The V&A’s Digital Explorer Map gives web visitors a completely new visual way to explore the V&A. The intuitive graphical interface is designed for pleasure and wonder. It allows visitors to explore many galleries and spaces in the V&A and discover amazing objects that are on display from the comfort of their sofa. When they’re in the museum it helps them to find out about events that are happening in the museum and see facilities. It is platform independent because audiences expect services to be available on any of the various tablets or phones which they might own. Using simple intuitive touch-based navigation, users can navigate their way through a complex museum space in a playful way.

When the map was planned, it was key that it should be enjoyable to use and visually attractive. As well as being available on any tablet or phone, it needed to be driven by user feedback. Research showed that V&A visitors supersede national trends for smartphone use and the majority use their web-enabled phone when visiting – the map is a key resource.

The map’s factual data is directly synchronized with the core collections and events systems that expert staff use and update daily. To ensure that the map worked, a continuous build-and-test discipline was adopted. For six months experienced visitor service staff user-tested the map in the galleries with real visitors to provide continuous feedback on the features to adjust and improve them as issues arose. Existing building signage and standard icons were integrated into the visual design to maintain a consistent look and feel.

In the first 4 months after launch, the Digital Explorer map was used nearly 3 times as much as the pdf map had been in the equivalent previous period. After launch it was clear it was preferred by users as more than 6 times as many people chose it compared to the pdf. On all devices the time spent on the map is noticeably higher than the average overall visit to the site. It is also possible to show what a pdf can’t about behavior: one in three users request extra information about objects they browsed and one in five used the active search.

The map combines many familiar elements such as a traditional map, collection records and event information and blends them with easy to use gesture based navigation. The result is a completely new and original way to enjoy finding the riches contained within the V&A.

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