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A Heuristic Evaluation

AMNH Explorer App

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Objective

Investigate which usability issues
exist on AMNH's Explorer App

Diagnose usability issues that might impact a visitors experience when using the Explorer app to navigate the American Museum of Natural History.

Skills

UX Research
UX Writing
Prototyping

 

Tools

Excel
Adobe Illustrator
Adobe XD

 

Team

Group Project

Duration

Two Weeks

Client

Class Project

American Museum of Natural History's Explorer App

The Explorer app is a free offering from the American Museum of Natural History which offers guests recommendations for what they should see, the turn-by-turn directions that will help them get there, and more information about exhibits.

 

The app has more than 100 thousand downloads on the Google Play store and an average rating of 3.9 stars across both Apple and Android devices. These stats make Explorer the third most popular museum app in the world behind the Rijksmuseum and the British museum applications.  

 
 
 

Methodology

A heuristic evaluation is a method for providing quick feedback that can be converted into a list of action items to solve.

Heuristics and Severity

The heuristic evaluation followed Nielsen's 10 heuristics (rules) for good interface design and were ranked by their severity 1-4. 


Severity Rankings for Usability Issues

Major Problem Icon
Problem Icon
Minor Problem Icon
Cosmetic Problem Icon

4: Major Problem: The issue is major and fixing it is a high priority

3: Problem: The issue causes pause in the user flow and should be fixed

2: Minor Problem: The issue is minor and fixing it is a low priority

1: Cosmetic Problem: The issue does not present that severe of a usability issue and therefore only needs fixing if time allows for it 

Visibility of System Status

H1 Icon

Match Between
System and Real World

H2 Icon

User Control and Freedom

H3 Icon

Consistency and Standards

H4 Icon

Error Prevention

H5 Icon
H6Icon

Recognition not Recall

Flexibility and
Efficiency of Use

H7 Icon
H8 Icon

Aesthetic
and Minimalist Design

Help Users Recognize, Diagnose and Recover

H9 Icon

Help and Documentation

H10 Icon
 

Top 10 Usability Issues Identified

H1, H7, H10

The map is too small for the user to interact with. 

H3

No way for a user to reset their interests back to default.

H5, H8

The locations on the map don't list what floor they are on. 

H5

Search only indicates the floor the exhibit is on.

H1, H5

No feedback to indicates the app saved the user's interests.

H5, H7

Search only returns results if the exact search term is entered.

major problem
problem
problem
problem

H1

Some map locations are hidden unless zoomed in on. 

H6

The list of exhibits on the Home page don't indicate the interests they relate to. 

H7, H8

Images used to label map items get in the way of using the map.

H7

No results are shown when the user searches for "Interests". 

H1, H4

No context for why certain exhibits are recommended. 

H1, H6

Map items do not indicate the interest they relate to. 

minor problem
minor problem
minor problem
minor problem
problem
problem

H6

No indication of how the user can interact with the map.

minor problem
major problem
problem
 

Recommendations

#1 Create Introduction Screens

           Average Severity Ranking: 2.3

           Heuristics Violated: H1, H4, H6, H10

The first problem with the app was the lack of context the user received when they landed on the home page. This first recommendation is designed in order to address the following issues: 

 
Issues: 

Issue #4:  The Interests page is not immediately apparent 
Issue #11: There is no context on why certain exhibits are recommended
Issue #15: There is no indication on how the user is supposed to interact with the map

 

Minor Problem Icon
he5-small_4x.png
Screen Shot 2022-03-31 at 1.02.58 PM.png

#2 Include Context 

           Average Severity Ranking: 2

           Heuristics Violated: H6, H7

In addition to the lack of context provided for app functionality, there is also a lack of clarity around the recommendation system. This recommendation relates to the following:

 
Issue #12: The list of exhibits on the Home page do not indicate which interest they relate to
Issue #14: Map items do not indicate which interest they relate to


 

Minor Problem Icon
he5-small_4x.png
Screenshot 2022-03-31 at 1.20.39 PM.jpeg
Minor Problem Icon
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Animals 
 

#3 Provide Confirmation

           Average Severity Ranking: 3

           Heuristics Violated: H1, H3, H5

One of the more sever issues was the lack of feedback users have when interacting with the Interests page.

On this page, users are presented with a list of interests that the museum caters to and users may switch the toggle next to these individual interests in order to customize what is recommended to them.

The following issues are: 

 
Issue #5: No feedback to indicate that the app has saved the interests that the user selected
Issue #6: There is no way for users to reset their interests back to the default or previously selected set


 

h1Icon_4x.png
problem
Screenshot 2022-03-31 at 1.41.03 PM.jpeg

Success! Your Interests have been saved
 

#4 Reconfigure Map

           Average Severity Ranking: 3

           Heuristics Violated: H1, H3, H6, H8, H5

44% of the problems encountered had to do with the map feature. The map on Explorer was found to be difficult to work with.

While some issues, like the inability to make the map full screen, were cosmetic, others represented issues with functionality.

The following issues are: 

 
Issue #1:  The map is too small for a user to effectively interact with
Issue #2:  The labels on map icons aren't detailed enough 
Issue #3:  The locations on the map do not give an indication of the floor
Issue #9:  Some map items are hidden unless zoomed in on
Issue #10: Labels on the map get in the way of effectively using it 
Issue #14: Map items do not indicate the interest they relate to
Issue #15: There is no indication for how the user should interact with the map



Recommendations
1. The user should be able to expand the map feature to make it full size of the screen
2. Additional context should be provided to the map so that labels indicate which interest they relate to and provide information on which floor the user can find the labeled exhibit.
3. If the user struggles to interact with the map or there is a period of inaction, the app should provide an animation overlaid on top of it showing that the user can pinch and zoom across the map to find exhibits. 


 

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problem