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Zhejiang Museum AR App

Designing an AR tour experience for one of China's premier new archaeological museums, in time for its grand opening.

Zhejiang University Museum of Art and Archaeology is a brand new 25,000 square meter cultural beacon in China's Zhejiang region.

My team was tasked with delivering an engaging AR app to enrich the visitor experience. We had one month until the grand opening. I was tasked with leading the design efforts on this project.

One of the exhibition spaces was showcasing centuries old artwork. Our AR app would interact with this artwork by animating it to bring it to life, and explaining the features of the artwork.

Amaze and educate visitors using augmented reality.

The brief was straightforward and ambitious. We would use AR to wow visitors. This app was the icing on the cake of the visitor experience. A glorious new cultural monolith, spectacular artwork dating back centuries, and an AR app to boot. This museum opening had it all.

An early prototype showcasing the AR artwork animation, and annotation markers.

I created the initial design direction in a week, and refined it over the coming weeks. As always, I opted for no-nonsense simplicity. The AR is the wow-feature. The rest of the navigation and user experience should feel simple and intuitive. This isn't the time to get stuck reinventing the wheel.

Granting camera access

AR apps need camera access. But users need to manually grant camera access on iOS. This is the riskiest part of the user experience. We want them to tap "Allow". Tapping "Don't allow" renders the app useless! The app catered to this by showing a video of the AR feature in action during onboarding. First show value, then ask for permission.

A simple onboarding tour would introduce the AR feature and request camera permissions.

Cross-cultural design

At Booking.com I was used to designing for an international audience. However, this was the first time I was designing for an app that would launch without English language support. An English language option would follow soon after launch, but due to time pressures didn't make the cut for v1.

I ended up creating the mockups in English. The copy was finalised, translated, and then the subsequent translation appeared in the app. For internationalisation, our next step was to add English language content, and to use the phone's default language setting to serve the correct language.

Delivered in time for the grand opening

In less than a week I put together a clickable prototype to help developers get a sense for the app. Take the prototype for a click through.

The museum's grand opening happened in September 2019. Our AR app brought the artwork to life, wow-ing and educating the museums's first visitors.

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