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Bringing the past to life at the American Museum of Natural History

Redesigning a fully immersive MVP mobile app.


Lead Researcher
UX Designer




iOS and Android mobile devices


Simple. Educational. Effortless.

COVID-19 decimated global museum attendance, and the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) did not escape unscathed. Between a mandatory six month shut down and sections of the museum's most popular exhibits sectioned off to serve as vaccination centers, AMNH has lost over $36 million in revenue. 

Right now, AMNH's app focuses on nearby parking and hotel facilities. This does not, however, provide a way for the museum to generate revenue if visitors are not able to physically enter the building.

Our Solution.

My team and I worked together to research and prototype an MVP for a mobile app that borrows features from VR that will allow museum goers to "visit" the American Museum of Natural History from the comfort of their own home.


Our MVP had two goals in mind: to create a fun, memorable, and immersive experience for those who chose to visit from their own home and to provide an additional level of educational fun for the in-person patrons. 

01. Research

Finding the "Why"

Before we could begin, it was important to understand why people went to museums at all and if they found that they were even missing the experience of visiting in-person museums during COVID-19. We interviewed avid and occasional museum goers from all over the United States to see why they went, what they associated museums with, and their most memorable experiences inside of a museum. 

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  • Most users (67%) responded that they love museums and ranked their last experience highly, but around 80% of respondents hadn't visited a museum in the past year

  • All users associated museums with learning something new and expanding their world view

  • The most memorable museum experiences were those that were "grand, awe inspiring, and created a core memory"

We also looked at other museums and experience-based companies to see which specific features their apps had in common.


02. Design

Building the Dollhouse

Users appeared to prefer apps that allowed them to feel as if they were inside the museum without actually attending in person. How could we create a clean and intuitive "virtual dollhouse" that allowed visitors to tour AMNH as if they were really inside of it?

Throughout our design iterations and prototypes, we routinely asked ourselves three questions to make sure we were honoring the needs of our targeted user base as best as possible:

  • How might we entice users with delightful experiences that replicate an in-person museum visit?

  • How might we interact with users in an engaging way to promote the pursuit of knowledge?

  • How might we lay out a mobile experience that easily directs the user to the content they're looking for?

Fidelity Evolution


MVP + Core Flow

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03. Testing

Adaptations and Core Goals

Added Screens

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Users mentioned that the museum map for in-person experiences felt "flat" compared to the rest of the app, so we added a live camera feature that displays a suggested guide route and options for app-exclusive games that are only accessed by scanning exhibits in person.

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Users had trouble figuring out how to leave the in-app exhibits after they were finished viewing, so we added an "exit door" in the VR page that leads to this confirmation page.

Core Goal: VR Immersion

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Keeping our user persona in mind, we wanted to integrate VR elements into a mobile app as seamlessly as possible. The 3D screen scene on the left felt like the easiest way to introduce a fully immersive experience to AMNH. 

Core Goal: In-Person Functionality

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While the app's redesign focuses on features designed for a remote experience, we wanted to make sure that we were still designing with an in-person audience in mind. As a result, we added a location service so users can navigate through the museum without a physical guide. 


Conclusions and Next Steps

Looking Back

  • Overall, the redesign of AMNH's app works to provide users with an immersive, gamified experience that stresses interactivity and social connection through share features and co-op exhibit gaming

  • While the original design was geared towards a fully VR setup, restructuring the design to function through smartphones and iPads broadens the app's reach. Combining this with accessibility features like larger text and audio options, the app is now formatted with accessibility as a priority

  • The next steps for continued development would involve moving towards gamifying the experience even further with customizable avatars and revamping the museum map to reflect a 3D rendering of the museum to imitate the experience of walking through the American Museum of Natural History

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