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Evaluation of the Smithsonian Portrait Competition App

March 28, 2013

As part of the curriculum for the History and New Media, my classmates and I have been asked to evaluate various apps for the Smithsonian in order to provide feedback for further improvements. We had a selection of apps to choose from, and based on the Smithsonian’s presentation, my personal preference was for the one related to visual art. Those of my readers that have known me a while are aware I used to be a professional graphic designer in another life; likewise, I was curious to see how the presentation would work on a smartphone – a relatively new device to me. In any case, the app looked slick and easy to use in the presentation; thus, I downloaded it and gave it a shot.

At first glance, the app has three options: Exploring the Exhibition, Joining the Conversation, and Visitor Information. Exploring the artwork was relatively smooth. I was a bit flummoxed momentarily by the “tutorial” bubbles that came up on the first portrait I viewed telling me how to vote for a piece and/or read additional content. For me, I found that a bit redundant, and because I couldn’t navigate until I figured out how to make the bubbles disappear, a bit jarring. I get that for visitors even less savvy than me, this might be useful, though.

The Join the Conversation piece was less useful to me, personally. A list of comments from other patrons did not do much to enhance my experience. I wonder if that section was there simply to add more content. For my part, I thought the main section with the images and artist statements were robust enough.

The visitor information page was a bit more useful, giving information about the competition, ways to donate, and about the app itself. This particular section gave me a sense that it would be easy to learn general details about the exhibit, which is something I tend to look out for.

In sum, it is a well designed app. I liked the look and feel and the navigation was easy. The artwork was crisp and clear and it was easy to jump to the artist statements if I wanted to read more.

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One Comment
  1. I like the very practical step-by-step review. What drew you to the robust portion of the app? What made it robust for you?

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