Imperial War Museum

User Research

The Imperial War Museum Duxford holds Britain’s largest aviation collection of military vehicles, aircraft and navy vessels on public display, with hundreds of visitors daily.

A small team of conservators work on restoring large military objects. For decades, they have been documenting their conservation process on paper. This can take up a lot of time when there are exhibition time constraints. Looking to move to the Adlib collection management system, Imperial War Museum approached Digirati to research how to improve the way Large Object Conservators work daily in the hangar and in the office.

Conducting contextual interviews in the workplace

We devised a lean UX plan applying user research, user journey mapping and an innovation workshop to produce user stories and sketches.

UX discovery activities for Condition Checking and Conservation

We conducted one-on-one interviews with the conservators/engineers on-site within in their own work environment. A semi-structured interview script was composed to ensure the interviews captured all relevant topics from an unbiased perspective, yet allowed interviewees to share their own working experiences.

Work environment and file system

We took this opportunity to gather as much contextual information as possible: location, equipment used, activities performed and feelings experienced when carrying out particular work activities in the current system.

In the end we produced 5 hours of interview answers to help us analyse the conservators’ workflow. Using post-it notes and a whiteboard, we placed our findings in clusters and groups to highlight current pain points, user quotes and opportunities.

Using post-its to form the customer journey map

Defining the user journey

To understand the user type we were designing for, we created a persona to help us understand the key characteristics and traits of a Large Object Conservator and their everyday working context. We then created a user journey map to show the current workflow, touch points and pain points to identify areas for improvement within their current workflow.

We also plotted an emotional graph showing the users feelings and quotes towards work activities and devices.

Emotional graph showing feelings and user quotes

A facilitated workshop with the Imperial War Museum stakeholders used sketching and brainstorming to produce different concepts for the redesign. We looked at potential ideas that make the conservation recording method more effective and efficient, including use of a mobile phone to capture photos and power tagging keywords instead of typing words from scratch.

Exploring different options for a new user flow

The next day in the Digirati office the UX team focused on mapping out the user flow and creating a set of wireframes as an initial prototype. The design offers a new set of features and navigation that provide a more mobile experience for conservation engineers to work on site.

Imperial War Museum now has a set of designs for an intuitive and responsive archive tool accessible across all device types. This gives the Conservators the mobile flexibility to work both in the hanger, and in the office.

Other key features include:

  • Speech-to-text notes to save time from typing notes
  • Predicted text word tagging when writing records
  • Direct photo upload from mobile devices
  • Tagging on photos

You can read more about our UX approaches in this set of blog posts for Science in the Making