Smithsonian “Recruits the World” in new mobile appPosted: April 1, 2013
The newest version of the Smithsonian mobile guide is just one app out of hundreds dedicating to “putting the Smithsonian in the hands of the people” according to Nancy Proctor, Director of Smithsonian Mobile. The app, not available for the public yet (but the original can be downloaded here), comes in both Android and iPhone platforms and includes features for all events, special exhibits, museum FAQs, and even scavenger style games for museum learning.
I would expect to use this app before I got to the museum to answer questions about photographs, hours, special events going on, etc. I love the idea of a self-guided tour based off your own phone/headphones instead of having to rent one. In terms of usability, I rate this app highly. The filters to search different combinations of museums is great and the sidebar menu is pretty self-explanatory. The “tips and photos” section was more commentary on how people liked the museum than user-generated tips/tricks, so personally I wouldn’t use it for much, however in the “commenting age” it is a good way for people to engage conversationally.
Design-wise, I understood where to go, how to search, and generally understood the layout and command buttons. However, on the Android-screen, I thought that the four main squares were linked to interesting pages about the facts, not just a visual representation of information.
My first major suggestion is about maps. I want more. I want GPS-style maps inside the museums that can take me to the Ruby Red Slippers or Moon Rocks. I envision maps laying out different events, quickest routes to bathrooms, and where I am in relation to other cool exhibits. Currently, the maps feature gives a Google map for the “all museums” feature and just static floor plans for each museum filter. Without being able to zoom in or paw around, it felt stagnant and distant.
The second major critique is that of practicality. I really enjoy the historical information but as a museum-visiting tourist there are far more realistic things that I need to know about… like where the bathrooms are (in combo with a more dynamic map), where the cheapest parking could be found, or best wheelchair accessible areas.
Finally, add an augmented reality feature for Android please!