It’s 2017, cell phones are ubiquitous. Almost every museum visitor will have their own personal device during their visit. This is why many museums are implementing Mobile interpretive tools. Mobile interpretive tools are a powerful way to personalize a visitor’s experience.
However, implementing a mobile strategy is difficult. One difficulty is the expense. Another difficulty is a poor user experience. Additionally, a static mobile app is difficult for anyone but a programmer to update.
However, using WordPress we can tackle all of these difficulties. In this talk, we will cover a few implementation strategies. We will go over all of the moving parts including the WordPress backend and content editing workflow, and the mobile front end.
We will discuss challenges of implementing such a program with the intent to equip technologists and those who work with them with the framework to understand such an implementation.
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This weekend, I had the opportunity to present a talk at WordCamp DC. My topic was using the WordPress REST API as the mobile backend for an exhibit tour app.
The reason I wanted to do the talk was that I got very interested in using WordPress in museums after hearing a talk about that in WordCamp US 2016. After that, I started researching technology in museums and devouring everything I could.
In my research, I learned that a lot of museums want custom apps. Since museums are each so individual having a customizable CMS backend powering the app was important. But many were suffering from limited closed source CMS backends because it was just too expensive to build a backend from scratch.
However, since the release of the REST API that’s no longer the case. Now WordPress can be the customizable CMS backend that most museums can use.
So in the talk, I presented how WordPress can be implemented in this manner. I walked them through implementing a custom content model, to implementing image annotations in the WordPress backend. You can see all the slides here.
The talk was well received! It was such an awesome experience having people come up and say ‘thanks, this is exactly what we are working on and this is such a big help’
I learned a lot while doing the talk. It’s always stressful presenting on technical topics because you never know where your audience is yet. I was worried that I would alienate a lot of people because it was programmer focused. However, I got some great advice that really helped this time around. Here it is:
- Trust that the audience will meet you halfway.
- Expect this to be the start of their journey. Don’t expect to teach them everything about this implementation.
And it worked! The best feedback I received was these notes an attendee took of my talk:
These notes hit all of the points I wanted to hit perfectly. She wrote down all the right takeaways. I was really happy to see that.
In doing this talk I learned a lot of technical things like:
- Modifying REST API endpoints
- Android Development
- Using Sketch
I also learned a lot of domain specific things like:
- How most tour apps work
- What the ecosystem of technologies in a museum is
- The basic ideas of interpretive strategy
But, I think the most important thing I learned was how to communicate the need-to-knows of a technical solution to non-programmers and stakeholders effectively.
I want to turn all the things I had a chance to cover and some I didn’t into a series of blogs.
Here is what I’m thinking:
1. Modeling an Exhibit
- exhibit items vs stops
- Content lifecycle is tied to Exhibit lifecycle
- Custom post type (out putting it in the REST API)
- WordPress Admin Area mapping
- REST API endpoint + mapping
- _embed parameter
- Meta data in REST API endpoint
- Tours as groups of exhibit items
- Custom Taxonomy (outputting it into the REST API)
- Tour term meta data + REST API output
- Accessing it in the REST API
- Filtering exhibit items with the tour id
2. Modifying WordPress content Entry Workflow for mobile apps
- Input validation
- How to filter the endpoint output
- QR code walkthrough
- Numerical id walk through
- Image Recognition Discussion
4. Wysiwyg presentation
- What core features are lost with the REST API
- What you need to rebuild if using REST API
- Saving Presentation configuration data to the backend with the REST API.