It may sound like a million-dollar question, and admittedly there is not necessarily a quick fix answer. However, there are a handful of key points that clients can prioritise when considering how to bring a visitor experience to life.
So, whether you are looking to transform a museum or inspire tourists at a heritage site, our project director Tom Foster offers his top three tips…
1. Define the business case
It doesn’t matter whether a site is operating as a commercially-driven entity or a not-for-profit organisation at the heart of the community, it is firstly important to be clear on the business case. Consider crucial questions such as what you want the visitor centre to achieve, and how you want people to behave and feel when they’re there.
The priority may be to create a brand hub, focus attention on a specific piece of artwork, or educate people as to the monumentality of a historic event. Of course, the focus could be anything, but only when the objectives are defined, is it possible to tailor the environment to suit.
If a new museum exhibit centres upon a dramatic portrait for example, the creation of atmospheric surroundings will certainly stimulate the senses. From taking the lighting down a notch, to playing slightly tense music, there are lots of options to consider.
2. Consider the wider environment
When it comes to many visitor centres, the experience will begin before people even reach their destination.
So, reverting to the gallery example above, if you want people to feel anything but tense, try to reduce the number of walls/barriers so that visitors can reach the exhibition easily, feeling as relaxed as possible.
Think about the peripheral location of the site too. When we were working on a project in Athens, the client prided itself on how easy the museum was to get to. But located on a dual carriageway, and with a bus stop only on the other side of the very busy road, tourists may have disagreed. We spoke to holidaymakers and learned they preferred activities within walking distance, or in the vicinity of a tube stop, where they felt there was less chance of getting lost. But this didn’t mean that the museum had to relocate of course – they simply partnered up with other sites in the area to promote footfall.
3. Embrace collaboration
‘Collaboration’ comes in all shapes and sizes of course, but creative thinking is often the most powerful when thoughts and minds combine.
Some clients approach us with a very defined brief, and this clarity often makes projects quick and clever to complete. Others have an idea of what they want to achieve but need help turning that vision into a reality, and then there are those who have a completely blank canvas and need lots of support. The great thing about life at Leach is that our weeks typically involve a blend of all three scenarios, which keeps things nice and interesting!
In most cases, we will meet with a client to delve into – or help define – that business case. We know the questions to ask, and at the same time as talking we’ll be assessing the space and speaking to various stakeholders for a rounded view.
Of course, these tips only just scratch the surface of our advice, and a browse through our client case studies is perhaps the best way to uncover how we really bring visitor experiences to life. Or, better still, why not contact a member of our team to discuss your own project, work through the points above, and more…