9th June 2022
Designing Family-Friendly Experiences
It breaks our heart when we see kids who are bored at a visitor attraction. It’s a day out! They’re supposed to be having a good time, not kicking their heels.
And it’s just as disappointing when parents feel like they’ve not received value from their family ticket to a site.
Rather than suggesting that visitors leave their children with friends or grandparents, many organisations have instead spent the last few decades putting energy and creativity into programmes that are genuinely relevant to families. ‘Family friendly’ is now a standard phrase in promotional material.
In fact, in the UK and beyond, the visitor experience sector is getting better and better at providing for families. There are the basics like a good shop, café/picnic space and the right toilet/changing facilities – not everyone can reach what adults can reach. But it’s important that the interpretive experiences we create for families are tailored to their needs too.
Some venues like to think of their audio or multimedia guide as something quite grown up – a sensible voice, perhaps an authority on the subject, that imparts pearls of wisdom into the ears of the visitor. While there’s room for that at some sites, at ATS we believe that every member of the family can have a great digital experience and we’re passionate about creating content that’s engaged and exciting.
When it comes to creating family-friendly digital content, here are five things to remember.
- Everyone wants a good day out, so ground your digital content in the visitor experience plan for your site. There’s little point creating something aimed at children that doesn’t fit with the rest of the visit –such as an audio trail that goes the opposite way to the visitor flow, a timed digital experience clashes with the start of a live show; an adult tour that takes longer than the kids’ tour.
- There’s an assumption that a day out is a chance for children to put down handheld devices and to connect to what’s around them – nature, history, science, art. But it’s worth remembering that when content is well made, digital engagement can be a powerful tool. Indeed, if kids are used to taking in information on screens, who are we to insist they read panels and labels, just because that’s how we’ve interpreted sites for decades?
- When creating content for younger visitors, remember the difference between interpretation for families and interpretation for children. Something that’s aimed solely at kids (such as a bespoke digital tour) will be planned, written, produced differently to something that’s being used by the whole family, where every member of the group needs to be engaged. At Eltham Palace, we created a multimedia tour for adults and another for children, each with different approaches to storytelling, but both with the common goal of increasing engagement with the historic spaces on the visitor route.
- The start of a digital product like an audio or multimedia tour often contains instructions on how to use the guide or app. But the chances are, children often already understand how to use the kit. We know that children today tend to pick up how to use something digital more intuitively than by following directions, so you can save time and space in your script and get them to the content faster, while parents are still grappling with how to adjust the volume or skip a stop.
- Once you have a concept or a draft of a digital product, it’s worth programming time in to ask families what they think of your idea. One of the great things about audience research with families is that they don’t bother sugar-coating their comments – they’ll tell you what they like and don’t like and they’re rarely short of ideas. Their feedback is invaluable in the planning process.
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