Full Case Study
Unity Productions Foundation (UPF) is a media company with a mission to end bigotry and build peace. Their documentary films have been viewed by an estimated 150 million people worldwide and have won dozens of national and international awards. I worked with them on their social media strategy and on four of the company's websites.
When I joined UPF's team, they had just begun plans to launch a new site that would offer significant changes to the organization's model of revenue generation, and their viewers' access to their collection of documentary films. This was new territory for UPF, and an exciting project to be a part of from the start.
The problem UPF Theater aimed to solve was clear. UPF is a media company that produces documentary films with an aim for reduced bigotry and greater peace. They run on this social mission, and as a part of this they host and collaborate with community organizations across the country to hold public viewings and dialogue events. At the start of this project all UPF films were accessible to these community based organizations through an independent fulfillment company. This method presented three core challenges to UPF: 1) Costs go up through payments to the fulfillment company, 2) advanced planning needed as this process can take weeks, and 3) the potential for communication challenges between UPF, community organizations, and the fulfillment company was quite high.
UPF Theater began as a solution to these challenges, allowing organizations to stream full length documentaries instantly, removing the need to pay an external fulfillment company, and creating a new revenue stream through this "pay per view" tool.
Besides the benefits to revenue and smooth process by nature of the new platform, UPF had additional goals in mind:
- Increase value to viewers (ie. an improved user experience around UPF films) through instant access from any device
- Improved organizational online presence and a new means to promote new and past UPF films
UPF's Executive Director managed the project. Development and design was largely outsourced. When I joined the team, I took a lead on interface mock ups, particularly around individual film pages. I also worked closely with the external team of developers as the main point of contact at UPF.
Film Page Wireframe Sketches
With limited time allotted, and with the project already in motion, the team decided to focus energy on the film pages, which are the pages of the site that will convert users by enabling them to purchase/rent and begin watching their films. I quickly put together six initial ideas for the page structure, with varying CTAs (calls to action), styles, functionalities, and hierarchies. The core team was looking for a Netflix inspired look and feel, but I wanted to offer a number of style options for the team to think more broadly about different directions.
STRUCTURE & DESIGN
After these sketches and discussions with the team, we put together higher fidelity mock ups building on the style the team decided on. The first screen shot (left side) was proposed as the landing page of UPF Theater. Though it contained all the elements and content areas the team asked for, I had two reflections on it regarding usability and experience.
- Weak Call to Action - If you look hard you will see "Watch this film for free" on the banner image, and a large play button in the center. The text blends in and is not differentiated, and the same can be said for the play button. We expect a button like this, so it may work, but users will likely ask themselves what will happen when they click it. Overall, imagining we are users who landed on this page, I'm not confident we would know what we're doing there, and what UPF wants us to do next.
- Content Overload - Looking below the main banner, we have places the film have been shown, a wide grid of other UPF films available to watch, clips from other films, and other miscellaneous content that seems to keep going. The content here is image heavy, and likely will be confusing to sift through. Is this level of content what the user expects or wants? It may all have value and be interesting, but is this the page to display it on? Likely not, and in our discussions we decided to move to a more minimal design for this page.
The second screen shot to the right shows the final mock up we arrived at for the film pages. You will notice that we've moved in the direction of clear call to action and minimal content. My critique on this page now would include these points.
- Main Buttons Undifferentiated - We have two buttons front and center. Where do I click? Where does UPF want me to click? Ultimately they want you to purchase the film, but watching the trailer could be a means to get there and build interest. Regardless, looking back on this project it would be advisable to emphasize the "purchase film" button, or conduct an A/B test with users to see if behavior changes.
- Social Sharing Unnecessary - Social share icons are often something thrown onto a user interface as it's seen as a given. Of course, we all want people to share our offerings on social media. But at what cost? In this case, the more minimal the interface the better. Let's ask our user to share at the right time, and at the right point in the interface. Directly below the film title probably isn't the right place.
With the site live, we conducted an initial test with a modest sample set. We contacted individuals within the organizational network to give a first look at the site and give them an opportunity to explore it's functionality and watch any films they wished. Along with this early access, we asked that they complete a 10 question survey. In exchange for their involvement in the test, UPF gave each participant a $10 Amazon gift card.
In crafting the survey, our goal was to extract user insights related to:
- Stream vs. purchase
- Duration of access options
- Film popularity/draw
- Means of sharing
Through the survey we learned the following key insights that would impact the site's design:
- Quality of Product - Users commented that the film and sound quality was very low at times, even unwatchable. This required us to go back to our technical specs to find where we could make improvements. If we lost in this aspect, UPF Theater would have no chance to succeed.
- User Guidance - As mentioned above, Calls to Action needed to be clearer on the site. Users commented that they were unsure of what they were meant to do. Also, in the payment process, there was little to no explanation of the different pricing levels.
- Unnecessary Time Restraints - One aspect of our pricing was to have multiple levels, whether a user wanted one day, one week, or 30 day access. A user made an excellent comment that UPF will have a cost with each view, but it is likely a user will only view once. Whether we give them access for a day, or 30 days, the cost will likely be the same for UPF. From a customer service standpoint, giving the user more freedom of time would be a win-win. This comment was very helpful for us in thinking about pricing, and models for streaming access.