Tate Modern

Interactive Curated Tours at Tate Modern: A UX Case Study

The Tate Modern is an international gallery of modern art located in the formidable former Bankside Power Station in London. The Tate modern forms part of the wider Tate group spanning the UK and attracts over 5million visitor per year - second only to the British Museum but not by much.


Our team had the opportunity to provide a responsive native application to increase engagement at the gallery. Allow visitors to track the most interesting art and displays they discover on their trip.


Methodology: Lean UX // Timeframe: 2 weeks // Team: 4 UX designers


At the time of receiving the concept brief, the Tate Modern did not have any apps - either for the gallery as a whole or any individual exhibitions. Their website allowed visitors to locate what was on and book tickets for exhibitions and is fairly extensive and easy to use.

Contextual inquiries exposed a disconnect from the online digital experience to visiting the Tate Modern. The vastness hits visitors upon arrival often leaving gallery goers feeling overwhelmed. Wandering ensues.

Competitive Analysis

We looked at a number of large galleries in London like the Barbican, science museum and the V&A plus international galleries such as MoMa and The Guggenheim. The main takeaways were:

  • Barbican had apps design specifically for their temporary exhibitions.
  • Science Museum app designed for post learning exhibitions
  • No galleries offered a way to document what visitors have seen on their trip
  • No galleries had dedicated apps covering the whole gallery experience.

  • User Research

    We conducted a number of gorilla interviews at the Tate.

    I have an hour what should I see?"

  • Visitors often took photographs of the exhibits. This was for social sharing and/or documentation
  • Visitors found navigation confusing.
  • Majority of visitors didn't know what they wanted to see.
  • A Physical guide, just one guy, would often drop them off.

  • Screener & Interviews

    With the help of a screener we targeted and interviewed 17 gallery-goers to understand more about their gallery experience:
  • Visitors wander, they aren't sure where to go
  • They don't know how to describe art.
  • Audioguides aren't fulfilling peoples needs but people do use them
  • Define

    Through the process of affinity mapping we were able to find key trends:

  • Visits were documented for sharing with friends, memories or research.
  • The majority don't engage with Audio guides and find them primitive.
  • Want to intuitively wanderer and disliked for being controlled.
  • We also found there were two main categories of visitors

  • The Social Visitor: Visiting in groups for a social experience with no set plan.
  • The Culture Vulture: Going alone to specific exhibitions for research and further learning.
  • We focused our attention on the social visitor as that was the majority of users we had spoken to and created a primary user persona, Hannah. Hannah is an art fan but not an expert and likes spending time with friends. She wants to enjoy the gallery experience and share it on social platforms. Hannah finds it hard to decide collectively with her friends what to see and needs an easier way to decide what to see.

    Experience map

    We mapped out Hannahs current Tate journey, tasks and experience to help understand her feelings.

    Problem statement


    By mapping out the features based on priority and effort we could understand how best to solve the problem. A curated guide with fun treasure hunt style features.

    Feature Prioritisation (MoSCoW)From here we set out Hannah's user flow taking into account primary features in order to solve her problem.

    Style guide

    I personally took charge of the visual design side. Tate has a very clear visual identity and lots to draw from which made it easy. Consultancy North's rebranded Tate logo was the starting point. I then took inspiration from the architecture, posters from present and past as well key colours used on the website and within the gallery.

    This gave us a monotone base with flashes of colour which reflects the physical experience.

    Prototyping & Testing

    Wireflow ideation with each team member sketching the screens and dot voting. 4 becomes 1. It saw the birth of our famous artist guide in the guise of Salvador Dali.

    With the help of the Marvel app, we headed to the Tate Modern armed with our paper prototype where we tested with a number of gallery visitors.

    Visitors would choose: Their guide // set their preferences // Choose their trail // Carry out tasks // Get rewards // Complete trail, collect rewards and share

    We carried out a number of rounds of iterations and user testing, synthesising our findings at each stage moving from a lo-fidelity to high-fidelity design. Some of the key decisions included:

    Points and rewards

    1. The gamified elements of points and rewards were detracting users from the artwork. Visitors liked the idea of potential free rewards but not at the expense of the gallery experience. Some users didn't know what they would share on.
    2. Can I save this if I can send later?' This would be decided not to be part of the MVP so we amended the button.

    Preferences iterations

    Too man options and keywords made users feel stupid // Still unsure of preferences and results often got lost // Reduced the number of options

    1. 'Too Many Options' and users were confused. Didn't know or want to set a duration. Keywords made people feel 'stupid' as they didn't know what to put.
    2. Title introduction helped some clarity. Users were still unsure about what preferences to put with topics. Results from the filters were often missed.
    3. Simplified options. We set the curated tours and reduced the cognitive load. Time was introduced as an approx guideline.

    The trail/tour tasks/activities

    1. Users felt that the word "tasks" made it feel like they were in school or doing homework. They were unclear as to where they were, what they were and should be doing next.
    2. Users still felt unsure as to the order of the trail and how it works - the majority quoting "I just want to be on the first activity". The Location map was also not clear both in clarity and visibility. "Can I start over" a regular quote".
    3. Users were now set straight on their way and would be lead. The map would give users the freedom to wander.

    Tour start

    1. Users thought they had started the tour already when landing on the tour info screen. The "I like this trial" was too confusing quoting - "Have I previously liked this trial?"
    2. Users still felt the tour had started and the guide was missed due to having to scroll. Reviews felt too much info and not valued.
    3. Brought the guide up and altered the text slightly to help with clarity. Reduced reviews to highlighted quotes with a link to more if required.


    Prototype demo

    Next steps

  • Adding user profiles. Save tours and memories in a journal.
  • Accessibility for visually impaired: Introduction of beacons and audio. guide.
  • Increase the number of languages.
  • Increase social share options post profile implementation.
  • Reflection

    I think the feedback we received was very positive often quoting: "they would use it". Rolling out the core elements of the app now and if proved popular then the next steps could make this a very worthy addition to the gallery (with some tweaks). One area I think we fall short on is the social share options and not developing what that actually looks like. We maybe spent too much time in other areas. Overall it was an exciting project working in a great team.

    Feedback is welcomed and encouraged so please share it. I'm also happy to answer any questions you may have.

    Idea? Opportunity? Chat?

    If you have a project or position you wish to discuss then please drop me a line. I'm currently available for freelance, contract and permanent roles.