Sunday, July 26, 2009

New video podcast: The Majorelle Garden experience

I've just completed a new 5-minute video podcast detailing the visitor experience at Majorelle Garden in Marrakech, Morocco. We show the entry, brochure, store, cafe, and some issues with wayfinding at this lovely private garden that was the second home of designer Yves Saint Laurent. You'll enjoy seeing this retreat and also learn some tips that might work for your museum, garden, or cultural attraction.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Experienceology on-demand classes for museum professionals

I am thrilled to announce the launch of my online learning website!

Training museum professionals truly is my passion. And, while I love training folks in person, there are limits to both time and budget. Institutions and individuals are less likely to attend conferences this year or provide in-house training. Yet in this economy, they need good consulting more than ever to help improve their visitor experience. So these classes, set at prices based on your input, are here to help. You can watch affordable classes like this one on demand:

Or sign up for live webinars starting in September.

The first webinar will be on Wednesday, September 16th at 9 am PDT (10 Mountain, 11 Central, 12 pm Eastern, 4 pm GMT, and 5 pm London*). That webinar will answer your questions about "What is visitor experience anyway?" After a lot of research on webinar styles, we've designed something that is a much more dynamic experience:

  1. You help shape the content by sending in questions in advance.
  2. You can ask questions at any time either via chat or the conference call. And I'll answer your questions when you ask them, not 45 minutes later (if at all).
  3. There is live video of me (and the guest instructor) instead of a disembodied voice.
  4. The PowerPoint slides are specially created for the Web with dynamic visuals and almost no (yawn) bullet points.
  5. You click along with me, advancing the slides at your own pace. That means you can go back a slide if you want more time with it. And, you're much less likely to want to zone out, multi-task, or leave the room.
  6. All the chat is captured and then sent out (with questions answered) afterward in a document you can keep.

We're also offering a series of tech tutorials like this one:

If your small institution has ever wanted to start a blog, get on Twitter, use Facebook, or learn podcasting, keep checking back for new tech tutorials. And because many people are getting laid off from museums or similar sites, they can use tech tutorials to strengthen their skill sets with affordable training.

Please send in your ideas for content. If we use your idea, you get a reward.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts about this new venture. And please do add your comments about the products once you've tried them. We'll be constantly updating and improving the site as we go.

* If you live in Asia or Down Under, please let me know if you're interested in attending webinars. As soon as there is demand, I will offer the class on Tuesday at 4 pm in California, which is 9 am Sydney and 11 am Auckland time the next day.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Seeing your museum through different eyes

What does your museum look and feel like to people with learning disabilities? I'm happy to provide two great articles written by educational consultant Paul Gabriel for free download. Paul was the guest editor of an excellent issue of WestMuse in 2007 that covered a range of learning disabilities and how they affect the museum experience.

Paul will be joining Steve Tokar, Patterson Williams, Beth Katz and me for a half-day pre-conference session at WMA in San Diego: Getting Comfortable with Visitor Comfort. This workshop will be held at the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park on Sunday, October 25. We'll present an overview of our findings at a regular conference session on Wednesday, October 28. If you're interested, you can register for the workshop here. The $40 cost includes transportation to and from the host hotel and afternoon snacks. The workshop is limited to 28 people.

Here's the session description: Visitor comfort is known to aid learning, promote mental and emotional receptivity, and increase the likelihood of a return visit; yet in many museums, comfort is not a priority. In this pre-conference workshop at the Museum of Photographic Arts in San Diego’s Balboa Park, participants will explore practical, economical, and simple ways that museums can help make visitors comfortable by accommodating their physical, psychological, neurological, and social needs. Participants will work together to assess public areas of the host museum in terms of comfort and accommodation and suggest potential improvements. Most critically, they will collaborate with the host museum staff to examine potential economic, institutional, and cultural barriers to making those improvements and create potential strategies for addressing and overcoming those barriers.

Photo courtesy of the Museum of Photographic Arts.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

San Francisco dining experience: How it applies to museums

While I was in San Francisco last month, we went to this restaurant called Blue Plate. Tracing our path, and our experience, might be illuminating as to how your visitors find you and what they expect. To find this restaurant, I searched on Yelp for "San Francisco" and "slow food," having learned that "slow food" was the key search term to finding great restaurants serving local produce and meats. I found this restaurant, read the reviews, checked their website, and read their menu. I felt confident that we would have a good dining experience. I then used Google maps to map out the directions.

While driving there, Google maps sent us the wrong way, so our dinner guest fired up his iPhone, put in the address, and navigated from the back seat. We were happy to see this fun little neighborhood restaurant, and the facade was familiar from seeing it on their website.

The interior was welcoming, the staff seated us promptly, and we enjoyed the open kitchen where we could watch the staff cook, with love and local ingredients.

The food was fabulous, and the bathroom was tiny and absolutely charming.

Tip of the Day: How does this relate to your cultural attraction? Let's deconstruct:
  1. People are more likely to find you on the Net than any other way. A recent study found that 75% of North Americans now use the Internet.
  2. Word of mouth is still important, which is why people use ratings sites like Yelp to make decisions.
  3. Having the right information–that's easy to find—on your website is key to capturing potential visitors.
  4. Think about what search terms visitors might use to make leisure-time decisions, then make sure your website uses those terms, especially in your page names (individual URLs).
  5. People are increasingly using smart phones to navigate the world.
  6. Your web experience needs to match your bricks-and-mortar experience.
  7. If people enjoy their time with you, they're likely to use social media like blogs and Twitter to tell their friends, increasing your positive word-of-mouth advertising.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Sunday's signpost

A very clever take on the "thermometer" capital campaign sign at The Computer History Museum. Progress is shown by adding more CDs to the stack.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Museum bathroom quiz

If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you know I have a thing about good bathrooms: as extensions of great experiences, as extensions of brand, for visitor comfort, etc.

So here is a quiz. Which of these two bathrooms belongs to the Getty Center, a world-renowned museum in Los Angeles?

or B) ?

Hint: One has fresh flowers, artistic sinks, beautiful colors and finishes, and even a Dyson hand dryer.
I'll leave this open to comments for a while before answering.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Sunday's signpost

Spotted at E & O Trading Company Restaurant last week in San Francisco. This long wall is downstairs, on your way to the restrooms. Instead of being a blank space, they've created a beautiful map. Guests are often found pointing out locations from their travels or home countries. Can you enliven a dull space with a colorful teaching tool like this?

Friday, July 03, 2009

Client spotlight: Elfin Forest Interpretive Center

This project—a joint collaboration between The Escondido Creek Conservancy and the Olivenhain Municipal Water District—began with us creating an interpretive master plan. The building was designed by Hubbell and Hubbell Architects, and features a living roof, native plants, passive heating and cooling, solar panels, and artwork integrated into the building. Our master plan, which was written in phases, will extend the creative art pieces out into the Reserve and inspire people to focus on the natural world.

Metal sculptor Jennifer Coburn created the upper part of the identity sign from a design by James Hubbell. One of the very skilled carpenters from the TECC Board, Tim Costanzo, actually built the sign. Now that's a hands-on client!

We were very excited to install the photography show in time for the opening celebration. Tanya and George Bredehoft of Artefact Design created the artwork from images shot by local photographers in the Reserve. The artwork was dry-mounted onto rigid foam panels with box frames behind it, beautifully executed by Giant Photo.

A detail of the four-seasons ceiling mural by artist Beth Clevenstine.

TECC Board member Jeff Swenerton showing off their spiffy docent polo shirts, with logo created (from the Hubbell artwork) by Tanya Bredehoft.

Tanya and I after finishing up the photo installation. Note the cool inset tile mural beneath our feet, another part of the artistic design.

Stay tuned for more updates as they raise money and we are able to build from our interpretive plan. I loved working on this project as it's outside the box creatively, the people are inspiring, and it's a green project, something very close to my heart.