Improving visitor experience

A visitor experience review addresses the quality and range of experiences on offer and how these relate to different audiences. This is often a first step to creating a site that will attact a more diverse audience. It helps ensure that all visitors have the opportunity for a full and engaging overall visit, even if they don't all have access to the same individual features and activities.

Research has shown that sensory-rich environments are places that attract a diverse range of visitors and have benefits for disabled people - particularly those with sensory impairments such as visual impairment or learning disabilities. As part of a visitor exerience review we address the range of opportunities for people to engage with a place through their different senses. The review can inform a redesign, an access review or plans for visitor interpretation, helping to identify priorities for access improvements and new design work.

One of the review techniques we use is Sensory Mapping, an approach developed by the Sensory Trust to quantify the sensory experiences of a site. Everyone has a favourite spot in a park or open space, and everyone has places they feel uncomfortable in. It's often assumed that this is simply down to personal preferences and that individual taste can't be quantified in any meaningful way but Sensory Mapping gives results that enable site managers to identify areas of sensory richness and plan access improvements accordingly.

We also advise on the development of spaces that deliberately carry a more concentrated collection of sensory-rich experiences. Sensory Gardens and Sensory Trails are ways of leading visitors through a mix of sensory-rich experiences. They add another layer of richness to a site, improving the visitor experience and encouraging repeat visitors. Examples of work include the sensory garden at the Eden Project and the development of a trail at Stourhead Gardens for the National Trust to complement their existing historic or nature-focused trails.

Typically, a review will include:

One site visit and discussion with site manager/developer followed by a written illustrated report to assess;

  • The existing sensory experiences of the location
  • The accessibility of these sensory experiences, including identifying barriers to access
  • Opportunities to enhance the existing sensory experience
  • A prioritisation of these enhancements
  • Identification of possible additional sensory experiences, and suggestions of ways to achieve them
  • A prioritisation of these new sensory experiences
  • Consideration to the short and longer term development of the site

Results from a review usually include:

  • A written and illustrated report that clearly identifies the points listed above
  • It will identify landscape infrastructure, furniture, planting, and art installations that are positively or negatively contributing to the experience
  • It will identify management and maintenance practices that can enhance the existing sensory richness
  • It will identify associated issues that influence the sensory richness of the location, for example signage

What next?

Contact us to discuss your requirements and expectations and we can talk through what we can do to help. In the meantime you might want to read our free factsheet on the access chain: an inclusive design tool.