Designing Interactive Exhibits
Jacksonville State University
Winter, 1991 Volume VI Number 4 Page 4
1. Anticipate how visitors might make errors and try to minimize these errors with physical or psychological constraints (Norman, 1988).
– misuse of the app
– confused by instruction
2. Controls must provide feedback to user. Interactive devices work better if redundant feedback is given to users (e.g., Diamond, 1991). Judy Diamond (1991) found that in the exhibit, Radioactive Rock, visitors needed redundancy in order to see the effect of radiation. Redundancy included hearing clicks, seeing a red light, and reading a dial to indicate the strength of radiation.
– sound effect added?
3. Timing of events. How long does it take for the device to be activated once a response is made? Text and graphics should appear as quickly as possible. It is also desirable for visitors to be able to control the speed at which the display responds.
4. Sensitivity of controls. How sensitive are the controls? Are they oversensitive? Menninger (1991) reported that a common complaint in an evaluation of an interactive videodisc at the Getty Museum was an oversensitive touch screen.
5. Selection of controls. Controls may be either mechanical (e.g., wheels, handles, levers, cranks) or electrical (e.g., pushbuttons, trackballs, joysticks). The user’s energy is directly transmitted to the exhibit when mechanical controls are used, while electrical controls let the device do the work. Touch screens are easy to master and overcome many of the problems associated with keyboards.
6. Placement of controls. Kennedy (1990) argues that controls should be placed within 10 inches of the front of an
exhibit. Trial testing should ensure proper placement.
7. Computer software navigation. It should be easy to navigate through the exhibit program. Ideally, the program should be at the beginning when the visitor approaches. Alternatively, it should be obvious how to get to the beginning.
* Important – what if users use demonstration tablet doing something else?
8. Perceptual and physical limitations of users. Designers must be aware of the perceptual and physical limitations of the human body (Miles, et al, 1982). Controls and instructions should not be placed too high or too low since it requires extra work and may interfere with the visitor’s performance.
See Kennedy (1990) for more detailed anthropometric guidelines relevant to designing interactive exhibits so that they accommodate a wide range of physical sizes of users.
9. Plan for multi-person use. Visitors often use interactive devices as a group. For example, Driscoll (1990) found that visitors tended to share the Color & Light exhibit computer as a group even though it was originally designed for one user at a time. If possible, exhibits should be designed to accommodate this inherent sociability factor. Duensing (1987) reports: “We have noticed at the Exploratorium that not only is it fun for people to do things together at an exhibit, it is also fun to watch others” (p. 141). Providing more than one seat at a station and enough space for others to observe the user should help accommodate group usage of the interactive.
– CollArt is group work together. How to make the signs more clear?
10. Design for the physically disabled. Moveable seats are desirable so that wheelchair bound visitors can use the exhibit unobstructed. Kennedy (1990) suggests specific dimensions for designing the exhibit table/counter for wheelchair access.
11. Required time of use. It is sometimes difficult to keep visitors at one exhibit for a prolonged period of time. Other exhibits may draw visitors away after a minute or two. On the other hand, a successful device might have the opposite effect, i.e., resulting in one visitor dominating time on the exhibit. In this case, limiting time on the device may be necessary. For example, the Denver Museum of Natural History has a driving test device in which visitors use a coded plastic card. The device is therefore able to restrict visitors to a single use of the device, enabling others to have their turn.
– not sure if required.
12. Select meaningful response requirements. Interactive devices can be effective in guiding meaningful outcomes, such as understanding a natural phenomenon or a concept. However, interactives are too often used in a meaningless way. For example, Borun (1977) found that “…pushbuttons are frequently only start buttons and don’t allow real interaction with the display. They do not help visitors to perceive significant cause and effect relationships… We conclude from the above that pushbuttons seem to hinder rather than help the communication of scientific facts and principles (p.67).”
13.The use of controls should be clear. A button is obviously for pushing, around handle for turning, levers are for pulling, etc. (Kennedy, 1990). If necessary control labels should tell what to do (e.g., “press,” “push,” “pull”). If there is more than one control, is their sequence obvious? (Wagner, 1991).
* Signs in the interface should be added