Clean the toilets with object labels

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 Colin Cuau called Insights: Learning From TripAdvisor Reviews. The article is all about The British Museum’s efforts to learn from TripAdvisor reviews.

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Kyle Bowen
Put your foot through the door

Yesterday, I left off promising to dig into the nuts and bolts of creating your teeny-tiny, attention-grabbing, hyper-focused survey for new subscribers. I said I’d share tools I use and ideas as to how you can make the interaction more fluid and relatively painless for users.

But I should know better.

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Kyle Bowen
Diseases to avoid when crafting your autoresponder

One reason organizations may be reluctant to use a welcome email to survey readers is because they think of a newsletter as a vehicle to communicate a laundry list of options to readers.

When most newsletters look like ads for a used car dealership, the idea of adding a survey into the mix sounds like a bad idea.

I’m not suggesting that the survey in your autoresponder be a part of the email. It is the newsletter.

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Kyle Bowen
Mother Nature's Master List

Standing on the balcony, I could catch glimpses of a bazillion tiny specks of — What is that? Pollen? Spore thingies? — floating in the air. I wondered about the conversion rate on all those little emissions floating by and imagined a certain subset of plants who might be furiously working to calculate the return on investment for all the systems that support that outreach …

But nature doesn’t work that way.

It’s all automated.

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Kyle Bowen
A missing force multiplier

Over the weekend I received two more welcome emails from Florida museums. That means that out of the roughly 31% of museums in Florida that do offer a newsletter, only 6.6% send their new subscribers something beyond a simple confirmation or default “thank you/welcome” email.

Of that 6.6%, not one museum uses a welcome email to ask a question, solicit feedback, or survey the audience in some way.

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Kyle Bowen
The dude will not yield

Oops. After sending yesterday’s poll on podcasting, I realized that in my rush to create the landing pages to tally votes, I forgot to add an “I never listen to podcasts” option. I love listening to podcasts, so that would be an easy mistake for me to make.

I asked about your listening habits for two reasons:

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Kyle Bowen
Looking for user research answers in a user experience study

This morning, I took out the garbage, cleaned up after the raccoons who made a midnight snack of last night’s dinner, attached my headphones to my skull, put [Julie Byrne] on repeat shuffle, and started this email to you.

Looking through my ever-growing list of writing topics, I noticed a link to a study by Craig MacDonald called Assessing the user experience (UX) of online museum collections: Perspectives from design and museum professionals …

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Kyle Bowen
Content experiments for audience research and development

A newsletter can be part product, part research tool. It’s a thing that can provide value in itself and a way to generate ideas as to how you can more effectively reach an audience on their terms.

I also wonder if a really targeted and appealing newsletter could be enough in itself to cultivate a stronger relationship with the audience. If so, you could eliminate the need to alter physical spaces or add new programming that (you hope) appeals to parents as much as kids. That seems far more risky than testing a weekly newsletter written for a particular audience.

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Kyle Bowen
Less news, more letters, please

What newsletters in the cultural space do you subscribe to and read with some enthusiasm? Which museum professionals have a newsletter that you enjoy? Are there any museums, science centers or historical societies, that are putting out a newsletter with a compelling point of view — not just “here’s what’s happening at the museum” content?

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Kyle Bowen
When shallow metrics incentivize unethical behavior [video]

A list member wrote in about the ethics of inflating museum visitation numbers to retain funding, which got me thinking about the importance of the metrics we use to communicate successes.

This exchange got me thinking about the importance of the metrics we use to communicate successes … While it's not possible to control the metrics funders use, museums do have control over what metrics they use to gauge success internally. Why, then, do so many museums rely on such basic metrics, like website visits and pageviews, when it comes to audience behavior online?

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Kyle Bowen
A problem I can overcome but can’t solve

I think museums could benefit from a more in-depth understanding of their audience’s behavior online. So, I’m planning a service around Google Analytics for museums.

One hurdle is the software museums use. In a perfect world, once I’ve cleaned up the museum’s Google Analytics account, GA could be hooked up to whatever CRM/ticketing/member software the museum has. Then, I could create custom segments, set up goals, and we’d be off to the races.

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Kyle Bowen
Blackbaud whistles past the graveyard

Museums often look for all-in-one software solutions. The idea of having a single solution for ticketing, donation management, membership, and all the related CRM functions is tantalizing.

That’s understandable. Fewer moving parts for you to have to deal with, right?

But the software isn’t only used by employees.

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Kyle Bowen
Helping museums and science centers add value to more people’s lives

I haven't written much about my motivations and progress in refocusing my business to serve museums. I’ve assumed that writing about the how’s and why’s of design research would be more valuable to readers than talking about myself or my work.

But some of the museum folks who have joined this list in recent weeks have suggested that I should share more about why I’m focusing on museums and science centers. So, today I’ll share a little update on my efforts to position my work around these organizations.

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Kyle Bowen
Contextual Inquiry + Beta Service Update

Yesterday, I wrote about how Jobs To Be Done interviews could help museums better understand their patrons — going beyond demographics and zip codes to discern people’s ever-changing underlying motivations.

The thing I want to emphasize about JTBD interviews is that the inquiry is around the interviewee’s life — the discussion couldn’t be further from a satisfaction survey that asks people to rate their experience with the organization. The interview isn’t about the individual’s relationship to the organization.

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Kyle Bowen
When New York’s hottest club is your museum

During my conversation last week with Dr. Ari Zelmanow, one thing that kept coming up with the idea that museums could benefit from Jobs To Be Done (JTBD) interviews. (ICYMI, see yesterday’s letter for more on my chat with Ari.)

In a JTBD interview, you’re trying to understand the “job” that an individual is “hiring” your organization to complete. The line of inquiry is contextual — you’re not examining the individual’s relationship to the organization directly. You’re trying to understand the value of an experience within the context of the individual’s life.

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Kyle Bowen
Blaming the hammer

Last week, I spoke with Dr. Ari Zelmanow by phone about qualitative research for museums.

Ari is a former police detective who earned his doctorate studying human learning and decision-making. Today, he helps businesses better understand their customers to improve their products and services.

I contacted Ari because I wanted to get a fresh perspective on what I’ve learned so far in my research into the museum world. I didn’t record the call, but I did take notes, and Ari was kind enough to let me summarize his comments here.

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Kyle Bowen
Measuring economic outcomes as a proxy for "engagement"

Yesterday, I wrote to you about Google Analytics and God’s wishes for us here on earth. In talking about assisted conversions, I probably betrayed my bias against social media. That probably came as no surprise to longtime list members.

I tend to be negative about organization’s use of social media because I feel the need to compensate for their tendency to rely on social networks to communicate with their audiences — particularly Facebook. It’s easy to find yourself chasing likes and follows and shares, especially if you aren’t equipped to quickly pull up more meaningful metrics, like conversions in Google Analytics.

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Kyle Bowen