Museumkwartier Utrecht

What was the problem?

The museum neighbourhood of the Dutch city Utrecht is famous for its cathedral, its close connection to the canals and the many museums located there. The museums aim at growing the total number of visitors from 800.000 to 1 million a year. Also, now that a new train station will be built near the museum site, many chances to improve the reputation of the neighbourhood and to connect it more closely to tourist routes in the city seem present.

Guided by the first conversations between the designers and the museums, the question was rephrased to: can we gain insight into how visitors organize their visit and experience it, in order to respond to better his or her needs? The idea behind this is that both motivation and context of a museum visit are quintessential to address services directly at visitors.

What did they do?

 31Volts chose to use multiple research techniques for this case. They used interviews, stalking (tracking visitors to their next location to find out what place a museum visit takes in their daily lives), mobile interviews (doing chaperone studies to understand the journey back and forth from the museum) and cultural probes (handing out diaries to employees of the museum when visiting another museum, to find out their experiences of such a visit). How the museum staff themselves experience a museum visit was also an important question. That is why five employees also took part in the research stage. This method furthermore also improves the involvement of the staff in the general service design process. This multitude of research methods provides a complete picture.

In this research there not only emerge insights about today’s visitors and their motives, yet also a clearer picture of the visitors of the city of Utrecht as a whole is created. By doing so, it becomes clear where the opportunities are to be introduce a specific museum or several museums into their agenda.

The designers clustered the large amount of data and diversity in information to present it to the museums. In this presentation, the bureau translated all the input into guidelines to realize opportunities for getting more visitors into the museum. By understanding better what motivates a visitor and where he moves towards, the museums can create better scenario’s and a more fine-tuned approach.

What was the result?

The results of this project included the identification of Pick-up places (places where tourists naturally are, like the Miffy square in Utrecht that occurs in every tourist guide) and Hotspots where a large amount of people for predictable reasons come together (for example, on the Cathedral Square to take pictures of the cathedral). A customer journey map for museum visitors was also developed, with special attention for the moment of the visit in the day of a visit to the city.

31Volts designed the concepts for follow-up actions, resulting in:

  • A decentralised museum (as tourists can be found in the hotspots, this might be the ideal place to seduce them for a museum visit).
  • A recognisable museum neighbourhood (Make the current museum district better known and more popular by being more present on the street as a collective of museums).
  • A personal trip assistant (who helps the visitors to complete their museum experience with advice for coffee, lunch and shop addresses in the neighbourhood).
  • The website (a special website for the tourist and cultural information of the city, which was until now connected to the general website of the municipality).

In addition to the development of a number of concepts, the designers also made the vague idea of a “museum visitors” more tangible by creating five personas. A persona is an archetype of a customer, user or visitor with certain characteristics and qualities. Persona’s enable employees to understand their visitors better, as they require a different approach and “seduction tactic”. The five Personas created by 31Volts are: the ‘academic’, the ‘artist’, the ‘museum visitor’, the ‘bon vivant’ and the ‘potential’. Finally, the designers also suggested some quick wins, such as a combination ticket for more than one museum, better signage in the street, and opening up the museum cafe for non-visitors.

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