Excavating complexity to engineer delight: Qualitative research strategies and outcomes at The Met

Tuesday, April 4th: 9:30am - 11:00am


@ The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Product Designer @ The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Paper Abstract

This paper will explore a number of qualitative practices that The Metropolitan Museum of Art\’s digital product design team employs to better understand its audiences, gauge the potential impact of its products, and iterate on its existing ones. Through multiple examples of research projects, it will present our learnings around the most effective methodologies to use per audience, product type, and project lifecycle stage. The paper will also discuss the practical application of these research projects: how our learnings gave rise to digital products and guided our process of ideation, design, and iteration.


To better understand the complex range of audiences that museums typically attract, The Met recently embarked on a series of broad audience interview projects focusing on physical as well as online visitors. The starting point for The Met\’s on-site audience research was John Falk\’s work outlining identity and motivation-based audience categorization. A similar set of interviews was conducted for visitors to the museum\’s online collection. Since Falk\’s audience categories are focused primarily on physical museum visitors, The Met\’s online audiences required unearthing a different (but related) set of needs and motivations, specific to peoples\’ online experiences. The paper will outline both research projects while detailing the differences in recruitment strategies, interview methodologies, and outcomes between each. Each project unearthed some key unmet visitor needs both in the museum and online, and the paper will expand on the interventions and products that were created (or are still in the process of being created) in response to these needs.

The paper will also discuss The Met\’s adaptation of lab-based and asynchronous usability testing methodologies in order to best respond to the complexity of the museum experience. Visitor experiences usually involve a high level of depth as well as subjectivity and unfold over a long period of

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