Front-End Evaluation is conducted during the beginning of a project, when themes, story lines, and program ideas are being considered.
Front-end evaluation concentrates on getting input from potential visitors by means of interviews and/or focus groups, to find out what kinds of information they need and would like to know, and how this information could be presented in a meaningful, interesting, and cost-effective way. Misconceptions about the subject matter are also revealed at this stage, often leading to specific content and presentation elements designed to counter them.
Formative Evaluation is conducted before the fabrication of interpretive media, when mock-up testing can be carried out.
Formative evaluation is intended to “catch” design and/or content problems before they become a part of the final interpretive media, when they are often difficult and expensive to fix.
Summative (also known as Remedial Evaluation) is conducted after final media production, when the total “package” can be evaluated and final adjustments can be made.
In a comprehensive evaluation program, the conduct of summative/remedial studies often reveal problems that were not, or could not be, identified during the earlier stages of development. For example, crowd-flow problems are often revealed only when the actual configuration of all the elements of the exhibition are in place. Similarly, orientation and signage problems become “obvious” at this point, and can often be corrected by relatively minor adjustments to wording and/or placement.