Clean the toilets with object labels

(Reading time: 2m 16s)

While visiting all those Florida museum websites last week, I noticed references to TripAdvisor popping up here and there. It seems some museums are encouraging people to read or write reviews on TripAdvisor. That sparked my curiosity, so I started poking around the internet and found a post by Coline Cuau called Invisible Insights: Learning From TripAdvisor Reviews. The article is all about The British Museum’s efforts to learn from TripAdvisor reviews. Here are some bits that grabbed my attention:

The insights we have collected from this data have helped us start to make some tangible improvements around the Museum. Amongst other things, we have managed to reduce complaints about our luggage policy by making the information more prominent on our website. We have updated the pre-visit emails we send out to exhibition visitors to help them navigate queues. We have helped bring about small but significant improvements to our facilities such as replacing hand dryers and baby-changing mats. More importantly, we have been able to effectively measure what visitors like and dislike using tangible data rather than what we thought visitors liked. We have also helped colleagues across the Museum make their case for change, giving them numbers and ammunition to prove the value of their work and its importance to visitors.

Very cool to see a museum using reviews to guide service design, though Cuau doesn’t describe the work using that term. Come to think of it, I haven’t seen or hear many museum folks using the term "service design", though of course service design is vital to museums. Let’s investigate that in a future letter!

Back to the post (emphasis added):

We’ve made some interesting discoveries throughout this project. For example: visitors care more about temperatures than crowds. Toilets have a bigger impact on satisfaction rating than object labels. Spanish-speaking visitors are more likely to mention tours and audio guides than any other nationality (even though there are currently no tours in Spanish on offer). French visitors talk a lot about family activities. Non-English speakers are more reliant on the audio guide and therefore have higher expectations for it, so they give more critical feedback. These insights have been shared with teams around the Museum, and are currently being used to inform long-term strategy decisions.

I love that toilets are in some ways more important than object labels. Yes, I’m being a bit provocative and overstating the case, but this such a great example of how user experience research can flatten expectations and hierarchies.

It reminds me of times when I tell a client that attending to the details in their online forms — like removing fields for titles, middle initials, and required phone numbers — will impact conversion rates.

We want to believe people are coming to the website for critical information about membership benefits or admissions and that visitors will plow through any pesky inconveniences to complete the task at hand, but what they remember is what a pain in the ass it was to fill out some online form or checkout.

Are you using online reviews as a tool to study user experience?

Hit reply and let me know.


Kyle Bowen