Imperial War Museum

Improving the experience of condition reporting for industrial and large objects at Imperial War Museum

Founded as the Imperial War Museum in 1917, the museum was intended to record the civil and military war effort and sacrifice of Britain and its Empire during the First World War.

The Imperial War Museum Duxford holds Britain’s largest aviation collection of military vehicles, aircraft and navy vessels on public display with hundreds of visitors daily. 

Duxford Britian’s largest Aviation museum

In Duxford a small team of IWM conservators work on restoring large military objects. For decades they have been documenting their conservation process in paper form which can take up time if there are exhibition time constraints. Looking to move their current paper documentation system onto the Adlib collection management system, Imperial War Museum approached Digirati to research ways to improve the current system to suit the way Large Object Conservators work daily in the hangar and in the office.

Conducting contextual interviews in the workplace

Digirati's research for IWM

We devised a lean UX plan using user research, user journey mapping and an innovation workshop to produce user stories and sketches.

UX discovery activities for Condition Checking and Conservation

Crafting insights with contextual interviews

We conducted one-on-one interviews with the conservators/engineers in their own work environment. A script was composed to ensure the interviews stay on topic and cover points from an unbiased, neutral perspective.

Work environment and file system

We took this opportunity to gather as much contextual information as possible: location, equipment used, activities performed and feelings experienced for carrying out particular work activities in the current system.

Analysing contextual interviews to understand the user journey

In the end we produced 5 hours of interview answers to help us analyse the conservators’ workflow. Using post-it notes and a whiteboard, we placed our findings in clusters and groups to highlight current painpoints, user quotes and opportunities.

Using post-its to form the customer journey map

Defining the user journey

To understand the user type we were designing for, we created a persona to helped us understand the key characteristics and traits of a working Large Object Conservator and their context. We then created a user journey map to show the current workflow, touch points and pain points to identify areas for improvement within their current workflow.

We also plotted an emotional graph showing the users feelings and quotes towards work activities and and devices.

Emotional graph showing feelings and user quotes

Co-design with the IMW stakeholders

A facilitated workshop with the Imperial War Museum stakeholders used sketching and brainstorming to produce different concepts for the redesign. We looked at potential ideas that make the conservation recording method more effective and efficient, including using a mobile phone to capture photos and power tagging keywords instead of typing words from scratch.

Exploring different options for a new user flow

Prototype a responsive archiving tool

The next day in the Digirati office the UX team focused on mapping out the user flow and creating a set of wireframes as an initial prototype. The design offers a new set of features and navigation that provide a more mobile experience for conservation engineers to work on site.


The results

Imperial War Museum now has a set of designs for an intuitive and responsive archive tool accessible across all device types. This gives the Conservators the mobile flexibility to work both in the hanger, or in the office.

Other key features include:

  • Speech-to-text notes to save time from typing notes.
  • Predicted text word tagging when writing records
  • Direct photo upload from mobile devices
  • Tagging on photos