For this study a random sampling of museum visitors were observed. Subjects
were asked if they were willing to participate in the study after they
entered the museum or once they showed some interest in the computer program.
Participants varied in age from six years to over sixty years of age.
We conducted the study in the museum's lobby during regular visiting
hours. Observations took place on a Saturday from 11-2pm and a Sunday from
12-3pm. A childrenís art workshop was taking place in the lobby
during the observations on Saturday. During the observation periods normal
museum activities occurred around the computer station, such as people
requesting information at the front desk, using the coat room and looking
at the displayed art. In order to simulate the environment the subjects
would normally be exposed to when using the program, the observation area
was not manipulated. The south, west and east sides of the lobby are full
glass walls, allowing direct sunlight into the room. The entrance to the
museum is on the east side of the lobby and is directly in front of the
information desk, which is placed against the west wall. The computer sat
to the south of the information desk, and was oriented such that the screen
faced east. The workstation consisted of a Power Macintosh computer with
a 12" monitor; no keyboard was used. It was placed on a cart designed
for basic computer use. Subjects sat on a padded chair facing west and
navigated the program with a standard Macintosh one-button mouse placed
on the right-hand side of the work surface.
When visitors entered the museum we asked if they were willing to participate in our study and explained the procedure. No background information regarding directions on using the program was given. The procedure took place as follows: 1) Subjects sat in the chair and immediately began to use the program for as long as they wanted, while two observers stood approximately 2 feet behind the workstation recording errors and screen visitation data; 2) After using the computer, subjects were asked to fill out a preliminary questionnaire concerning demographics and their initial reaction to the program (Initial Interview questionnaire); 3) The subject then proceeded, unaccompanied by researchers, with their visit as planned; and 4) Before exiting the museum a researcher conducted an interview with the subject, to ask questions pertaining to their visit and the quality of the software program (Exit Interview form).
During the observation period, the dependent measures were time of program use, screens visited, and the number and types of errors. Time was recorded using a stopwatch from the moment they sat in the chair to the moment they finished using the program. One observer recorded the sequence of screens, which were pre-coded for analysis purposes. The second observer recorded errors, which were divided into the following categories: image, text and ëclick and holdí. Image errors were defined as errors made when the subject tried to activate an image that was not designed to be activated (i.e. attempting to activate an unlinked picture) and when the subject attempted to open the screen they were currently viewing. Text errors were defined when the subject tried to activate an unlinked word. In order to select a piece of artwork to enlarge the image, this program required the subject to press the button on the mouse and hold it down until finished viewing. ëClick and holdí errors are defined as those errors that occurred when the subject failed to do this.
The initial survey asked for several independent and dependent variables. These included: age, English fluency, computer experience, Johnson museum experience, anticipated visit time, and resident location. This biographical data was used in order to account for differences in the sample. Dependent variables measured performance, interest, and ease of use of the software and computer station. In the exit interview participants subjectively evaluated how well the program achieved its objectives of stimulating interest, educating about the exhibits, and aiding in orientation. Subjects were also asked to suggest improvements for the program. We have no reliability or validity data for items on the questionnaire.