When TV4 approached us, consumers were watching less and less traditional television, a challenging fact to a company that derived its largest share of revenue from TV. How should the company meet changes in viewer behavior and future-proof their business?
TV4 had a simple but tough brief for us. They asked us to create a core that would support tomorrow’s digitized TV4.
For Daytona, this was an assignment that had everything: a long-term and result-oriented client who wanted to change their core business, a complex digital service that many people would use, an incredibly exciting market and, essentially, carte blanche.
However, there was a lot we needed to know before we could start building the service.
How do people watch TV online?
At the start of the project, the entire television industry was in the midst of revolutionary change and TV4 wanted to stay ahead of the competition. Digitization has caused a sharp increase in the number of competing distribution channels, platforms and operators. It has also resulted in changes in viewer behavior.
To be able to understand it — and particularly TV4’s circumstances, business models and content strategy — we conducted joint strategic work with TV4.Through our strategic work, we gained an in-depth understanding of:
- Viewer needs, behavior and contexts
- TV4’s business, editorial processes, etc.
- The television ecosystem and its operators
We got to know TV4 and its viewers
We used a broad spectrum of both qualitative and quantitative methods to understand tomorrow’s television viewing and its impact on TV4’s business.
Workshops with TV4
With the aim of understanding TV4’s current situation, we conducted a number of workshops with business managers, advertising sales managers and editorial managers.
Interviews with viewers
Furthermore, we conducted interviews with tv viewers in order to understand when, where and how they currently watch tv, and to identify their other behavior pertaining to broadcast content.
Web analysis of the previous service
By reviewing the data from the previous TV4 Play service, we were able to identify patterns in viewer behavior and confirm theories arising from the qualitative methods.
We read through a considerable amount of industry reports, expert blogs and other information in order to gain a clear overview of the television market and its development.
Identifying the competition
Daytona and TV4 jointly reviewed the direction taken by other, primarily international, media players. What should we avoid and what should we aspire to?
People do things differently! We must support this
Perhaps the most critical insight was that we could divide viewers into several groups — viewer categories — based on their behavior. Our interviews with viewers and our web analyses confirmed the existence of these groups. For example, we observed one group of viewers who caught up on what they had missed on “traditional” television, one group that planned to watch a particular live broadcast – such as a football match – and one group that surfed in to TV4 Play just to check if there was anything of interest for them to watch.
The viewer categories were a starting point for the service’s development: “What are the needs of the viewer who has planned to watch something?”
How we know that we succeeded
A vital component of every strategy is to set up targets and decide how progress can be measured. We conducted workshops with TV4, and together we identified a number of targets and milestones that could confirm the success of TV4 Play for us.
The milestones served as our guides through the project and continue to do so as we work to optimize and further develop the service.
Multiple platforms – one experience
Our design work proceeded from viewer categories: for example, what did catch-up viewers want to do and what did TV4 want them to do? We designed all the service’s structures and functionalities based on these strategic insights. Our guiding star was that a service such as TV4 Play – with virtually Sweden’s entire population as its target group – should feature great usability and convenient navigation.
We began by creating a general architecture for the service.
Creating a seamless experience
The service had to work on a large number of platforms. In our change work, we noted that the basic needs of all the viewer categories were the same, regardless of platform, although there were some platform-specific user needs. Another important conclusion was that every viewer used the service on more than one platform. This was something that our new design had to support, and which no other service at the time had actually succeeded in. The competing services offered highly inconsistent experiences depending on the platform used by the viewer. For example, the competitor’s solutions did not support situations where the same viewer would first watch the desired content on a smartphone and then switch to a computer. As we wanted TV4 Play to operate differently and better, we drafted a number of principles for the service’s architecture.
- Have the same basic functionality and structure regardless of platform.
- Proceed from the guidelines of each platform for interaction.
- Take into account every platform’s unique strengths, and meet unique viewer needs, if any.
- Offer a uniform experience when the viewer switches platforms – it should be perceived as a single service.
Easy for the viewer – profitable for TV4
The core of the service consists of different methods for viewers to discover, find and consume television content. We needed to make this core service as simple and smooth as possible, based on the different needs of the viewer categories.
There was also a commercial dimension that needed to be considered: the advertising products and the paying subscribers. How could we maximize the volume of both streams and conversions? To solve this equation, we identified a number of key functions.
The service features free content, content that requires various levels of subscriptions, and pay-per-view content. The challenge here was to package each respective category in a way that would be easy to understand for the users.
Purchasing access to content should be super-easy, hassle free and safe. Furthermore, an increasing number of people were watching content on their smartphones so the purchase flow had to work across platforms.
TV viewers select content according to their personal tastes and interests. Viewing would increase if the service could be customized so that each viewer was exposed to the content they were especially interested in.
We needed to create different types of navigation for different types of viewers. Some used the site menus; others used search functions, while some navigated through links and editorial material.
The video player needed to be a responsive stand-alone application that worked just as well in full-screen mode on a television with 1920x1080 resolution or embedded in sites as a 160-pixel version.
Innovative advertising formats
We realized that we could increase advertising revenue by offering new types of advertising formats, in addition to traditional television commercials. For example, Daytona and TV4 experimented with skins, t-commerce and native advertising.
Monitor and adjust, time and time again
Our design process is based on testing our designs on users as soon as possible. We try to understand why the trials turned out as they did and subsequently adjust the design based on our findings. Then we start over. In other words, it is an iterative process, where each iteration is a step on the way to an ever better end product. Our goal was to create a service that users would want to use or even better, love to use.
User results were analyzed, resulting in new insights and methods for resolving problems and creating new solutions.
We design prototypes based on what we know. At the onset of the project, the prototype comprised simple sketches on paper, but the level of detail gradually increased and by the end of the project, the prototype consisted of complete interface scripts.
We tested the prototype we designed on real-life users.
How we can help you to catch up on your viewing
A large percentage of visitors to TV4 Play belonged to the Catch-up viewer category, meaning that the viewers had missed a program on traditional TV and wanted to catch up online. Consequently, it was important to help these viewers find the programs they wanted to watch, particularly from the landing page. In this case, our insight into viewers’ needs resulted in our creation of a “The past week on TV” concept, a schedule-like content module that made it easy to find a program based on catch-up behavior.
The past week’s programs on the front page.
“Lifting TV intensity a notch!”
“TV intensity” was a central concept of the project. Different viewer categories demanded different levels of the “TV intensity.” For the project, we visualized the need as a slider control, where we placed a reclining television experience at one end and a forward-leaning, active, social web experience at the other. For a view to satisfy the needs of a specific viewer category, we could use the slider to communicate the intensity that the view should mediate. “Lifting TV intensity a notch!”
Visually, we did not want the design to take up a lot of space. Instead, we wanted the design to shift the focus on and to enhance the television content – what every viewer in fact came to see.
The visual expression evolved into what is currently used on the service – the evolution is still ongoing today. On one occasion, we completely reworked the visual aspect, after the TV4 Group updated its overall graphic profile.
Must be easy to understand and use
TV4 Play was, and continues to be, an information service of intensive interaction. The visual language we created had to be sufficiently rich to allow for the information and interaction to be expressed, while also being sufficiently restrained not to hinder clarity and accessibility. It also needed to work across platforms, with some customization. Our first version included a great deal of effects and ornamentation in the interface that took away both attention and space from the content. We wanted to simplify the interface in conjunction with the redesign (see above). We decided on a relatively flat and austere interface design, essentially free from any decorations other than for the sake of clarity.
Move the mouse over the image to enlarge.
Shortlisting the number of views
At the onset of the design process, we illustrated the entire service with all its conceivable views. For each view, we defined how the various viewer categories would likely prefer to interact within the design, as well as how TV4 would prefer them to interact. Ultimately, the number of generated views was practically unmanageable – from both technical and editorial perspectives, not to mention the budget and time. We needed to downsize. By generalizing and identifying common denominators, we succeeded in scaling down to fewer views – renditions that were far more elegant than in the versions prior to downsizing.
In addition to views that presented single objects (Program, Episode/Clip and Linear broadcasting), there were several views for navigation to content objects (Start, All programs, Sports and Search), as well as some help views that enabled the purchase of paid content.
Click on the image to zoom.
“It has to feel like an iPhone app”
In our work with the various platforms, we had two partly contradictory goals:
- It should feel like one and the same service regardless of platform.
- The iPhone app should feel like an iPhone app and the Android app like an Android app, etc.
Consequently, the challenge was to find a balance between the service’s identity and the platform’s interactive pattern.
What happened next?
Optimization, refinement and awards
The first minimum viable product (MVP) was launched in October 2010. Since then, we have been working hard together with TV4 to further develop the service with all the above-mentioned functions. Unfortunately, we are unable to share any outcomes for TV4 Play in terms of absolute figures. Let’s just say that the traffic trend and revenues from advertising and subscription have exceeded expectations. The service has also received a number of awards.
Part of the refinement process involved optimizing the service based on the metrics we established.
Our optimization process was nearly identical to our design process, with the difference that the trials were conducted in real-time using the actual service, rather than within a lab environment – and consequently, there is a large volume of quantitative data to analyze. For example, we jointly conducted a number of A/B-tests with TV4 to optimize the interface.
Optimization of the start view
“Daytona has had a significant and vital role in TV4’s journey toward digital platforms in the past few years. Daytona has jointly developed concepts and designs for our digital television services, and helped us to make daring and wise decisions, while consistently keeping the viewer in focus.”
Top 100 #2 2011
“TV4 is an expert at linking television content with web content. /.../ [TV4] establishes a presence that matches and occasionally exceeds their ambitions and offering of scheduled programs.”
Top 100 #1 2012
“The new TV4 Play, which allows for watching all of the TV4 Group’s television channels live by streaming, is unique and unprecedented in Sweden.”
App Store Best of 2012
According to Apple, TV4 Play’s iPad app was one of the best apps in 2012.
Three questions to Fredrik Jeppsson, Art Director
What were the key success factors?
— I would definitely say TV4’s long-term and agile, iterative development approach, combined with close collaboration.
What should have been done differently?
— Perhaps we should have aimed for an MVP from the onset to make faster progress. We put everything we could into the preliminary project phase, but were then forced to scale down, in order to finish. However, it wasn’t all a waste, as most of what we designed was eventually launched.
What are you most proud of?
— That the service feels coherent, despite the large number of platforms. It’s probably one of the reasons for the considerable increase in viewership (and revenues).
Roles in the project
- Strategy, concept & design: Daytona
- Web development: TV4, Valtech and Daytona
- iOS development: TV4, iDeal Apps, Fleecelabs
- Android development: iDeal Apps
- Flash development: Isotop