Pre-testing heritage interpretation make good business sense!
Before spending good, hard to come by money on fabricating and installing heritage interpretation panels, exhibit labels and media that might be in place for the next 20-years, it makes sense to spend a little time pre-testing to ensure that they actually work!
Pre-testing is a critically important step in the interpretive planning process that is almost always left out. Around 70% of HDC’s time is spent fixing other so-called “interpretive experts” mistakes! Mistakes that wouldn't have happened if some pre-testing had been undertaken!
As a standard we always undertake a two-part pre-testing process on all our new heritage interpretation panels, exhibit labels and media and using a sample group of visitors. This is how we do it....
Before we start!
Prior to the test we print full colour, full or half-sized drafts of the panels, exhibit label or media on paper and set them up on a temporary frame at the proposed site.
Prior to the test we time how long it takes to read and understand the panel at a normal adult reading speed. This is the DDT or “designed dwell time”
. Typically it takes 3 seconds to “hook” a reader, and between 30 seconds and 3 minutes to read and absorb a panel depending on the content and what the panel is asking the reader to do (“look for the…”, “can you see the…”, “touch the…”).
Pre-test part 1:
Standing back from the panel and unobserved, we time a selection of people as they naturally stop and read the panel in situ. If a large percentage of those observed complete and move on from the panel in less than the design dwell time the panel is likely to have content or design problems.
If a large percentage of those tested complete and move on from the panel within the design dwell time it is likely the panel is sufficiently
readable and absorbing. If a large percentage of those tested complete and move on from the panel beyond the design dwell time it is likely that the panel is either
a) very, very absorbing, or
b) difficult to read or understand requiring the reader to re-read the panel to fully grasp the content.
We at HDC have a great deal of experience undertaking interpretive exhibit pre-tests and we are trained to notice the subtle psychological behaviour of the visitor and their interaction with heritage interpretation panels, exhibit labels and media.
For example; some visitors may stand before a panel one foot in front of the other, rocking gently backward and forward whilst reading a wayside interpretation panel. This behaviour is a sign of uncommitted interest and/or environmental discomfort or uncertainty and can be created by a number of design factors which may need to be addressed.
Part one of the pre-test is very useful as it gives a good indication of how well the panel is located, how it attracts and holds the visitor; however it doesn’t establish whether it accomplishes its specific interpretive theme message
or Learn, Feed or Do Objective
s. That is the role of the second part of the pre-test... Contact us
to find out more!