• Exploratorium: Mapping the Experience of Experiments

    We’re huge fans of our soon to be San Francisco waterfront neighbors, the Exploratorium. So when we had the opportunity to help them map out their visitor experience, we jumped, ran, and flew at it.

    You might call the Exploratorium a science museum, but you’d be wrong. They don’t quite have exhibits, as much as they have experiments. They don’t have docents, they have Explainers.

    As of this week they’re no longer located at the Palace of Fine Arts, they’ve moved to a one-of-a-kind new space on the Embarcadero waterfront. Change like this brings opportunity. Opportunity to understand and see things from new perspectives.

    It started with a hypothesis

    Acting like good scientists, we started with a joint hypothesis:

    The future Exploratorium, online and off, offers new opportunities for visitor engagement. The co-creation of a customer experience map can help us all see how to integrate, extend, and deepen these visit experiences.

    Baked into this hypothesis was a belief that the visitor experience started well before they entered the door and continued long after they exited. The Exploratorium was doing so many things well to educate, inspire, and motivate people once they were immersed in the space, but were they connecting and bringing together all the right moments, touchpoints, and capabilities to get the visitor successfully and happily to the Exploratorium? What about as they left and after they got home…were they connecting with and supporting guests to become active, lifelong explorers of science and lovers of experimentation?

    It felt like chemistry

    We co-hosted a day-long session in the Adaptive Path studio with a diverse set of representatives of the Exploratorium to map the visitor experience of a local adult, a Bay Area Hispanic family, a member family, and a tourist. This experience begins from the moment each visitor gets the idea to visit, spans her museum experience, and stretches to the days that follow.

    The special thing about the session was the people in the room. Participants really stretched across the organization—representatives of IT, admissions, online experience, social media, environments, exhibits, mediated experiences (a.k.a. the explainers), visitor research, marketing, business development, and membership. When was the last time you saw this diverse of a group in any other organization getting together to consider their customer’s experience?

    Teams quickly assembled maps of their chosen visitor in keeping with some very simple guidelines:

    1. Imagine the Spring 2013 grand opening. What does a visitor’s “happy path” look like?
    2. Map the following components of your visitor’s journey:
    • Actions — What people are doing?
    • Emotions — Their needs, feelings, and perceptions
    • Thinking — What questions, concerns, or help do they need?
    • Touchpoints & Context — The people, places, things, devices, and products making up their experience
    • Identify the biggest potential pain points and highlights of your visitor’s experience

    And here’s what it looked like:




    It yielded clarity and opportunity

    A good map is a snapshot of reality, where all the unimportant information has been removed to show a useful perspective. Experience maps like the ones we created, show how the many moments and touchpoints of the Exploratorium might be brought together to create a good or bad, impressive or ineffective visitor experience.




    What we found impressive was how quickly this diverse group aligned by using the maps on a small set of opportunities that could yield the most impact on the visitor experience:

    • simpler entry and orienting at the new campus,
    • hospitality that recognizes and addresses very practical visitor needs during the visit,
    • and a more choreographed exit experience that connected and guided the visitor with their next interactions with the Exploratorium.

    Maps get you places

    Maps of a customer experience focus on how things will be experienced, not how they’re made. They help you and your organization see the experience from the outside-in, helping you see and talk about how changes in operations, technology, and organization can bring about a better experience. Experience maps, similar to their travel map equivalents, help your organization get the lay of the land by revealing in visual terms where to go and how to get there.

    With the Exploratorium, we chose to focus on a map of the happy path of the future. We find, in comparison to a current-state map, the future ideal state engages the broader organization on the customer’s journey, hypothesizing what the ideal journey would be. This future-focused approach then benefits from a current-state experience map so a plan can be formulated to move from thinking about the future to making it.

    Our thanks, Exploratorium!

    Lastly, we’re so grateful to the Exploratorium team for agreeing to let us share this work. Promoting the sharing of ideas, experience, and expertise is very much in keeping with your culture and values!


    Become an experience mapper

    Join us in our Austin studio on June 6th for our one-day experience mapping workshop led by Adaptive Path Design Director, Chris Risdon, who has been traveling the globe spreading the the good word (and know-how) on #xmapping. Details are here.

    There are 2 thoughts on this idea

    1. Pam Daghlian


    2. Yegor

      Hi, Brandon, thanks a lot for great visuals! Could you, please, provide the first Visitor Experience Map #1 in high-resolution as well (now it duplicates #2 when clicking the pic)?

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