The Pedagogy of a Text Message: Opening Prompt

What is the pedagogy of a text message conversation?  Can you actually have a pedagogy of texting? If so, what does it look like? How do you define it? How does one begin to find the answers to these questions? The ASK app functions like a text message conversation between users and the Audience Engagement Team.  Users can send a text message or a photo.

In our first few testing sessions we learned, very quickly, some basic rules which have remained constant in our two months of testing—in retrospect these basics are obvious—users wanted the experience to be similar to how they use text messages in their daily life, and they wanted the experience to feel personal:

  • Users wanted to receive an immediate response after they sent their first message.
  • Users preferred short messages in response, rather than a large blurb of text.  We could send the same information, we just needed to do it in bite size bits.
  • Users enjoyed when the conversation had an informal tone to it as it helped establish that there was indeed a real person responding.
  • Users appreciated receiving new information that they didn’t know, and they also appreciated when we revealed that we didn’t have an immediate answer to their questions—it actually helped to create more trust from the users—as per above, it helped to establish a sense of familiarity and a personal conversation.
Our original prompt.
Our original prompt.

Using this basic information as a starting point we set out to deconstruct our text message conversations, focusing specifically on the first message within the text message exchange.  We wanted to learn how users would respond to our “opening prompt” (the first message that the user receives when opening the ASK app).

The opening prompt that the app presents to the user has a huge responsibility. We learned from early testing that users did not want to read lengthy directions or go through a multistep “onboarding” process.  With this in mind we knew that the prompt needed to be short, and needed to get the user actually using the app immediately.  We created a prompt that was short, directed, and began with art: “What work of art are you looking at right now?”

Through our testing sessions, we wanted to know if the opening prompt was effective in quickly generating a conversation between the visitor and ASK team. From the user’s standpoint, what will get people interested and using the app quickly? From the Team’s standpoint, what will provide the best starting point for conversation?

Prompt was changed to elicit more deliberate action on the part of the user, a prompt that would require to the user to not just immediately engage with the app, but also immediately engage with the art in the Museum in a thoughtful manner.
Prompt was changed to elicit more deliberate action on the part of the user, a prompt that would require to the user to not just immediately engage with the app, but also immediately engage with the art in the Museum in a thoughtful manner.

Data from post-testing feedback sessions (group conversations with testers), and information gathered from surveys brought us to the conclusion that the opening prompt was successful in getting users to use the app because it was easy to respond to and testers began using the app immediately. However, while the prompt was easy to respond to, testers were confused as to what would happen next. Additionally, we’d see users arbitrarily choose an artwork to send and that was frequently the first work of art they saw, and not necessarily an object they were interested in.

Based on this information we knew that we needed a prompt that, like this one, motivated testers to begin using the app immediately.  The prompt needed to be equally directed, but somehow provide the user with an idea of what the app experience would be, and have the user motivated to want to continue the conversation.  We decided that the prompt needed to elicit more deliberate action on the part of the user, a prompt that would require to the user to not just immediately engage with the app, but also immediately engage with the art in the Museum in a thoughtful manner.  This led us to our new prompt, “Find a work of art that intrigues you.  Send us a photo.”

It immediately proved to be a positive change.  As with the previous prompt, users engaged with the app immediately, and in addition, they remarked on how the prompt initiated them to start looking at the art more closely, to really consider what work of piqued their curiosity and interested them.  Some users continued to note some confusion as to what the full app experience was “supposed” to be.  However, we received at least half of the number of these types of comments as compared to when users tested with the first prompt.

We will continue to use this new prompt, and experiment with ways in which the Team is following up to users first message.  I will discuss the process of finding the best type of first response in my next blog post.