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The Design Pitfalls of Building an OTT Service from Scratch

The Design Pitfalls of Building an OTT Service from Scratch

The Design Pitfalls of Building an OTT Service from Scratch
Iñigo Orduña
Senior UX Consultant
INSIGHTS BLOG /
 July 2020

When building an OTT service from scratch, getting the design and user experience right is critical to your success. A recent report from PwC found that user experience has become more important than content for keeping viewers engaged and subscribed.

At the same time, the global over-the-top (OTT) video market is projected to reach US$160,073 million by 2024, with an annual growth rate of 10.1% from 2020 to 2024. Content consumption has experienced a massive surge, partially due to the global pandemic. According to Strategy Analytics, coronavirus is expected to add 5% to global video-on-demand subscriptions In 2020. In an already crowded marketplace, it is likely to become even more challenging for OTT video providers to keep subscribers engaged and remain competitive.

Despite this, many video providers are falling into a number of possible design pitfalls when building and developing their video services. Here’s some of what you need to look out for:

A lack of strategy

What is your product/service? What benefits does it bring? Who are the end-users? How will it be monetized: freemium, PPV, micropurchases, gamification? What does the product/service provide that no other in the market does? What platforms should be tackled first? What release plan should be followed? So many questions, all in the need of answers. Having a strategic vision ahead of engaging in an OTT development will set a clearer path ahead. Make sure to engage with design thinking practices, such as research studies, user surveys, and user journey maps, in order to clarify all of the above questions. 

Many platforms, many loose ends…

Everybody is a user, but not everyone is a designer. When it comes to designing user experiences, we need to specify the desired UX “per platform” and in-depth. How does the service work? How does it feel? The better you define the service (and user experience associated with it), the faster everybody involved (Client – Design – PMs – DEV – QA) will be on the same page. Project documentation is time-consuming and requires many discussions to happen strategically in order to “pin” all issues down effectively. A well documented and shared vision will make a swifter development; but most importantly, thorough documentation will clearly set expectations for all involved and minimize risks. 

Needless to say, a digital product/service is a “mutating” entity. It will grow (or even decrease) over time, whether in features, content, or platforms. Therefore, planning ahead is a must. This leads me to  my next point: roadmapping.

Roadmap design: how do we get there? 

Hand on hand with the project definition is: the planning. When designing a multi-platform product/service, one has to think months or even years ahead, coherently and across platforms. Not all features on all platforms will be ready for MVP (Minimum Viable Product), either because of product strategy, lack of time, lack of services, third-party integrations, or monetization plans. Technology and user expectations will change, not to mention the demand for various types of content. The lesson here is to never forget that the product/service you are designing will grow in many dimensions so you ought to spend time aligning these wisely in time. 

Are you designing a service that can grow gracefully? As designers, we need to provide a flexible enough environment that can grow with the least possible impact on budget and deadlines, and above all use experience. Design for short, mid, and long term “change” in your roadmap.

A clumsy content discovery

Content might be King, but access to it is Queen (if not Supreme Empress). One of the most important functions of UX design is to ensure that content can be discovered easily and quickly, alongside meeting business and technology needs, of course.

If viewers can’t start watching the content they want quickly enough, they will lose interest and move to another service. Good UX design makes content discovery and navigation intuitive and above all, useful. You should consider how your content is accessed on different platforms: remote controls, pointers, fingertips. Remote controls, the typical gateway for TV navigation, are extremely limited. These days, there are a plethora of other ways to enable navigation which makes the process much more seamless for consumers. Voice is a great example and has huge potential to revolutionize navigation as outlined by my colleague, Laura Cascón in a blog post earlier this year. Soon, user gestures read by sensors of different kinds (pressure, volume, touch), as well as embedded intelligent objects in your household, will become common ground means of interaction.

Simply adding the content and sitting back

The product/service is live. So what now? Is that the end of the design and development process? No, it is just the first round finished. Your UX and UI should continually evolve, the same way you wouldn’t just add a library of content to your service and then leave it on there for eternity. There are a number of things you should be considering following the initial launch:

  • Give your content “the love” it deserves – an editorial approach is a must. Having an editorial team produce curated content makes it more engaging for consumers to access and select the videos they want to watch. Major OTT providers, for example, have an editorial team changing thumbnails 2-3 times per day to make users click.
  • UI flexibility – being able to customize content and change the UI with minimum effort will help keep your service fresh and appealing.
  • KPI tracking – keep tracking how your product is performing to your original objectives, then work to identify how UX + UI design can help you meet, pivot, or improve your KPIs.
  • Good UX / UI is also for non-content features: Account handling, profile creation, purchases, package upgrades/downgrades, in-app actions – these are all parts of how a user interacts with your service. Even in the worst-case scenario, where a customer decides to churn, it is important that their exit is supported by a thought-through UX.  A good user experience must be designed for all touchpoints of your product/service.

Do not think your product or service is finished once rolled out. A continuous performance overview and evaluation are needed to keep it alive and kicking!

These revisions will help your product/service stay ahead of the curve, attract new subscribers, and reduce churn. However, embarking on a multiplatform design project can be daunting, especially if it is your first foray into OTT. 

Accedo One is built on years of experience developing multi-platform video experiences. It has been designed to enable providers to design and develop video services, adapt them easily to different devices, and personalize and customize them as the service, and consumption habits, evolve. You can read more about it here

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