The brief for this project was to increase connection...a broad assignment. With this in mind, I noticed at the next family get together groups of people of all ages discussing TV series like Breaking Bad and how easily someone from a nearby group could join in with a comment like “If you like Breaking Bad, you’ll love Orange is the New Black.” I wondered, is there something here to be harnessed in an app to help people stay connected?
After following the entire UX Design process, the solution became an extension of Netflix to invite friends and family to a Netflix Party. The actual party includes a “second screen” experience, using an smartphone or tablet to share comments while the movie plays on the main screen.
Using a prepared script, I asked and recorded participants about how they keep connected with friends and family, especially those who they don’t see on a regular basis and the aunt/uncle, niece/nephew relationships that don’t have built-in communication habits. I also asked about easy conversation starters and the consequences of awkward conversations. They answered questions on how TV shows or movies plays into these conversations. I transcribed the recorded interviews onto post-it notes and created an Affinity Map.
• Connection -- and the pain of losing connection -- was much more important than any benefit such as getting good recommendations for what show to watch. Although, participant felt person-to-person recommendations were very helpful and that auto-generated recommendations were mostly not helpful, it was the connection and easy conversation that was valuable.
• The majority of people we interviewed used Facebook to keep connected; however the people who didn’t use Facebook were in more dire need of methods to stay connected so it would be wrong to conclude that a Facebook solution would solve the problem.
• Technology and age stereotypes did not hold true in our sample. Some college-age participants preferred to make phone calls; some middle-aged participants preferred Facebook and texting to phone calls.
• Although binge-worthy TV was a pretty light-hearted subject, the topic of losing connection when you don’t have anything in common to discuss was deeply emotional. More than one person mentioned the spiral of disconnection, that once the connection had gone stale it was even more difficult to revive it.
The Persona creation shaped what was to become Netflix Party at such a fundamental level that it is impossible to talk about the app without them.
• Alan: the Participant and Daniel: the Connector see completely different screens and options. Alan, who would be unlikely to ever create an invitation sees only the options to respond and join a party.
• We needed to pay attention to the fact that Alan’s experience takes place outside of the confines of the app and smooth the path for him to join into a technology-driven experience.
• Lauren: the Hybrid who is sometimes a participant and sometimes a host didn’t need separate screens. It worked fine for her to use those designed for Daniel and Alan.
Having a storyboard gave me the chance to quickly communicate the concept to collaborators and my mentor. Twice I was told that something like that existed. I checked them out and found that while there were a couple of similar concepts, they failed to take into account the difference between our Daniel and Alan personas which validated both the need and my unique approach.
What I learned is that in order to make Alan’s user flow very simple, I had to remove features.
Synthesize, Analyze, Strategize
With Personas, User Flows, Competitive assessment, Wishlist of Features created, I was able to consider the ideal strategy which led to the following directives:
• Focus on product as add-on the Netflix; drop the idea of making it work for Xfinity, Amazon video etc.
• Create MVP (minimum viable product) with three functions: Daniel's invitation creation, Alan's receiving invitaion by email, and both watching the movie together.
Using Sketch, I imported the hand sketched wireframes as the base layer. Then I drew the wireframes on the next layer and added annotations.
Since we were combining the familiar concepts of watching movies and party invitation into a less familiar idea -- watching movies remotely as a party -- I purposely referred to established visual symbols and only diverged when making the point that the party takes place online.
• Let the art of the movie posters serve as the variety since it is effective communication as well as interesting “eye candy.”
• Take advantage of the visual patterns established by printed invitations and Evite to efficiently create a “party atmosphere.”
• Show around 5 variations of the invitation style to allow for customization without overwhelming.
With prototype in hand, I was able to look over the shoulder of test participants as they navigated the proposed Netflix Party app’s invitation process.
• Although it had been a top priority, inviting non-Facebook participants got lost in the details. The function was there but not as prominent as it needed to be.
• A “Come watch at my house” option will be added based on the suggestion of a participant. It was one of those obvious ideas that we hadn’t thought of but would be a great way to increase connectedness.
• People wanted more assurance that their invitation wouldn’t be sent until they specifically requested it to send; that’s how it works but obviously that wasn’t clear.
• “When will this be available for us to use?” was a comment I heard from over half of the participants.
As a modified test of actually watching the movie together, I took the opportunity to watch Road to El Dorado -- a childhood favorite of my son Jackson who was sick and alone in his dorm room halfway across the country. He didn’t want to sleep the afternoon away because then he’d be up all night. It was the perfect time to watch a movie. It wasn’t very elegant but we talked on the phone to que up the movie on Netflix and push “Start” at the same time. Then we hung up and switched to Facebook messenger to share comments. We both belly laughed when we simultaneously typed “Umbrella!” when the evil sorcerer paused to add a cocktail umbrella to the bubbling goblet of potion. After the movie ended we talked on the phone for a couple of minutes reliving some of the funnier minutes and we both agreed it felt like hanging out together.