Mobile Use and Texting Pains

This is the first in a three-part series about the use of mobile technology during the GO open studio weekend. Today, we’re going to look at basic trends and talk in depth about the use of texting; later this week we’ll look specifically at the iPhone app and lessons learned.

When we first looked at platform use during the open studio weekend, we were a little surprised at the data; when voters checked in to studios, they used the website almost half the time.

As we started to look at the data over time, we started to understand the trends a bit more. You can see from the chart below, the iphone app dominated during the open studio hours and web traffic started to increase substantially at the end of each weekend day and on Monday, during the check-in grace period. You’ll notice at the exact times we saw a drop off in traffic to studios (6pm), there was a rise in web traffic indicating people headed home to input the artist codes they had collected throughout the day.  

You’ll also notice a big dip in traffic on Sunday around 7-8pm; that’s right around the time the website crashed, so it’s a good thing we had established the following Monday a grace period allowing those writing down codes and anyone who experienced tech difficulties enough time to check-in—as you can see, people really needed it.

When we look at mobile web, the numbers there are pretty much as we’d expect. iPhone users account for 81% of the mobile traffic on our website (true for both gobrooklynart.org and brooklynmuseum.org), so when it became apparent we only had resources to develop one app, the iPhone had to be the platform of choice given what we knew about our audience’s device carrying habits. While we didn’t have the resources to provide Droid users with their own platform-specific app, we were able to create a slimmed down mobile website which could be used for checking in to studios and following an itinerary; a 6% usage rate doesn’t seem too out of line with our audience’s overall mobile usage.

Texting usage was another matter entirely. We were stunned at the low use; in our minds, texting was the most accessible check-in method. As it turns out, the statistics seem to indicate the average participant found writing down numbers and entering them on the website (43.7%) way more accessible than texting (9.2%).

For as simple as we thought texting would be, there were many problems with it. Participants reported not understanding how to text to a alpha shortcode and this was especially true for users who had QWERTY keyboards with no corresponding numeric values. So, for instance, if we said “text the artist code to BKLYN” many participants had trouble understanding this meant “text the artist code to 25596.” Other users got hung up when it came time to sync their phones with their web accounts—a needed step in order to match a user’s phone with their online registration.  

What interests me most about all this is when conceptualizing GO, we wanted to ensure there would be an “accessible technology” component; something everyone had access to because we knew that so many people elect not to have a smartphone. Even though participants had universal access to texting, the accessibility became questionable in its complications. In hindsight, the most accessible mobile method had little to do with technology at all—pen and paper proved the method of choice and people seemed more comfortable coming back to their computers to complete their weekend participation.

In the next post, we’re going to delve into the iPhone app and later we’ll talk about overall lessons learned and things we’d do differently next time around.