Designing an iPlayer experience that parents and children love
Designing the best ever live experience on BBC iPlayer
Designing the best ever live experience on BBC iPlayer
—— 00. THE CONTEXT
Roughly one third of content consumed in iPlayer is children’s content, played through adult accounts - and so children are an important part of iPlayer’s audience that are potentially currently being underserved.
My role within this project was to help deliver a new children’s iPlayer experience on smart TV’s, seeing the entirety of the project from start to finish. This involved engaging in user research and testing sessions, hosting ideation workshops, building designs and prototypes, and working with multiple teams to oversee and help with the initial build and release.
—— 00. THE CONTEXT
No one covers live coverage quite like the BBC. Our aim for this project was to incrementally improve the experience of watching live events in iPlayer, beating any other means of watching by the 2022 Winter of Sport. Showcasing live content in iPlayer is key to shifting the audiences perception of iPlayer.
My role within this project was to support the research, ideation and build for the TV platform. Throughout, I worked as part of a large multi-disciplinary and cross-location team. I collaborated with designers, developers, product and editorial.
Kick-off: Autumn 2019
Duration: 8 months
—— 01. THE BRIEF
Children are watching less linear TV. As the way children consume content shifts towards video on demand services like YouTube and Netflix, we need to be drawing more children into an experience that is more suited to their watching habits, and iPlayer is the perfect contender for this.
Our ambition was to make it easy for parents and guardians and their children aged 0-6 to get a relevant iPlayer experience, that they love - working towards four objectives:
—— 02. THE DELIVERABLE
Children can easily find something to watch thanks to child-friendly categories, that let them pick and browse between Trending, Drama, Funny and Cartoons – as well as giving easy access to the CBeebies and CBBC channels.
The children’s experience has been designed to give confidence to parents and carers that kids are watching suitable shows – with content curated from across CBeebies, CBBC and other suitable BBC programmes and brands.
To make the service even more special, we gave it a a distinctive, bright and bold design - helping children and parents understand that this is a dedicated experience just for them. As children recognise characters more than the titles of shows, we've implemented a character row too, which makes it easy for children to quickly get to their favourite shows.
The search function has also been safeguarded, but includes a list of titles that aren't children's shows, but are suitable for kids, such as Blue Planet and Baby Chimp Rescue.
A screen recording showing the one click entry experience on TV
We have made it easier than ever to access iPlayer for children on TV . With the click of a button, kids can seamlessly get to a space just for them.
—— 03. THE RESEARCH
Before conducting our own primary research, we first built a library of competitor analysis of other video on demand services and how they provide children’s content. This gave us an understanding of the market and helped to create a benchmark for our new experience.
We also spoke with multiple teams across the BBC who have conducted research in this area, including the iPlayer web team who had begun working on a similar objective for children months prior.
It was also important for myself and others in the team to gain skills into working with children, something we hadn’t done before. To do this, we actively sought out tips and advice from other teams across the BBC who had experience in this area, and undertook courses on working with children. This prepared us to maximise on outcomes and learnings from our research sessions.
Examples of activities I produced to keep children entertained during research sessions.
In order to gain insight into what makes a great video on demand experience for children and their parents, we built an understanding by conducting phone interviews with parents to identify any anxieties or concerns around letting their children use video on demand services. From this, we learned:
→ On TV, the need to monitor is greater than the need to control:
→ TV is much more of a family viewing experience:
→ Parental controls and guidance aren’t always trusted:
We also visited 8 homes in the Manchester and Liverpool area to talk to parents (with kids age 0-6) about what level of safeguarding they wanted for a kids experience. We used a suite of design stimulus to help provoke conversations around what safeguarding features parents found valuable. A critical insight from this research was that parent's generally preferred curated safe content for their child compared to parental features.
—— 04. THE PROCESS
With a solid foundation of research, we now began thinking divergently. We held multiple workshops, from open briefs exploring ‘What might a children’s iPlayer experience look like?’, to more focussed experiential briefs looking at how we might use animation to create more playful experiences for children.
A workshop exploring how we might make content items more playful for children.
We also began working closely with the web team to start thinking about how we could align with their live experience, whilst considering what is best for the TV platform.
We started exploring ideas through lo-fi wireframe sketches, before moving to higher fidelity wireframes in Sketch. We explored many variants, and shared these with cross-discipline team members for feedback, and iterated and refined repeatedly.
A screenshot showing some early explorations for the children's experience on TV in Sketch.
To start testing our ideas and thinking, we worked closely with the developers to build a working TV prototype based on our current designs. We used this prototype to to test different research objectives in multiple lab sessions both in London and Manchester. Objectives included things like:
With each session, we would update the prototype based on our learnings, and keep testing and challenging our designs with parents and children.
A video showing one of the early TV prototypes used in a lab session.
Lab sessions can feel unnatural and daunting even for adults, so some children understandably became shy during the sessions. By reflecting after each session, I decided to put together a children's visitor pass after noticing multiple children becoming engrossed in their parent's visitor pass. I quickly put together a kids version, with popular BBC characters, such as Bing and Hey Duggee, along with a space for the child to write their name and a quick puzzle to solve on the back. Kids loved these, and they really helped in making them feel more comfortable during the sessions, whilst also keeping them entertained as their parents answered questions.
We now had a solid understanding of what parent’s and children wanted, and the designs to make it happen. Sharing these in regular a design review with multiple stakeholders, however, revealed that we needed to rethink the purple theming. As the web version of the children’s experience uses white, we needed to create consistency across platform as the marketing team wanted to promote this new experience as a suite.
Pairing up with the web team, we began to think how we might adapt TV to use the light theming, whilst avoiding any accessibility or legibility issues - as pure white on TV’s can cause multiple issues due to its brightness. Through iteration and compromise, we agreed on a theme that is off-white and includes more colours, but has greater consistency with the web theme.
We now needed to focus on how we get parents and children into this new experience easily and seamlessly. We were aware that the current children’s account creation pan-BBC had issues, and mapping this out revealed that it would take 27+ steps to set one up. We had to rethink this.
Working with our internal Audience Platform team, and looking at expectations and behaviours from previous research sessions, we began to adapt to a profiles model. We knew parents just wanted to get into watching content as quickly as possible, and so we made a 3-step on-boarding process that could be done completely through the TV.
We stress-tested this new model in lab sessions across London and Manchester, where we quickly, learned, refined and tested again. We also used guerrilla testing on smaller iterations made during build.
An overarching challenge throughout was ‘what do we do with search?’. Whilst we had completed lots of testing on the general experience, we hadn’t gained much insight into how parents expected the search function to work. Unanswered questions included things like how older children might use search for themselves, what parents and children expect when they enter a search term, and how parents feel about potentially inappropriate content appearing in search.
We began first by assumption mapping as a team to help prioritise our research objectives for a diary study. Based on these assumptions, we then held a 7-day diary study with 17 parents across England, Scotland and Wales, focused entirely on how parents and children use search on video on-demand services. This was conducted entirely through WhatsApp, with a number of follow up interviews following the week.
Key insights from this were:
A selection of stills from videos sent by particpants during the diary study.
→ Parent with 1 child (aged 3)
From these learnings, we were able to adapt how our search function worked to meet parents expectations.
With the experience in good shape, we now started work with internal editorial teams to think about the content within it. With multiple cross-discipline stakeholders in one room, we workshopped to think about new bundles for children, and how best to organise and display content. One key change was the decision to move the character bundle we had implemented to the top row. From research, we knew children were character-led, so this made it even quicker for children and their parents to find their favourite shows.
The character row takes users to all the content associated with that character.
Our original release date for this new experience was planned a week following the release of Disney+ on connected TVs. However, as we were fairly confident with the build and due to the global Coronavirus pandemic, we decided to release earlier than expected. We knew parents were at home with their children with the sudden closure of schools. This was a great opportunity to help parents and children pass time at home under such bleak circumstances. We gathered as a cross-discipline team and worked rapidly to finalise the build and released to live, all before Disney+ launched!
There were some features we had to hold back as they weren’t ready - one of these being the profiles work. To create a seamless entry for the time being, we decided on a one-click entry process, which allows parents and children to get into the new children’s mode with the click of a button.
—— 05. THE OUTCOME
The children's mode on TV attracts on average 240,000 clicks per day. Users spend around 64 mins in playing content per day, consuming on average 6.5 piece of content. The children's character bundle is now the 3rd most clicked row (across all bundles including the adult experience), with an average of 100,000 clicks per day.
We also conducted a survey following our launch to gather qualitative feedback:
Following our initial release, we monitored social media for user feedback to help give an overall feel for success. We saw evidence of users sharing their delight of experiencing the new children's mode on iPlayer.