Apps in UK museums: present and near future


30 October, 2013

Apps in UK museums: present and near future

The Museums Association has published its Mobile Museum Survey (2013) for the second consecutive year. The survey was conducted at 175 institutions in the UK. 50% of this country’s museums offer interactive technologies for smartphones, which proves the increasing influence apps are having on the arts, in culture and in society in general. Of the remaining 50%, 19% plan to introduce this technology in the near future. Even if there is a vast number of a mobile offerings, today we would like to focus exclusively on apps.

The results show a high interest in innovation and investment in mobile technology in the UK; an initiative aimed mainly at improving the visitor experience (68%), leaving income generation (17%) a distant second. Other objectives are: offering additional content (67%), attracting new visitors (33%) or providing access to users with special needs (27%). In this way, just as the 75% of institutions claimed, the initiative targets all audiences, although the younger sector (teens and under 35 years) is receiving more attention.

Android and Apple mobile app systems are winning the battle against other formats like mobile-optimized websites which offer less convenient access for the user. Despite the preference – or passion! – for QR codes (66% are already using this tool), Android smartphone applications represent 36% of total investment. Apple apps, meanwhile, comprise 39% of the British museum sector. However, according to the survey results, the proportion will reverse in the next 12 months, highlighting the dominance of Android over Apple, with 57% and 54% respectively. The possibility of choosing the type of access, free or at a cost, makes using the applications easier. A combination of both is gradually becoming more popular.

Despite the profound impact of mobile technology in museums, only 50% of these institutions offer free WIFI, of which 43% are closed networks which work with user registration. It is striking to compare the rapid rise of implantation of apps versus WIFI connections, even more so when the 59% who do not offer this service do not plan to do so soon. Budget constraints, lack of appropriate technology and knowledge are also to blame for the current situation. The lack of financial and personnel resources is the biggest barrier when implementing this technology.