paper is as follows:

In 2010 the South Australian Museum Foundation undertook to update the Australian Aboriginal Cultures Gallery (AACG) of the Museum. Originally opened in March 2000, the gallery was in need of updating in terms of technology, signage and interpretive material.

Without the benefit of a multi-million dollar budget, the project team had to be quite strategic on the edits and adaptations to be made. The team spent a year examining the strengths and weaknesses of the gallery and conducting strategic visitor evaluation.

As part of the evaluation, volunteers from the finance firm JBWere tracked over 150 visitors as they moved through the Australian Aboriginal Cultures Gallery (AACG), using a methodology that had been adapted from one used at the Detroit Institute of Arts. The employees undertook this as part of their corporate social responsibility efforts and so were unpaid. The museum felt that these analysts were ideal candidates for this evaluation as they were astute at monitoring and understanding data.

The purpose of the tracking was to find out how visitors moved through the gallery - which way they turned upon entry, which displays were the most visited, which sections were being missed, and how long visitors spent in the spaces overall.

Adapting methods from the visitor research literature, recorded visitor movements were coded and quantified using Microsoft Excel. This data was re-presented in a colour-coded format on a plan of the AACG. This relatively simple approach was able to create a highly visual and intuitive interpretation of the data, showing visitor movement patterns at a glance.

While the visitor tracking confirmed some of the exhibition team’s suspicions about how the space was being used by visitors, some of the findings also challenged assumptions and led to a revisiting of the way important orientating material was displayed in the redeveloped AACG.

Any questions about the method?  Feel free to drop me a line at enquiries [at] 

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