When we produce an interactive, our clients want to know how their visitors use and experience what we’ve built. How do visitors navigate the space or engage with an interactive? How do they use digital experiences, and how can we measure an interactive’s success (or failure)?

When we build digital experiences for an exhibition, we incorporate qualitative and quantitative methods to learn how to improve these interactives over time. Google Analytics provides detailed reporting about your in-gallery interactives, and we’ll explain how to make the most of this tool.

Start by Defining Success

At the beginning of your project, define goals for this experience with your team. What do you want visitors to learn, feel, or discover from the exhibit as a whole or from this particular digital component?

Success looks different for every project. When building an interactive iPad application about a Chinese temple ceiling for an art museum client, their goal was to get visitors to look at and engage with the ceiling. Compare that to Eastern State Penitentiary’s Prisons Today interactives, where the goal was to educate users on the rationales behind why prisons are created and give them the opportunity to consider which of those reasons they think are important.

Capture Meaningful Data

Once you know how you’ll evaluate if the experience is successful, identify what data points you need to quantify those goals. Custom events (tracking user interaction with content), and page/screen tracking are the primary way to track your interactives in Google Analytics.

Page/Screen Tracking

Example of a page/screen tracking report. Pageviews and Avg Time on Page columns show you if one of the pages of your interactive is underperforming or stalling your users.

For instance, if your goal is to get visitors to look at the temple ceiling overhead, tracking data about how visitors use the device to view the ceiling will help you evaluate how engaged they are with it. We tracked the amount of time and the number of times visitors used the app’s “overhead” view to explore the ceiling in detail, as well as the number of hotspots they interacted with. In What Are Prisons For?, one of the interactives at Eastern State Penitentiary, we tracked how far into the experience people went and how much time they spent (reading and voting)—success was getting individuals to consider these challenging ideas and think critically about them.

Use the Data

As you collect data, you’ll want to review it on a regular basis to look for trends. Setting up custom dashboards in Google Analytics—one for each goal, each with their own data points—will help you more easily keep track and review. You can set up reports for each dashboard to receive automated emails to your inbox on a schedule.

Page/Screen Tracking

Analytics data is great for evaluating usability issues that visitors may encounter during their experience, as well as finding “unknowns” that you can test further through user testing. For instance, when working on the What Are Prisons For? interactive for Prisons Today, we found that individuals left the experience before the final pay-off by tracking the screens they interacted with.

Page/Screen Tracking

Taken from seven days of sample data. There was a significant drop off in visitors at the end of the experience, right before the summary. We needed to understand why people were skipping this final step!

After some informal user testing on site, we were able to identify the problem: visitors didn’t realize there was more to the experience. By making a simple change to the design of the questionable screen, individuals were able to make it through the full experience without issue. We were able to both find the problem and track it’s resolution through the analytics data.

Learning how visitors use digital interactives can be challenging, but collecting and evaluating analytics data is a critical part of the evaluation process. By framing what you track around your goals and using Google Analytics efficiently, you can begin to understand how visitors experience the digital projects you produce and make well-informed improvements to them based on that data.