How a Briefcase Led to a Clever Way to Conduct Visitor Research Online

Bolt Brief by WaterField Designs of San Francisco.

If you want to conduct visitor research for a potential exhibition, school program, or tour, you might want to check out WaterField Designs in San Francisco, who has been designing and manufacturing bags and cases since 1998.  A few months ago I purchased a Bolt Brief from WaterField. It’s a great bag and I recommend you check it out, but more importantly, I’ve become very impressed with their customer research and prototyping for new products, especially if the customers are all over the country. It’s an idea that can be easily adopted by museums and historic sites if they have enough tech skills to create a YouTube video, prepare an online survey in SurveyMonkey, and build a webpage (or know a college kid who can!).
In April, I signed up to “be part of the design team” for the Air Porter, a new in-flight carry-all under development.  Every two weeks, I’ve received an email about the project, which sends me to a page on their website to show me a short video to share what they’ve learned so far and explain the current challenge, followed by an online survey to collect my responses and suggestions.  The video for Update #2 from May 12 is a good example:

This approach can be easily adopted by museums and historic sites to explain a new idea and ask for responses from the public, your members, or an advisory group.  Yes, you need decent video and audio sufficient for viewers to understand the issues, but you’re not creating a movie for Cannes and aiming for an Oscar. The WaterField video is smartly done, but notice that the only audio is music, which simplifies production. No doubt the toughest part was keeping it short—it’s less than 2 minutes!

How might your organization conduct visitor research following this model?  Could you ask members or visitors to signup for a special email list to help develop a new program? Could you make a short video explaining a new idea for a tour or visitor activity? Could you build a survey online and share it with your members?  Are you willing to share your research results and design challenges with your supporters or the public? If you’ve done any of these, please share your experiences below. I’m anxious to try this out on my next project!

1 thought on “How a Briefcase Led to a Clever Way to Conduct Visitor Research Online

  1. Lee Wright

    Thanks, Max, for posting this example. I think you’re right on all counts. And of course the bag manufacturer is not only using his panel of previous customers to help them design the new bag, but also priming them to buy the new bag, too.


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