Metropolitan Museum of Art (Met)
Dedicated app to improve in-museum experience

Develop an app for the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Met) that would enrich the in-museum experience of users while catering to the varied needs of different users.

- Lack of interactivity between the user, content and the works of art
- Lack of customization
- Length of audio
- Language barrier
- Lack of accessibility

Create an Art History app for the Met Museum that improves the quality of interaction between the user and the information. Since current apps or devices lack the ability to morph depending on the user’s need, my goal is to give users an engaging and customizable experience.

UX researcher, UX Designer, UI Designer

Tools Used

Project Overview

What are we talking about?

The current site for the Met

The Metropolitan Museum of Art or better known as the Met is the largest museum in the Western Hemisphere and houses close to two million works of art from around the globe and across civilisations. It is also the 4th most visited museum in the world and is frequented not only by locals who have a taste for art but also students and tourists from all over the world. But understanding and enjoying art isn’t that easy. With visits from international as well as local students and tourists, the Met requires a versatile and rich tool to communicate all the research that is required to see a painting as the artist intended. Currently the museum uses its website as a platform for its audio guide and other information and also provides a physical audio guide machine for a fee.

I am also a patron of this museum spending countless hours at the museum for my assignments so when the opportunity came to develop an app, I knew I wanted to start with this one. A museum with so much important work should be accompanied by a dedicated app that guides and informs the user while adapting to their needs

How did I go about this?

Understanding the user

Competitor Analysis

Before starting on the app I wanted to conduct an audit on the direct competitors in the market for Met as well as indirect competitors i.e. apps used for learning more about artworks. I compared the current website for Met with these competitors.

Screenshot of the competitor audit
  • Louvre Museum: Placed in a 12th century palace, it houses the Mona Lisa amongst other great works. The site is very responsive and is well designed but lacks accessibility options and seamless ticket purchasing.
  • Google Arts and Culture: This app offers Information about galleries, Articles on art, explores artists and art pieces. It is a very innovative app with a photo filter feature and AR but the info lacks authenticity and organization.
  • Daily Art: Again offers Information about galleries, Articles on art, explores artists and art pieces. It has a clean interface and you can keep track of artwork you have seen as well as a shuffle feature to be surprised but has no audio guides.

User Research

To start building something, we need to address the users’ pain points. So the first step was to hear issues from the horse's mouth aka visitors of the Met Museum website and art enthusiasts.
My user research included phone interviews barring one which was an in person interview. Participants included 2 males, 2 females and a child. 1 participant was older than 50 years and the child was younger than 10 while the rest were between 20 - 45 years old. I tried to include people from different age groups who have the opportunity to visit art galleries. Some of them did it occasionally while others went more often. Most people used audio guide equipment, online info or tour guides to learn about the works in a museum.

Since I am also an avid museum goer I had some assumptions before I went into the interviews. I chose to write them down, set them aside and forget about them until after my user research.

One of my assumptions was the need for something more visual and interactive. This was proven correct by all the interviewees I spoke to. I was also surprised by the number of people who did not like the length of the audio. I have faced this at times when I have reached a museum a few hours before closing but I never saw it as a problem.

Empathy Map

An empathy map helps to organise the participants journeys and comments in a way to better understand their pain points and thoughts.

Screenshot of an empathy map for a participant

Key quotes directly from the participants:

  • “So, one is prerecorded. I do not get enough time as I would want, and I don’t find it interactive and guide. I feel sometimes he might be putting some story around the whole thing just to make it more –ah --- more interesting.”
  • “I was not comfortable because it was perused and I was not comfortable with the hygiene of it but if I could download it on my phone at my leisure…”
  • “I prefer the visual over the audio versions. I am personally not a slow person so don’t enjoy the slow pace of the audio guides. I also want the content to be easy to consume. The audio should be the right length and not too long.”
  • “And I did not understand the language that much. So, they have a guided tour in English.”
  • “Yes, guiding in person was much better. Because they actually explain the culture and other things.”
  • “I think a video thing would be nice.”
  • “I think sometimes when they…when they are a bit too long. Like they are too long explaining the art.”

What bothered the User?

  • Audio length: All participants found the audio length either too long or a lack of control over it.
  • Lack of interaction: Participants wanted more interaction with the device - moving it around or getting visual information.
  • Navigation: Lack of direction and inability to quickly find relevant art pieces.
  • Not kid friendly: Language used for adult audio is too complicated or mature.
  • Language barrier: Need more good quality audio in different languages
  • Interface: Interface is too complicated. Text is too small for older people or people with sight disability
  • Hygiene: Fear of reusing equipment
  • Authenticity: Lack of trust in information provided or guides provided.
  • Lack of internet connectivity: Most users were happy to download an app if it could be used despite network issues.


Sana Sheikh

“It is tough to spend more than an hour away from my daughter and work, while improving my skill and taking some time o but I want to prove that single parents can have it all.”

  • Be able to balance work and spend quality time with her daughter
  • Make optimal use of time.
  • Spend some time at the museum studying clothing so she can improve her approach to period specific costumes.
Their Story

Sana was born in India and moved to New York 10 years ago to complete her fashion education. Currently they live in Brooklyn with their curious 6-year-old daughter. Sana juggles their time working as an Associate Costume designer for their local theatre and spending time with their daughter. Over the weekends once a month they like visiting art galleries. But since they have limited time, they find waiting in line for renting and returning audio devices very wasteful. They also don’t enjoy how the length of the audio content on the device hinders them from covering enough ground in the museum. Sometimes they just want to see a few pieces for their work but they find navigating to them difficult due to the lack of direction. They have thought of bringing their daughter along with them but are afraid the information on the placard as well as audio device is too complicated for them to understand.

  • “I have such little time between doing my job and spending time with mykid that waiting in line for an audio device seems like a luxury I cannot afford”
  • “I want things done fast, so an audio that goes on for too long just doesn’t seem to hold my attention. I am also unable to see all the pieces if I spend 10 mins on one painting.”
  • “I love period drama and the best way to learn more and get better at it is through studying paintings, but I end up wasting more time looking for the painting than actually studying it.”
  • “I want my daughter to be a part of my visits too! But the content is just too complicated for her. I don’t want her to feel demotivated and then be scared of coming to the museum."

Age: 30 years
Education: Bachelor of Fine Arts
Hometown: Mumbai, India
Family: 6-year-old daughter
Occupation: Associate Costume Designer

Tech Savviness
  • Internet: 5/5
  • Social Media: 5/5
  • Messaging: 5/5
  • Frequently used: Whatsapp, Instagram, Netflix, Reddit, Etsy, Amazon Fresh
Xin Huang

“I am so excited for this new chapter in my life. However, my biggest fear is not being able to communicate or getting lost.”

  • To travel the world and explore different cultures.
  • To indulge in other cultures while overcoming language barriers and trust issues.
  • To have a safe trip.
Their Story

Xin is a 60-year-old retired Chief Financial Officer who was born and worked in Beijing, China. After retirement, their dream is to travel to all the countries and explore different cultures. They especially enjoy collecting art and handicrafts. However, language is a huge barrier for them and they end up not understanding or trusting the guides as well as the information they encounter in tourist destinations. They have also tried using apps but find them too complicated or they find the text too small to read. Owing to their age and the ongoing pandemic they are especially concerned about their safety and hygiene of the devices used in the museums.

  • “When I cannot understand the language, I find it difficult to rely on the person and the information. I want to be able to understand things on my own without constantly asking for help.”
  • “The apps are just too complicated with all these symbols and buttons. I just prefer doing a quick google search but then Wi-Fi is an issue.”
  • “The text is also too small for me to read. I give up most
    of the times and decide to just stroll around.”
  • “The pandemic has really instilled fear in me. I want to know that I am picking up clean equipment that has been sanitized. I am at an age where I can’t take chances.”

Age: 60 years
Bachelor of Science (Computer Science)
Beijing, China
Wife and daughter
Retired Chief Financial Officer

Tech Savviness
  • Internet: 4/5
  • Social Media: 1/5
  • Messaging: 5/5
  • Frequently used: Whatsapp/ WeChat, Amazon, AliPay/Google Pay

Problem Statements

  • Sana’s Problem statement: Sana Sheikh is a working, single parent of daughter who needs more control over the audio guides length as well as content because she wants to spend less time on understanding each piece, have more interaction and spend quality time with her daughter.
  • Xin’s Problem Statement: Xin Huang is a retired financial analyst who needs to be guaranteed the quality of information and service provided at the museum because he cannot understand the language and he wants to make sure his trips are safe.

Journey map

To get a high level understanding of their journey I used storyboarding.

Storyboarding for Sana

I then went on to map my personas journey from the time they entered the museum to when they exited. Even though the personas and their journeys are fictional, they are based on real users. The journeys were envisioned across 4 categories - action, task list, feeling adjective and improvement opportunities.

Sana’s journey map showed that it would be very helpful for working professionals with limited time to organize their visit and time allotted to learning each artwork; while Xin’s journey map showed that it would be very helpful for tourists and older individuals to be able to read the content in their language and bigger text size

Screenshot of Sana’s journey map
Screenshot of Xin’s journey map
I then mapped out the user’s journey on the app based on the functions

Starting the Design

Paper Wireframes

Next stop was ideating and creating wireframes. I started designing by sketching wireframes using ‘crazy eights’. This method involves sketching eight ideas in eight minutes.  This approach helped me iterate and create the best version before solidifying any design.

I wanted to add features that create a communication between the user and the artwork. This communication would be with the painting and as the user walks around the gallery.

Finalised Paper Wireframes

Digital Wireframes

I used Figma to translate my paper wireframes to digital and then to low fidelity prototype. Below are some key features:

Screenshot of the low-fi prototype

Now it was time to conduct another round of interviews to test whether these designs were user friendly and addressing the pain points.

I conducted one round of usability studies to test the low-fi prototype involving an unmoderated test on 5 participants from different demographics to get a full understanding of potential issues.

Affinity Diagram from the usability studies

Based on the research these conclusions were drawn:

  • Make it easier to navigate back to the homepage
  • Make Virtual tour feature clearer
  • Improve navigation to kids mode easier

Refining the Design

Mock - Ups and High fidelity Design

Taking into consideration the feedback on the low fidelity prototype, I created the mock ups for the app. I wanted to make sure that the colors and the aesthetic matched the brand identity of the Met so I stuck to white, black and red as my app colors

Key Mock-ups for Dedicated mobile App

Then, I conducted a second usability test after the hi-fidelity prototype was completed to further refine the design and addressed the following issues:

  • Indicate that there is more content to scroll to vertically on screens with pages with large images
  • The voice assistants colors don’t match the rest of the app’s color palette
Screenshot of hi-fi prototype

The final mock ups show an easy to navigate user flow and address all issues that users had with the previous iterations.

Check out the high-fidelity prototype

Accessibility Considerations

Accessibility plays a major role in my design process and since this a public app it is a very important consideration

  • Users can choose the language that is best suited for them
  • Text size can be customised in profile
  • Screen reader can be turned on in profile
  • Voice assistant helps differently abled individuals to use the app with ease
  • Icons for navigation are enlarged in kids section to make it easy for kids to click icons
  • Subtitles have been added for all videos and and audio

Going Forward



The app makes it accessible and fun to learn about the artwork while at the museum as well as outside. One user commented, “I love that I can scan the paintings and quickly get key points on it”

What I learned:

I learned that usability tests and research make designs and ideas so much richer. It also helps in building confidence and deciding when the app is ready to launch.

Next Steps

  • Conduct another round of usability test to validate whether the pain points mentioned in the previous test have been addressed effectively
  • Take note of which features are being most used by real users

Take a look at the case study deck
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