Watts Gallery - Artists’ Village

Access and staff training at the Surrey home of Victorian artist George Fredrick Watts

Nestled in the Surrey Hills, in an area of outstanding natural beauty, Watts Gallery - Artists' Village includes a grade I listed arts and crafts buildings and a permanent display of over 100 paintings by the great Victorian artist G. F. Watts. The Gallery wanted to provide an engaging audio tour as well as varied interpretation by local experts, while ensuring any new technology would be easy to use for volunteers and visitors.

The challenge

Watts Gallery generally attracts an older audience and relies on a committed group of volunteers to deliver the day to day visitor experience. Although senior staff were keen to use Smartify as a new technology that met their needs for sharing information; they had to make sure their core audiences and volunteers felt confident and were willing to embrace it too.

Our solution

In parallel to working with the curatorial team on content creation and the set-up of Smartify; we developed a programme of volunteer workshops and training days to listen to any feedback or concerns from those on the front line of delivering the visitor experience. We allowed volunteers to try the app for themselves and appointed Digital Ambassadors to advocate across the organisation. We also created FAQ guides together.

The result

By engaging volunteers from the outset of the project, we developed a sense of ownership and responsibility for the technology, which was then reflected in the willingness to encourage use of the app amongst visitors and a greater uptake. One of the surprises was how quickly staff felt comfortable using and talking about the app. Many echoed the positive responses of visitors highlighting key areas such as ease of use, giving visitors choice in their visit, increasing dwell time by providing additional layers of information to that already on offer, and extending the experience through post-visit reflection on favourites. Comments from staff include the following:

V2: “the fact that it’s so simple…there’s no time lag…so as soon as it scans, if its on a database, it’s up straightaway, which I think it great because if it took ages to load, I’d be really irritated and I would just think, ‘stuff this’ but because it’s almost instant, I think that’s really, really impressive”.

V7: “I wasn’t focused on the app thinking ‘oh god, where has it gone? What am I doing?’, I was really into the content

V8: “somehow you get a better idea of what you are looking at….actually, I think you pay more attention to the picture, when you’re scanning it and looking at text and everything”.

V10: “if I’d just been walking around and wasn’t using the phone, I might just skip a load of them, but you…you were more intrigued to find out the information about the picture”.

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