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Page history last edited by Chris Alexander 15 years, 2 months ago

Museums and the Web 2009 - Starting Points for Discussion 


  • Game platforms to accomidate multi-platform environment 
  • Device app download which will continue to update as new content develops




How do we choose the mobile platform? 


Pros & cons of:

  1. Traditional audio tours using proprietary, museum-specific devices
  2. Cellphones
  3. iPhones
  4. iPods & other consumer MP3 players 


Museum Specific



Usually a robust and reliable player, designed for mass-use in museums

Requires equipment storage, maintenance, security, checkout & staffing

Content delivered from internal memory Set UI (in most cases)

Can deliver higher quality (in terms of sound/images) and more complex content from local memory 

Cost? If content production is outsourced can be more expensive than an in-house production (but also more professional)

Can outsource end-to-end solution competitively to a range of companies 

Can be expensive, difficult to make solution pay for itself let alone yield a profit, especially in free and smaller museums 

Familiar to visitors and generally intuitive to use 

Prejudices and habits are set: people tend either to be audio tour takers or not, and usage is historically only by a minority of visitors.
































Unlikely to be used by foreigners or people on 'pay-as-you' go plans (tend to be young people and people on lower-incomes)

User familiarity

Requires the visitor to use their minutes; some visitors may not want to use up phone battery by taking a lengthy tour

Wide range of data-reporting and visitor interaction services available from many vendors, e.g. voting, subscribing/joining via SMS, reporting on usage through Google Maps mash-up... 

UI not flexible/adaptable

Does not require investment in hardware or staffing on part of museum 

Cell phone reception issues 

Some solutions allow museum to upload and/or record content for the system in-house 

Quality of audio playback on the phone may preclude much use of music, sound effects, etc. - may be limited to simple productions with lower production values

Platform driven by constantly-evolving & competitive market so improvements in features & functionality to be expected

Video phone not as prevalent

Can be low-cost in terms of start-up investment and cheap to maintain

If museum is paying for the calls, can be a 'victim of its own success' if take-up rates exceed budget for calls.

Some vendors can charge end user for calls to cover call costs, either per-call or 'all you can eat' access for a fixed time period 

Visitors may be less likely to take cellphone tour if they have to pay beyond their minutes. 









iPhones/iPod Touch



Flexible UI (either through browser or SDK App) 

Availability (unless you check them out) 

Accessibility (larger font size, color choices, etc.) 

WiFi reliability if delivered through browser

Devices are commercially available from a major, reliable and innovative manufacturer 

Manufacturer's business model is predicated on rapid obsolescence: Apple has little incentive to guarantee durability in mass use or forward-compatibility of devices 

Popular handset - sexier image than traditional audio tours

Some may find the new technology intimidating; can take time for first-timers to learn to use the device 

Possibility to download content on-site through iTunes to own device through wireless network for local playback (more stable than wireless streaming)

Downloads through the on-site wireless network may take longer than visitors are willing to wait. Visitors may not have enough free memory on their own devices to download content.


Access to other applications hard to restrict. 







iPods/MP3 Players




Requires user download at home or a docking station

Visitors may prefer using their own device

Fixed UI 

Permits instantaneous playback of high quality (large file size) stereo content 

UI may not be easy or intuitive for all visitors, nor suit all content (e.g.scrolling through menus of large museums with many artworks and galleries)

If provided on-site, the newness and design appeal of the devices may encourage visitors to try the tour 

If devices are handed out on-site, it may take longer to teach users how to use the new devices 

Allows stable playback experience of locally-stored content 

Security concerns - possibility of device theft 








Comments (5)

Chris Alexander said

at 7:53 pm on Jul 31, 2008

Just trying to get things started around here. Not sure what kind of format you are looking for, but for Pros/Cons it seemed like a table format would work. Unfortunately I kept coming across some exceptions where you will see my usage of parentheses. The width of the columns started making me nutty as well. If that can be fixed I'd love the help.

Nancy Proctor said

at 10:06 am on Aug 1, 2008

The table format looks like a good start. I'll look into the column width thing...

Nancy Proctor said

at 12:02 pm on Aug 1, 2008

I've added some pros & cons on the various platforms to Chris's tables (thanks, Chris!). I think we've got a good basis on which to start a heated debate here ;-) so please join the conversation!

Chris Alexander said

at 4:15 pm on Aug 1, 2008

Yay! Nancy I figured out the column width problem. If you ctrl-click or right click on the top cell and go to "Cell Properties" and enter 50 percent it will fix the problem.

Nik said

at 4:11 pm on Aug 18, 2008

How about some kind of a decision tree or a list of resources required to produce each of the above?

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