Formative evaluation is conducted when you have something to show your audience. You might try testing:
- Drafts of text panels, instructions, or even object labels
- Interactive prototypes
- Rough cuts of media pieces
Try showing a clipboard with two rough versions of a text panel to your visitors. Do they have a preference? Would they read the whole piece? Are they clear about what you are trying to communicate?
The USS Constitution Museum found formative evaluation extremely helpful. You can find many examples throughout the prototyping pages on this site. Many times during formative evaluations our audience suggested changes and additions we had not considered that improved the overall product significantly. We have come to see formative evaluation as making the audience a partner in exhibit development. Building exhibits is expensive, and formative evaluation can not be skipped if you are to be successful – especially with a family audience.