The National Air and Space Museum is testing a new mobile website—the first at the Smithsonian! Visitors carrying web-enabled smartphones can now access basic information about the Museum, daily events, exhibits and find objects on display through this new site formatted for mobile devices. Visit http://mobile.nasm.si.edu to give it a try.
Mobile internet use is rapidly on the rise and experts predict mobile devices will be the primary way humans access the internet by 2020 (See: The Future of the Internet III, Pew Internet & American Life Project). We are currently working on a redesign of the Air and Space Museum’s web site and our plans include reaching this growing mobile audience. As we create content for the web, we want to plan for audiences accessing that content in multiple ways, whether from a desktop PC, Blackberry, iPad or other devices in the future. Most importantly, this test allows us to solicit feedback from our audience in the early stages. You can help determine which direction we go from here!
For this first effort, we decided to keep things very simple. We narrowed the target audience to visitors on-site at the Museum or those planning a visit. We realize visitors who are not coming to the Museum deserve mobile web, too, so we plan to cater to a broader audience in successive versions. At this point, the mobile web site has just the basics: hours and location, directions, daily events and movie schedules, exhibitions, and objects on display. It is not a multimedia tour (yet), but is meant to provide useful information from our web site in a format tailored to a mobile audience. One of the most frequently asked questions from visitors coming to the Welcome Center are about where things are, so we developed a mobile guide to “Objects on Display.” Visitors can search by object name and find where an object is located in either the National Mall Building or the Udvar-Hazy Center. We also added maps to this feature that we plan to incorporate into the main web site. This is just one of several examples where our work on the mobile site is feeding back into improvements for our regular web presence.
Instead of creating a specialized app, we decided a mobile web site built in-house would serve more visitors, be faster to implement and be more flexible to change. We did build and test the site primarily on the iPhone, so we are looking forward to getting feedback on any technical issues while viewing the site on other mobile devices.
What would you like to see in a National Air and Space Museum mobile experience? We have lofty plans for the future, including more Museum content like videos and tours. We are most excited about features that will allow you to control and personalize your own experience: from bookmarking, adding recommendations, and remixing collections to contributing your own content, comments, or asking questions. We hope you will give the mobile site a try and let us know what you think!
Please note that cellular service can be spotty at the Udvar-Hazy Center. We hope this will improve in the near future.
To learn more about what the Smithsonian is doing with mobile, please visit the Smithsonian Web & New Media Strategy public wiki site at http://smithsonian-webstrategy.wikispaces.com/Mobile. For more information about what other museums are doing and planning with mobile, please visit “Museums To Go” at http://wiki.museummobile.info/museums-to-go.
Vicki Portway is Chair of Web & New Media at the National Air and Space Museum.