Loic Tallon is Senior Mobile Producer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Chair of the Museums & Mobile Online Conference.
He spoke with us about mobile strategies for museums and gave suggestions on how to create successful museum apps.
Loic is an art historian by training, but became obsessed with audio guides at museums. When the updated iPhone came out in 2008, which was based upon apps, it created a greater interest in mobile technology for cultural institutions. This interest led to the start of Pocket Proof, which is a company he ran for four years. It still exists in the U.K in a smaller more dormant format, but he still works for them every now and then. Pocket Proof is a company that helps museums adapt what was possible with mobile and picked the right things to do to fulfill the museum’s mission. One of his clients became the Met and he worked for them for a year as a consultant, but recently he was offered a job in house as the senior mobile producer to be in charge of a particular project.
“If the app is the answer, what was the question”
He feels that it is a knee jerk reaction for museums to think that they must have an app nowadays. When you make any digital product, you are effectively making an answer to a problem. In other words, there is a need here and we need to make something to fill that need. Far too often people are saying that they need an app, but they are not thinking why. He tells us that making a kiosk or an app is pretty easy, but making a good one that people will use is the challenge. In the first month of planning you need to decide why are we doing it and what is the strategic need for it. Usually the success or failure of an app was all predetermined during this first month of planning. He used an example of building a house to explain how to build an app. You tell your needs for a house like the square footage, number of rooms, etc and that you need this house to change locations. The designer will come back to you and say well you are actually describing a caravan. It isn’t an app or a house you need, but a caravan or a mobile website. The reason why he thinks that over half of the museum apps out there are not of the highest quality is because they are made a little too quickly and not enough forethought was put into them. He points out that there are dozens of fantastic museum apps out there, but that they get “noised out” or overshadowed by ones that are less creative. These apps used mobile for what it is good for, which made them very successful.
Where will digital will lead us over the next 5 years?
He told us that digital teams are creating new ways for people to understand and interact with museums. He is hoping that people will feel closer to their museum, which is what they are doing with digital since they are changing people’s relationship to the museum through digital technology. He does not know how this will happen, but they will have fun inventing it and getting there.