Case Study by Vince Galante RGD, The Pixel Shop
By re-thinking a client brief that called for a stationary kiosk design, The Pixel Shop helped Bonne Bay Marine Station get more value from their budget and expand the reach of their message by applying strategic design thinking.
Located in Western Newfoundland’s beautiful Gros Morne National Park, Bonne Bay Marine Station is a world-class research and teaching facility. It is also open to the public, whom it educates about climate change and the impact that humans are having on habitat, marine plants, fish and other sea life. The station’s visitors centre sees heavy traffic during the spring and summer months, with school groups and tourists forming the bulk of visits. The project brief called for a kiosk in their interpretive centre that would inform visitors about the impact of global warming on the waters of Newfoundland.
The original brief anticipated the use of traditional kiosk hardware and software. We saw value in re-thinking this approach to help the client:
- use their budget more efficiently
- expand the reach of their interpretive centre by allowing the design to travel with the marine station’s team for “road shows” and
- make future updates simpler and less expensive to perform.
Our approach was to develop an iOS app that could use inexpensive iPad software and kiosk stands instead of traditional kiosk hardware. The solution had the further advantage of allowing the public to freely download the app from the iTunes Store, which expanded the reach of the client's message by making it available not only within the physical space of the kiosk stand, but also from anywhere users might be located.
We also designed and procured a wall mural, banner stands and additional wall decals to complement the kiosk stands and define the surrounding areas.
Communicating the idea
We responded to an open RFP to win this work, so there was some to degree of risk in proposing a different solution than was originally requested. By presenting a strong rationale and an explanation of how the proposed solution fulfilled the client's objectives we could show that our approach was both feasible and desirable.
Even though we were enthusiastic about our approach, we did want to field test it before going too far into the design and build. We produced an early prototype that allowed the client to experience the app in the early stages of the project, helping them better envision how the app would work.
Maximizing the available screen space was of great importance for this design, as iPads are smaller than most traditional kiosk screens. The navigation structure is designed to be unobtrusive and intuitive, so that users can access it when they need it without surrendering valuable screen space.
Keeping in mind that users would likely access the kiosk one after another and would require consistent 're-sets', so we prioritized a persistent 'home' button, and a reset routine which would bring the app back to the start page after a period of inactivity.
To ensure the app would be relevant both within the physical space of the Bonne Bay Marine Station and make sense for users accessing it from elsewhere, we included contextual information that might not have been considered if the design had followed the original plan for the stationary kiosk.
Paper prototypes were created and tested at the beginning of the design phase, allowing us to iterate on the navigation structure. Once the design phase was complete we also built and tested an early functional prototype to ensure an optimal tablet experience. Test results provided us with opportunities to optimize navigation, make legibility adjustments and correctly time animation sequences.
We like to work collaboratively with our clients. Although they started with an idea of the content they wished to present, they were open to our guidance on the user experience and copywriting. Our process involves letting the client make educated choices about user experience and their feedback made our original ideas better.
The kiosk has not only met the initial requirements of engaging visitors of the marine centre, but has also expanded the its reach far beyond Bonne Bay. To date, the app has been downloaded 174,000 times, far exceeding even the most optimistic of goals.