iPlayer for Children

Designing an iPlayer experience that parents and children love

No ticket? No problem.

Designing the best ever live experience on BBC iPlayer

No ticket? No problem.

Designing the best ever live experience on BBC iPlayer


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.


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

To design and deliver a relevant and safeguarded iPlayer experience for kids that we’re proud to launch.

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:

  • Make it as easy as possible for users to get to an appropriate children’s experience
  • Create a safeguarded experience for children that parents will be happy to use as a place to discover more relevant content
  • Make a relevant and engaging experience that both parents and children love


Families and children can now easily discover a wide range of entertaining and educational shows and films, with the launch of a new children’s experience.

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.

Just for children (and big kids too!)

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

One click and you’re in

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.


Understanding the children’s space

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.

Understanding the audience

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:

“I think it is better if you are watching them and keeping a tab on them as far as safeguarding is concerned.” 


→ TV is much more of a family viewing experience:

As TV’s are a shared device, parents tend to worry less about their children using them over personal devices like phones and tablets.  


→ Parental controls and guidance aren’t always trusted:

“You think you’re safe by putting all these locks and things on, but there’s always things that pass through the net.”

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.

Stimulus A: a parental lock feature

“I'd expect Stan’s own account to be just CBeebies, so there is no need to have a PIN lock."

“The thing with this is there are toys that say 3+ or 7+, and I don’t really take that into account.”

Stimulus C: a curated profile with relevant content for children

"The main benefit of having a separate account is that you know they can’t click on anything unsuitable" 


Early thinking

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.

Prototype, test, iterate… repeat!

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:

  • Observing how 0-6 year olds interact and experience this prototype
  • Capturing what parents/children perceive are the benefits of a children’s experience
  • Validating whether the visuals of the design are related yet distinguishable enough to the current 'adult' iPlayer experience

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.


Aligning the experience

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.

Adapting to the profiles experience

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.


But what about Search?

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:

  • There is an expectation on children’s profiles that search results will be limited to the content within the children's profile.
  • Our brand is trusted in comparison to some of our other competitors, namely Youtube. That said, we know this trust can be easily lost and we must keep this in mind when curating children’s content. 
  • CBBC and CBeebies are trusted by parents to help them understand if content is age appropriate.
  • Inappropriate search results or search results that don’t make sense to the user can cause them to distrust the service.

A selection of stills from videos sent by particpants during the diary study.

→ Parent with 1 child (aged 3)

"The term I used was Bing. There were two more shows that came up. They were adult shows and one was related to binge drinking. This made me feel a little uncomfortable as if she was searching on her own I don’t think it would be appropriate for her." 

From these learnings, we were able to adapt how our search function worked to meet parents expectations.


Getting the content right

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.

An unexpected launch

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.


"Rolled out on internet-connected TVs from today, the new children’s experience brings together the best from CBBC and CBeebies – plus other kid-appropriate content – in one place." - Radio Times


Big numbers

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:

  • "A sign in specifically for children which is good as I know my child won’t then see any adult content."
  • "More content for children, easier to navigate, better compartmentalised. Easier for children to navigate and so easier for me to let them view on their own."
  • "They get a whole separate section and it contains specialist content. It’s really good."


Social monitoring

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. 


"Looks like @BBCiPlayer added children mode for the upcoming kids at home challenge! Great idea, it's tricky to filter on other people's platforms..."


An image showing positive mentions of the new children's experience on TV.

Challenges & reflection

  • Working with children throughout, which was something completely new to me
  • Striking a balance between establishing a level of consistency with the web platform, and doing what is best for the TV platform
  • Working with different departments who take a waterfall approach, compared to the lean approach in iPlayer

Explore other projects

#AHumanFutureBranding design

Out & AboutService design

Natural NetworksService design

Material ExperimentsExperience design

Project InclusiveIndustrial design

Digital WorldDigital design

Glasgow by BikeService design

© Jake Cohen 2021. All rights reserved.

© Jake Cohen 2019. All rights reserved.

© Jake Cohen 2019.
All rights reserved.

© Jake Cohen 2019. All rights reserved.

© Jake Cohen 2021.
All rights reserved.