Heartmatch: How Can a Museum Help Visitors Fall in Love with Art?
By Julia Forbes, Shannon Landing Amos Head of Museum Interpretation, and Ivey Rucket, Manager of Web and New Media, High Museum of Art, Atlanta
As the High Museum of Art prepared to completely reinstall its collection in the fall of 2018, we began talking about how we could use mobile technologies in innovative ways to engage the public with our newly renovated galleries. We had three goals: first, to show our on-site visitors the diversity of our collection; second, to direct them to artworks they liked so they could experience them in person; and third, to collect data on our visitors’ tastes.
We gathered a cross section of our staff, including curators, educators, marketers, and digital specialists. As this team brainstormed over several months, we started homing in on answering the main question we get from visitors every day: “What should I see here?”
Our next debate was over how many artworks we should include in the app. How many objects should we ask a visitor to swipe through? We wanted enough to give them a feel for the collection but not so many that they would get bored. After some testing, we decided on 100, which takes less than five minutes to swipe through but still gives users a good introduction to the collection.
The experience starts with a prompt explaining the premise of Heartmatch. The prompt asks, “Ready to Fall in Love? Swipe right if you like an object. Swipe left if you don’t. Once you’ve made your selections, view your map and go see them in person.” Then the app presents about 100 of our collection highlights to swipe through. Every seven images or so, a prompt pops up inviting you to see your map of the museum with all the works that you loved marked on it. Conversely, if you swipe left too many times, a prompt appears that says “Are you sure? Maybe you’d like me better if you saw me in person.” From either of these prompts, you can choose to look at the map or to keep swiping. Users can access the app from anywhere, whether in the museum or at home, and they can email their maps to themselves or their friends if they want to save them for later use. This way, they can pre-plan their visits.
We launched Heartmatch on Valentine’s Day 2019 to play up the theme of “finding your match” at the High Museum of Art. We had a vigorous marketing plan in place. The marketing team promoted the app as “Part game, part functional. It’s Tinder, but for art.” Our digital team produced a short video for the High’s various social media channels to generate excitement and show our visitors and members how to use the app. We created business cards for Heartmatch that guest relations, security, and other museum staff could hand to visitors as they introduced the tool. We added promotional signs to the tops of the stanchions leading to the ticket desk so visitors would encounter Heartmatch as they waited in line. We also placed posters for the app in the museum’s stairwells and elevators, and we added a prominent link to the Visit page of our website, which generates at least half the site’s traffic.
Now that Heartmatch is live, we’re conducting a summative evaluation to see how our patrons are actually using it. We are still in the early stages of surveying but have already gathered some useful responses. This feedback will help us gauge how to develop Heartmatch in the future.