Embarking on a Museum Master Plan project? User experience research can help!


User Experience research can inform ideation, planning and decision-making to make sure you’re on-target for current and future visitors



Here’s how:

For museum Master Planning projects, the holistic perspective of our multi-layered, user-experience (UX) research focuses on three elements: The Current Experience, Your Mission, and the Future Experience.

The work we do addresses those elements by:

(1) surfacing critical patterns to reveal what works and what doesn’t work – helping you decide what to change and what to extend or build upon

(2) revealing how audiences respond to key mission concepts (i.e. engage with creativity, participate in conservation, appreciate (bio) diversity, be inspired, connect with culture, etc.) – so you know how best to connect visitors with your mission

(3) investigating the future experience for your institution – so your plans will target and excite visitors and families of the future and exceed their expectations for interacting with your museum’s content

On a recent project in Chicago, we collaborated with an iconic institution, an architectural firm and an exhibit design firm to support efforts on a brand-new Experience Master Plan.

Here’s what we did:

(1) Exposed the existing experience – Revealed the current experience baseline and topology of engagement, identifying what worked and what didn’t about the existing experience

(2) Unpacked the mission – Determined how to activate key mission concepts by investigating with experts, professionals, and/or organizations who successfully ’moved the needle’ on those same mission elements for their own audiences

(3) Scanned the horizon – Looked into the future around critical (mission-, content- or tech- forward) topics, provided insight and recommendations for developing concepts to meet future needs and evolving habits, and addressed emerging technologies


Dig In UX provided over 30 data visualization deliverables during the 12-week project:

  • Visual Mindsets – four mental models by which visitors engage and interact, achieve goals and encounter barriers inherent to their mindset
  • Wayfinding Maps – describing frustrations, transitions, delighters and moments of connection to mission critical content
  • Gallery Zoom-ins – describing visitor experiences in individual gallery spaces – highlighting what works, what doesn’t
  • Entry/Exit Map – detailing visitor experience with entrance, exit, and ticketing – highlighting what works and what doesn’t
  • Two by Two Charts – describing preliminary insights leading to the development of four Mindsets
  • Mission Profiles – Details of expert mission interviews on how to best connect visitors to key mission concepts, to maintain that connection, as well as what to avoid
  • Mission Concept Visualizations – A comprehensive view of key mission elements across interviewees describing barriers, guidelines and recommendations
  • Future Guest Personality Boards – detailing the evolution of future-critical topics, learning and sharing around the topic, how one might become interested in the topic, and participant recommendations institutions of this type
  • Future Guest Inspirational Collages – A series of images, gathered from participants to visualize how participants think and feel about their future-critical topic
  • Future Guest Mind Maps – Visual representation of participant data describing why these future-critical experiences are important, what the experiences mean to them, and how those thoughts and feelings overlap between groups


Our UX data serves as a series of guardrails for guidance as well as stimulus for inspiration and ideation.

These actionable, design-forward, visual UX deliverables don’t need ‘interpretation’, but instead allow teams to quickly digest vast amounts of complex data and move on to concepting, brainstorming, and decision-making.

With UX research in hand (and in mind), museum Master Planning teams can move forward, confident in their knowledge of where the user experiences currently are, what the expectations are for the future, and how to consider fitting it to their mission.

Journey Maps and Timing & Tracking

Recently, I heard a conference goer refer to maps containing Timing and Tracking data as ‘Journey Maps’.

When sectors borrow methodologies, approaches, insights, or tools from one another, vocabularies can get watered down or terms co-opted, as in this case with Journey Maps.

While T&T data does offer information about visitors’ journey, it’s different data than the well-known user-centered tool, called a Journey Map.


Read more

Put your money where your heart is

We were thrilled to support Chicago Cultural Alliance (CCA) earlier this month at their annual gala, MOSAIC, celebrating their 10th year promoting, supporting and delivering cross-cultural dialogues, resources and events to Chicago-metro residents!

For this special 10th year celebration, CCA honored their roots at the Field Museum by recognizing cultural leaders, Drs Rosa Cabrera and Alaka Wali, in a befitting ceremony at the Chicago Cultural Center under the Tiffany dome.

At Dig In UX, we love CCA because we’re in the experience creation business. Our services include helping organizations seek out, listen to and incorporate diverse voices, perspectives and needs in order to build welcoming and enriching experiences for Everyone.

As the daughter of immigrants, an anthropologist, a global traveler and citizen, and former intern at the Field Museum, the inclusive and celebratory focus of CCA is dear to my heart both personally and professionally, and inspires my pride in, and commitment to CCA’s mission and vision of the future.

I’m proud that Dig In UX joined the celebration with our table of talented makers and doers – a group of diverse women, all using their unique voices and platforms toward making our world a kinder, more joyous and inclusive place to live and grow.

Thank you to the Chicago Cultural Alliance. We are honored to support all their amazing work to reveal and rejoice in Chicago’s rich cultural tapestry.


(ps – If you’re in Chicago this fall, check into their many family-friendly events, like the 2nd annual Dumpling Fest in Millennium Park!)


UX research vs traditional Museum Evaluation

UX research communicates user stories, not user metrics

By direct interaction with users at the point of action, user experience (UX) research reveals the underlying needs and motivators which drive behavior. UX Strategists then consolidate stories, delivering actionable insights through story-driven data models, not reports.


UX research guides the future, and your next steps

The UX approach is meant for decision-making. User-centered data is plainly actionable – there’s no need for ‘interpretation’. If you’ve ever seen proper UX data, you know the ‘so what’ is embedded in the data set. Your next step is clear, because the data models describe design requirements, detail needed fixes and solutions and offer tactical recommendations to improve your user – or visitor – experience.


UX reveals the unknown unknowns

UX data reveals what you didn’t know, but need to know. It unpacks critical stories and experiences with your experience or program, and helps you discover barriers to usage, approach or interacting you couldn’t previously see.

Planning user-centered exhibit experiences

We were excited to wrap our project with the Dallas chapter of the National Audubon Society, aka TRAC – Trinity River Audubon Center. Our project kicked off their planning work for a full exhibit refresh of their indoor and outdoor exhibits, trails, gardens and enclosures.


To ensure a rich, visitor-centered result, TRAC partnered with Dig In UX. We offer  user-centered consulting services and strategies for museums, culturals and non-profits.


Our final step with TRAC, a day-long workshop, included aligning with the new national strategic plan, how to attract new audiences, and ideation sessions pulling it all together. Dig In UX guided TRAC’s creative, experienced team through a series of visitor-centered brainstorming activities – resulting in moments to ‘transition into nature’, interactive experiences, quiet observational spaces, and a buzz-worthy zipline experience!


Our workshop enabled the team to get on the same page, hear and build upon one another’s ideas, and tell a singular story when speaking with funders, partners or colleagues at Audubon National. Dig In UX produced a visual deliverable to articulate the team’s goals, exhibit concepts to and act as a conversation starter with potential funding entities.


We’re excited to report, using our deliverable TRAC has been able to exceed their fundraising goals in their first 6 months!


Experience Mapping

Today, we’re excited to begin mapping participant experiences for a new non-profit client. The final product, a mini Experience Map, will visually describe the guts of this client’s mission: the ‘before’ state of their participants, the transformation they undergo, and the measurable outcomes and personal results participants experience.

As part of our UX Communications offerings, Dig In UX provides visual communications support by collaborating with key stakeholders to develop visual representations of their work in slide deck format, bound for funding conversations and presentations to targeted philanthropies or other partners.

Using layered visuals and graphics, an Experience Map concisely describes this clients’ complex program, so potential funders might quickly understand the mission, steps and achievements and move on to more meaningful Q and A.

A 2017 client successfully raised over $130K in 6 months of fundraising using their Dig In UX slide deck we created together in a one day workshop! #tellyourstory #accelerateyourmission #nonprofitUX #DigInUX

The Why of User Experience in Museum Evaluation

When entering the museum evaluation space from high-tech digital research and design, what I noticed almost immediately was a heavy focus on the quantitative reporting of visitor experiences – the who, what, when and where that quant data delivers so well.

But, where were the visitor stories? There was little in the way of ethnographic or qualitative work, and the qualitative work that did exist seemed heavy, hard to accomplish and even harder to communicate – especially to time-strapped key stakeholders and decision-makers.

My experience in UX research and design taught me that user stories, users’ underlying needs and motivators, or  – the why – was the critical lever upon which confident designs emerge, decisions are made and action is taken.

As a response to this gap in museum evaluation, I launched Dig In UX almost two years ago. Using human-centered methodologies from the digital sector, we provide actionable research, quickly and concisely. We communicate findings visually – so downstream teams don’t need to ‘interpret’ it, but can consume it directly, immediately moving on to crafting a responsive design, reaction, or solution.

We help you accelerate your mission. 

What is ‘UX’?

UX stands for user experience. It is also referred to as ‘user-centered’, ‘human-centered’, ‘customer-centered’ or ‘visitor-centered.

UX strategies are still new(ish), so there isn’t really a single accepted definition. Loosely, it is an approach for understanding users in order to design experiences which are useful, easy to use, and delightful. It’s a series of research and design strategies to uncover critical user insights and thereupon make confident design decisions.

The user-centered (or UX) approach originates in the digital design industry, where technologies are quickly developed and just as quickly become obsolete. In this space, UX design principles are applied to rapidly solve problems, meet challenges, make decisions and look ahead.

In the museum/cultural space, user experience research shines because it enables a deep, holistic understanding of visitors. By interfacing with real people having real experiences, UX research provides deep knowledge of visitors’ underlying motivations, expectations and their reasons driving decision-making.

In addition to user experience research, user-centered strategies are great for facilitating complex decision-making, using design-thinking (or, learning how to use design thinking), collaborations with cross-disciplinary teams, and producing easily consumable, highly visual deliverables for V-, C-level and executive teams.

Contact us for a UX chat to learn how your organization might benefit from a UX approach.




We work with clients globally but our main research studios are in Chicago, Illinois and Dallas, Texas.