Interview & contextual inquiry guide for exhibition designer

The questions on this page will be used as a guide when we visit and have conversations with exhibition designers at the museums. It is a work in progress. Please check back for updates!

Main questions in bold.

Need to add explicit questions on visitor considerations.

Download: Word document, Pages document, PDF (outdated)

Date & time:

0. General things to look out for during the interview

  • Tools used (software, technologies, etc.)
  • Materials generated (intermediate and final deliverables; e.g., print material, web content, etc.)
  • Stakeholders (esp. other possible interviewees)
  • Habits & work processes
  • Pain points & frustrations
  • Organizational & technological idiosyncrasies (e.g., infrastructure issues, relationship between departments and their activities, etc.)

1. Getting started

Introduce the team and explain why you're there. Give an overview of Fluid Engage, what we're looking for (see Section 0). Give a brief overview of the interview/observation sessions.

2. Demographics, context, icebreakers

  • Can you tell us a little bit about [institution]? How many people and departments does it have? How is it structured?
  • How long have you been at [institution]?
  • What department and team are you a part of?
  • What are your roles and responsibilities?
  • Tell us about the IT resources you have in-house, their skills, responsibilities, etc.
  • What other departments within your institution do you work with closely?
  • What other institutions or individuals (contractors, consultants, graphic designers, web developers, etc.) do you work with closely, whether through outsourcing or partnerships/collaborating?
  • What kinds of activities do you typically use a computer for?
  • Any favorite applications or websites? Why?
  • Any you don't like? Why?

3. Main interview

The goal is to gain a general understanding of the kind of activities the user does to get their work done. It's important to note the user's primary (most critical, most often, etc.) activities. You'll want to ask them to show you how they complete these activities during the transition portion of the CI. You are looking for "hooks" between the users work and your focus.

3.1 Introductory global questions

  • Routine: Tell me about a typical day at work: walk us through your daily tasks.
  • Opportunity: What sort of mundane, repetitive tasks do you have?
  • Goals: What makes a good day? A bad day?
  • If you could change anything about your job, what would it be?
  • Priorities: What tasks, activities, or duties are most important to you?
  • Information: What helps you make decisions?

3.2 Questions about the tools

  • What tools do you use to fulfill your daily tasks?
  • Function: What are the most common things you do with [product]?
  • Frequency: How often do you use [product]? What parts of it do you use most?
  • Preference: What are your favorite aspects of the product? What drives you crazy?
  • What frustrations do you have with your tools in general?
  • How does the product help/hinder your work flow?
  • Failure: How do you work around problems?
  • Expertise: What shortcuts do you employ?
  • Purpose: What goals do this product help you work towards? What tasks does the product support to help you accomplish these goals?

3.3 Questions about specific areas of interest

  • What have you done in the past with mobile devices? (e.g., iPhone or cell phones, audio tour devices, etc.)
    • (If so, describe the project, its ambitions, its failures, its successes)
    • (Would you like to see mobile devices used in the museum? If so, how?)
  • Does your museum have a visitor's map?
    • How is it designed and developed?
    • What is featured on the map?
    • Is it online? If so, is it interactive?
    • (Has your museum had any ideas or plans to use the map beyond simply charting the physical space?)

4. Transition to observation mode

Once you've gathered enough background and general information shift from traditional interview mode to CI mode. This is where you ask the user to perform some of the tasks you learned about earlier. Let the user know you may interrupt with questions but mostly you'll be observing at this point.

Use these categories as guides to remind you of important areas of their work you may want to see and or discuss. The questions are meant to be guides rather than a script. You can use them if you get stuck around a particular area.

4.1 Workflow

Lead question: Can you take us through the full exhibition preparation process, from the birth of an idea to going live?

  • Where does the idea for an exhibition come from?
  • How do you decide the topics for exhibitions?
  • Where does exhibition content come from, how is it formed?
  • How is the visual style of the exhibition decided upon?
  • What are the products/outcomes of an exhibition (e.g., displays, audio tours, interactive kiosks, books, website, advertisement materials, etc.)?
  • How are the choice of products to use in an exhibition decided upon?
  • What kind of contents do you create for the online, printed, and physical experience?
  • What tools are used to create the exhibition products, and how are they used? How long have you been using them, and have you used any others?
  • Is content ever shared between exhibitions?
  • Were there any exhibitions that didn't reach completion? What were the challenges?
  • Are you (or the museum in general) ever working on multiple exhibitions simultaneously?

4.2 Collaboration

  • Who is involved in exhibition design, and what are their roles and responsibilities?
  • Who is involved in implementing online exhibits, collections, and other digital initiatives at your institution? How is it created?
  • How are tasks divided, and how are they coordinated?
  • How is information/content shared between collaborators?
  • Do you use any support tools for collaboration (e.g. wikis, task management software, etc.), if so, what are they?

4.3 Material and content

Lead question: What's your exhibition material like? Can you show us some examples?

  • What kinds of content do you have in your exhibitions? (primary (i.e. actual exhibition) and auxiliary (e.g. books, posters, etc.))
  • Are you using any current technologies, such as Facebook or podcast, to extend people's experience with an exhibition?
  • What is the source of your exhibition content?
  • What frustrates you most about selecting, designing, and generally working with exhibition content material?

4.2.1. Potential types of material

Exhibit displays and labels
Online exhibition
Mobile device experience
Audio tours
Printed materials
Marketing and advertisement
Exhibition takeaways (e.g., books, CDs, etc. from gift shop)

4.4 Content presentation

Lead question:

  • What tools do you use to prepare the presentation designs of your exhibits (online, mobile, & physical)?
  • How do you create content for the different mediums? (physical exhibition, online exhibition, books/printed materials, etc.) (processes for transformation)
  • How do you create the final presentation?
  • Are there any particular patterns, templates, conventions, habits you use/have in the design of exhibitions?
  • What sort of considerations do you have or keep in mind when designing the presentation? (about the users, budget/time, visual, etc.)
    • Are there aspects of your content presentation (or exhibit development process in general) that address the interests of visitors with disabilities?
    • Are there things that you'd like to do to address the interests of visitors with disabilities?

4.5 After the fact...

  • Do you archive the material from previous exhibitions?
  • If they are archived, where are they stored? Can the public access the information? How is it organized?
  • Do you ever reuse your exhibition material in different exhibitions or contexts? Can you tell us about a specific situation? How is it reused?

4.6 Case studies (workflow contrasts)

Is there an on-going or upcoming exhibition at [institution]? If yes:

  • Could you tell us a bit about this exhibition?
  • Process: Is there anything you are doing differently to create and present this exhibition?
  • Content: Are you introducing any novel features or medium?
  • Technology: Are there any new technologies you are using?
  • Goal: What are your goals for this particular exhibition?
  • Do you feel pressured, to some extent, to create fresh and new experience with each exhibition?

Think of a fairly big (and then fairly small) exhibition you've been involved in.

  • How did it start?
  • What was your role?
  • Take us through the (special considerations of the) process of creating and preparing for this exhibition
  • What were the challenges in designing and putting together the exhibition?
  • What went well?
  • How was it received?

5. Wrap-up

Thank them for their time.

Ask if they can suggest other individuals involved in exhibition production to talk to.

Ask if it would be OK to contact them with follow-up questions and/or design review as we move through the project.

[Back at the office... check off participant on users to research profile matrix as you talk to people with each characteristic.]