Designing Visitor Experience

Competency Description

Designing Visitor Experience 

Design is a human-centered, collaborative, iterative, and dynamic process. Designing for visitor experience requires on-going investigation into site research and relevance; audience and community; and awareness of self and bias. Grounded in knowledge and guided by shared authority, the interpreter facilitates an investigation into user-defined needs. An essential question, connecting the site’s stories to personally relevant and socially significant issues, guides the investigation and focus of visitor experience. The size and scope of designed experiences ranges from an exhibit panel or short talk, to an entire year’s interpretive offerings in a variety of formats and mediums.

The interpreter or educator also develops a robust understanding and application of interpretive medium and technique based on audience, resource, circumstances, and needs. Their ability to match medium and technique to audience and outcome underpins their value as strategic communicators. Core to effective communication strategy is collaboration. Design is collaborative at all phases of the process. This collaboration helps explore the full range of human diversity (ability, gender, age, vocation, identity, experience, etc.) for the purpose of defining and creating meaning. To do this, interpreters and educators must draw on multiple literacies, intelligences, and engagement preferences, offering a suite of experiences that help broader audiences interact.

Good design creates opportunities for the product, service, or experience to adapt to and meet the needs of audiences and communities. Well-designed experiences have feedback mechanisms built in that allow for immediate and on-going iteration to meet changing needs and circumstances. Interpreters and educators solicit, analyze, and apply data and feedback to collaboratively improve experiences and professional skills.

Competency Standard

Interpreters and Educators:

Collaboratively Define Need

  • Establish collective goals, outcomes, and shared authority among and between different stakeholders
  • Define specific needs by listening deeply and engaging with communities, audiences, management and peers
  • Design experiences where personal identity and expression, community perspectives, lived experience, and authentic practice provide integral input to the design

Employ Medium and Technique

  • Understand strengths and limitations of the various methods for delivery of interpretation content (media, technology, visual information, and personal services)
  • Weigh options to make optimal and effective matches for medium given the audience, message and circumstance, and identified audience needs
  • Intentionally choose experiences to allow for multiple visitor uses and outcomes such as learning, engagement, enjoyment, and recreation
  • Focus and structure interpretive experiences around relevant current issues using essential questions or other organizing tools
  • Understand the difference between information, orientation, and interpretation and when, why and how to move from one to the other
  • Integrate agency perspectives with visitor contribution and community voices
  • Analyze and select techniques to enrich experience and enhance multi-directional communication
  • Skillfully integrate audience engagement, interpretive narration, and resource immersion to facilitate interactive experiences, explore complex issues, and connect to resource meanings
  • Understand and address audience accessibility, learning preferences, developmental, and mobility needs
  • Meet NPS standards for technical design and production of media products (style, format, branding, accessibility, and copyright)
  • Proactively prepare for and monitor situational and logistics needs, including site dynamics, supplies and materials, audience safety and accessibility, and resource protection

Analyze and Iterate

  • Build in opportunities during development and implementation for feedback, workshopping, and prototyping to iteratively improve on interpretive experience
  • Ensure the design of interpretive products, services, and experiences addresses audience and management needs
  • Explore and test creative solutions to solve challenges
  • Observe visitor cues and responses, assess needs, and evaluate options to guide the progression of each experience
  • Apply insights gained through evaluation and analysis to adjust and modify techniques, topics, and interpretive approaches
  • Allow flexibility for collaborative redesign in products, services, or experiences

 the 2018 revision of the foundations document: Foundations of Interpretation – Competencies for the 21st Century 2018 [PDF]

Training Resources

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