LET’S DEBUNK THE 3 MOST COMMONLY HELD MYTHS ABOUT MUSEUM TECHNOLOGY
Every day we speak to museums, cultural organizations and travel & tourism companies about upcoming digital projects, and too often we hear the fears! Over and again, the same couple of concerns (of mythical proportions!) arise about launching mobile apps, kiosks or other interactive digital projects. We’re here to debunk the myths and set the record straight.
#1 THE COST MYTH
It’s true, some museums invest $100,000s, even $1,000,000s in touchscreen interactives, mobile apps and digital programs. But, that’s not the only way to get the job done. You can still deliver something engaging and beautiful to your visitors on a modest budget. Here are a few best practices that will help you control scope, meet your budget and prioritize for success:
- Work with a technology partner with off-the-shelf products. Don’t pay an agency to code an audio guide, mobile tour, or in-gallery experience from scratch unless your project calls for it. While we think our humble solution is pretty great, there are other vendors offering a variety of ready-to-go solutions for a fraction of the cost of digital agencies or programming shops.
- Invest in technology that is easy to scale. One-off projects, whether cheap or expensive, cannot grow with your digital program so you’ll always be forced to engage a vendor for every new app build. Instead, use flexible platforms that can be applied in a variety of use cases, that are easy to add to or edit. Cough, like us.
- Ask vendors what’s in and what’s out. Don’t be afraid to ask detailed questions about what’s included (and what’s not included) in project fees. Better, how do they let you know when you’re dancing on the edges of scope creep? Check out the Digital Project Planning Packet to lay this groundwork.
- Remember there will be life after launch. Maintenance is a key factor for both program success and your budget considerations. If there’s an annual fee, ensure that it covers your customer service, software maintenance, and ongoing platform compliance so that you don’t get hit with surprise costs or crisis management (e.g. frantically calling up your outside developer to fix bugs on their timeline).
- Ask vendors if they have DIY options. Typically, when your team contributes and builds, it costs less (the vendor does’t have to bill you for their staff time). If there are DIY options available, get a demo to ensure you have the time and skill set needed to use their tools. We made our content management system for non-technical users.
- Are you a small museum? See if your vendor offers special pricing for small museums. Check out CultureConnect’s Essentials Package for Small Museums.
#2 THE TECH SAAVY MYTH
The solution lies in this question: do you actually, really need a custom built solution? Or, will a platform solution deliver what you need (or more)?
Some of the biggest and most tech-savvy museums use our platform to build their digital programs. Why? Because their Chief Digital Officers know that CultureConnect offers a solution no one else does – a creator tool that doesn’t require coding skills and scales to meet their needs across many use cases. Fear not, small museums! You too can access the same technology and the same customer service at a price that aligns with your budget. Bigger museums with specialized staff often want sophisticated features, unlimited applications or storage, and vendor staff time to run projects which is overkill for what small museums likely need. CultureConnect’s platform and packages scale up and down to meet the needs of a wide range of customers.
When evaluating platform solutions, consider how they are addressing your needs. Still not convinced that a platform solution (vs custom built one-off interactives) are right for you? Consider these unique benefits to the platform approach:
- Experience is baked into the solution over time. Platform solutions serve many museum clients, so they are fine-tuned to meet the needs of museum professionals like you. Like a fine wine, they get better with time.
- Platform solutions are tried and tested. If you’re working with a tech partner like CultureConnect, we’ve had years to develop our feature set, security controls, user interface, and product set. When you code a project from scratch – whether you do it in-house or through an agency – you’re starting from the beginning every.single.time. And, you’ll often have insufficient time and budget to develop each tool and feature to its optimal state.
- Platform solutions don’t require special skills. CultureConnect’s platform has no exposed code meaning your staff does not need to know anything about software development, code, or servers. The powerful configurations may be set to our system defaults (which look pretty snazzy) or you can make your own customizations using switches, drop down menus, drag-and-drop, and text editors.
#3 THE MAINTENANCE MYTH
Keeping software up-to-date with operating systems and browsers, maintaining APIs, managing bugs, and adding new features to ensure your technology meets the expectations of visitors over time is a necessity for having a digital program, large or small. Like many off-the-shelf products, the platform is maintained by the company who provides it. Platform solutions should include all this support and service – the CultureConnect platform certainly does!
Establishing a maintenance plan before you start your project makes maintenance easy to manage. Here are a few questions to ask your provider in establishing your maintenance plan:
- Can you update content? Does the platform have an easy-to-use content management system? Get a demo or free trial to fully understand the features included in your package, including how and when you can update content and publication.
- Who maintains the platform & compliance? Operating systems, browsers, code bases, plug-ins, and the like all evolve over time. The maintenance plan should include this maintenance or a clear system of upgrading to new versions.
- Who fixes bugs? Sometimes things break – no software, however fancy or expensive is immune. Find out if your maintenance plan includes bug fixing and how fast the turn around time is for resolution.
- What is customer service plan? Your license or maintenance contract should spell out the method (e.g. phone, email, or in-person), timing (e.g. M-F 9am – 5pm EST), and reply (e.g. within 24 hours, business days) included in your package.
- Can you track performance? Find out if your package includes a reporting feature or analytics dashboard for tracking user behavior.
- What are the costs? Everything above is often organized into packages at different price points. Some vendors charge extra for analytics, others for customer support. Some vendors don’t include platform maintenance and compliance or bug fixing at all!
At CultureConnect, we take care of all the maintenance listed here as part of our standard offering. Read how we’ve worked to solve your IT/AV maintenance burden.
I hope we have demystified these tech challenges for you. Want to know more? Schedule a call with the CultureConnect team to see how our museum clients run their programs on our platform today!