Having been a practicing artist for more than 15 years I have always found joy and inspiration when visiting galleries to seeing what other artists are exhibiting. However, in a city like Melbourne, with its vibrant arts scene, it is easy to lose touch with the latest exhibitions and events.

People viewing my recent exhibition — Tension 19

Keeping up to date with the latest exhibitions becomes a mundane and time-consuming task of searching websites, while gallery email newsletters clog up your inbox.

Three months ago, during the Melbourne Art Fair, a close friend who is a well know art curator commented to me, “It is so hard to find what events are on in Melbourne, there is no easy art guide that I can look at.” He also commented that unlike other Australian cities where galleries can be found in either a main cultural precinct or clustered in one or two suburbs, Melbourne’s galleries were spread right across the city.

This is how the docent was born.

Click here to view a interactive prototype

What is the docent?

A docent is the name typically given to a person who acts as a guide in a museum or art gallery. It also became the name for an app I developed which helps art lovers find and locate art exhibitions and events in Melbourne.


To assist people to find out more about what events are happening in the Melbourne art scene.


I suspected the problem was that it was hard and overly complicated for art lovers to find out what is currently happening at Melbourne’s art galleries.

| Discovery and Research

Working on a project that had links to my own experience I was acutely aware that my opinions shouldn’t direct the outcome of the research. In order to make evidence-based decisions I started to explore with a simple question:

How are people finding out about current exhibitions?


  • has up to date information of exhibitions and events
  • users needed to be aware of the space to follow and find out information


  • users enjoyed having the ability to view large format images of the exhibition and this was a key factor in helping them decide if they would attend
  • lack of information about the exhibition, have to go about visiting another site — the two step process was frustrating

Email subscriptions

  • great for when you a visiting gallery often
  • users needed to be aware of the gallery space to be signed up to mailing list
  • if users were not from Melbourne they didn’t want to be signed up to list
  • Email newsletters filled up the users email inbox and became annoying

Gallery websites

  • up to date information about evens and times
  • awareness of gallery prior to looking
  • information about multiple spaces within the one venue were often not on the one website

Art Almanac

  • allowed for searches in particular suburbs
  • magazine version contains more information than online
  • lack of detail online, not up to date, only has written content

Art Guide

  • has a strong image presence
  • only able to search by State which limits content to paid listings of major institutions and commercial spaces

What’s on Melbourne

  • up to date listings of all galleries, but is constrained by the Melbourne City Council geographic area
  • information fragmented between gallery information and event details

Conducting user interviews

A series of interviews with both art enthusiasts and gallerists explored the following:

Experiences of searching for events

Information that is needed to visit gallery

Their decision making process to visit a particular gallery

Process taken to inform public about exhibition

I asked open questions during the interviews and employed the “5 Whys” as an iterative interrogative technique to gain deeper insights into the problems associated with locating current art exhibitions.

Affinity mapping of the user research

|| Defining the Research

Key insights and trends quickly emerged from user research including:

  • accessibility of information in one place
  • when visiting a gallery the user is more likely to visit more than one in the same area
  • users plan visits when on holidays or when visiting large cultural institutions
  • most likely to use mobile device to search
  • users indicated they often were not sure where to start searching for information
  • had to search multiple sites to find information
  • users found it difficult to locate up-to-date information
  • users often decided to visiting gallery based on the image and description of exhibition

Interestingly, the user interviews began to influence the design of the app, with users identifying the following as priorities:

Final design for content page of the Docent
  • images are fundamental to the design
  • disability access information
  • a small description of exhibition
  • clear information of opening times
  • map to assist with locating the venue
  • suburb search function


Two personas were created from the outcome of the user research. It was clear that everyone interviewed had experienced being in their own city looking for an event to go to, and also, being a traveler in a foreign city searching for events that might interest them.

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