Wireless Museum Guide User Experience Study


A Leading American Museum Organization


Evaluation of PDA-Based Interactive Museum Guide


As part of an ongoing effort to provide visitors with engaging and meaningful learning experiences, this museum and its partner organizations developed a prototype, handheld PDA-like device to provide an interactive, immersive experience while in its museums. The purpose of the research project was three-fold. First and foremost, this project was designed to evaluate the prototype version of the device, in terms ranging from overall usability and the appropriateness of content to whether educators were inclined — based on a number of factors — to integrate the device into their class field trips.

A second goal of the project was to identify issues to be addressed over both the short- and long-terms relative to the development of device's content, features and functionality. These findings would also be used to assess and enhance the device’s relevance to student groups’ educational goals while at the organization's various museums.

Third, these research instruments were designed to draw out from participants specific opinions and perspectives on pricing, distribution, and other areas of concern to educators who might potentially utilize the device as a part of their students’ overall museum learning and entertainment experience.


The evaluation was comprised of two distinct instruments, including a self-administered paper survey and a researcher-administered post-survey interview.

As the primary research instrument, the paper survey was comprised of 19 predominantly closed-ended questions, measuring educators’ experiences across 34 items in total. The survey collected data in a variety of areas, including background and demographic information on the educators, their schools, and their students; information on field trips and educators’ use of technology; and educators’ specific experiences with the test device.

A secondary instrument was administered to a random sample of participants following their completion of the paper survey. This supplemental instrument was designed to further explore educators’ experiences with and perceptions of the combination lanyard/headphone device, elicit opinions and suggestions for potential distribution models for the device in museum settings, and to recruit educators for participation in future education and museum research projects.


  • Challenges identified ranged from hardware and software design, usability, curricular appropriateness, cost, and – perhaps most daunting – the behavioral changes that the device would demand from educators and students involved in a museum educational experience;
  • Designed a deployment framework to deploy the devices into the museums in the short term while simultaneously conducting ongoing usability testing, content (re)design, etc.