steveslack.co.uk

Watching visitors

In Museums on October 22, 2013 at 8:39 am

I’ve been doing quite a bit of visitor-watching recently.

As a cultural and heritage audience researcher I try to use as many different methodologies for understanding visitors. We do obvious things like interviews, focus groups, online surveys etc. But we also watch what people do – either by counting them, observing their behaviour or looking at CCTV. And recently I also did a day of participant observation, where I played the role of a visitor for an entire day and watched what people around me are doing.

Watching visitors is, of course, great fun. It’s legitamised snooping, really. But it also tells us so much about what visitors do and think. We might set out to find out which are the busiest areas of a building, or how long people dwell in one space. But we end up finding out things we didn’t expect to learn, which makes it all the more interesting and all the more fun.

When we put all this data together, along with some qualitative findings, we end up creating a sense of how a building operates, how people understand it, where the blockage points are and how they might be remedied. It’s a great health check for your building, to find out how people use it. So go and watch them and see what they’re doing!

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