Guide | What makes a successful museum app? - Museums Association

Guide | What makes a successful museum app?

Federico Spiezia shares the results of a recent study on visitors’ digital engagement
Federico Spiezia

In the digital age, museums have the incredible opportunity to leverage technology to create immersive and engaging experiences for visitors.

Sparkr, a Dutch design agency, recently completed a comprehensive study on museum apps and their impact on visitor engagement. This article shares examples of successful museum apps, examines what accessibility means for museum experiences and asks what the main trends are for the future.

What makes a successful museum app?

Museum apps have the potential to enhance the visitor experience by providing a range of features and functionalities that can personalise the visit and help visitors navigate the space.

Key features:

  • Personalised recommendations: One of the most significant advantages of a museum app is the ability to provide personalised recommendations based on a visitor’s interests, location and previous visits. Successful museum apps use data analytics to suggest exhibitions and collections that may be of interest to users, increasing the chances of engagement and return visits.
  • Interactive maps: Interactive maps provide an intuitive and engaging way for visitors to navigate the museum’s layout and exhibits. Apps that offer interactive maps with detailed information on each exhibit or collection are more likely to be popular with visitors.
  • Offering guidance rather than just information: To be successful, museum apps must offer more than audio guides. Successful apps guide visitors before, during and after their visit. They offer the chance to buy tickets and check opening hours and physical accessibility, creating an all-in-one platform for planning and visiting the museum.

Our research identified the best museum apps in the industry. The best ones are from the British Museum in London and Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

The British Museum app provides a range of features, including interactive maps, personalised recommendations and audio guides with captioning. It also offers a “Collection Highlights” section, which provides curated tours of the museum’s most significant objects.

The Rijksmuseum app’s range of features includes a 3D tour of the museum’s galleries, personalised recommendations, and the ability to create your own collection. It also includes a “Rijksstudio” feature, which allows users to download and use high-resolution images from the museum’s collection.

What does accessibility mean for museum experiences?

When we talk about accessibility in the context of museum experiences, we envision a transformative journey where everyone is able to explore, appreciate and connect with art and culture. Accessibility encompasses not only physical access but also the provision of inclusive information, interactive features and opportunities for engagement.

By embracing accessibility, museums can create a welcoming environment that enables everyone to participate and immerse themselves fully in the wonders of artistic expression.

To make museum apps more accessible, it is essential to incorporate a range of features that cater to the diverse needs of users.


Here are some key features that can greatly enhance accessibility in museum apps:

  • Text-to-speech that enables audio playback
  • Customised displays for better visibility
  • Closed caption and transcripts on video and audio content
  • Alt text for images
  • Multilingual support for diverse language preferences
  • Gesture-based navigation and swipe gestures
  • Voice commands and search, and hands-free interaction options
  • Clear language, simple and inclusive content
  • Audio description for images and videos

Future trends in the digital transformation of museums

Based on existing developments and industry observations, here are five top trends in the digital transformation of museums.

  1. Virtual and augmented reality experiences. Museums may increasingly leverage virtual and augmented reality technologies to offer immersive and interactive experiences. Visitors might explore virtual replicas of exhibits or engage with virtual artefacts through augmented reality overlays.
  2. Enhanced online collections and digital archives. Museums will likely continue digitising their collections and making them accessible online. This could involve high-resolution images, detailed descriptions and additional multimedia content, allowing remote visitors to engage with collections in a more comprehensive and meaningful way.
  3. Personalised and adaptive experiences. Museums might adopt technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning to provide personalised recommendations and tailored experiences to visitors. Through analysing visitor preferences and behaviour, museums can offer customised tours, curated content and targeted recommendations.
  4. Mobile applications and digital guides with augmented reality elements. Museums will continue to invest in mobile applications and digital guides that provide visitors with detailed information, interactive maps and audio or video tours. These apps may also offer features like augmented reality elements, quizzes and interactive games to enhance engagement.
  5. Online events and virtual exhibitions. Museums may continue to explore virtual events and online exhibitions, allowing them to reach broader audiences beyond physical limitations. These virtual experiences could include virtual gallery tours, live-streamed lectures, panel discussions and interactive workshops.

Federico Spiezia is the founder of Dutch design agency Sparkr

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