With so much choice available today, users are becoming overwhelmed when trying to choose content on a VOD product. How can product designers help make content catalogues more relevant?
The content floodgates have opened
It’s now easier than ever for companies to make video accessible for users on line. Video on Demand products are now widely accessible in most regions around the world on almost every device with a screen.
The depth of content available today is colossal. It’s a safe bet to assume almost every scrap of video taken by anyone with a camera in the last 100 years has made its way onto the internet.
In 2015 alone more than 400 original series hit the small screens. That’s a lot of TV.
Here at Ostmodern we spend our days working with clients with all different kinds of content libraries. We’ve realised that the biggest design challenge we face, is not a lack of content to design with, but rather, helping users choose the most relevant content.
Humans have a knack for choosing precisely the things that are worst for them. - J. K. Rowling
TV has been creating the content schedule for years
While users now have total control over what they watch, this isn’t entirely helpful in reality. Most of us have grown up with television, and have relied on experienced editorial teams to curate and schedule our television experience. We gravitated to certain channels that we trusted to have the content we liked. These channels in turn created specific content to match that expectation, and so it continued.
Opening up all content and expecting users to take the place of curators themselves is sometimes just too high a barrier for VOD adoption.
So how do users decide what they want to watch when they arrive at a VOD product? How are they navigating this sea of content at the moment?
Most people aren’t aware of the things that influence their decision making process. Topics they’ve read about, friends recommendations or even seeing actors in the news all help steer users subconsciously through a catalogue. Tapping into these moments can be a great tactic to encourage more content views, but most products aren’t designed nor have the editorial workflows to adapt to these events.
Mr and Mrs Smith traffic spike
Searches for Simpsons Donald Trump
Sequels share the spotlight with the originals
Sequels are more commonplace within the cinema world now as production companies rely on existing brands to give them ‘safe bets’. Every time a new film in a series is released, the previous films suddenly become much more culturally relevant.
Star Trek Cinema release
Considered release scheduling
How regularly content is released also has an impact on how quickly these shows gain traction with audiences and how long they stay relevant for. Experimenting with different release schedules can promote new user behaviours around content.
Releasing all content at once encourages users to binge and gives them the control, however this can have a negative impact on how likely they are to chat about the content with friends and family. Releasing weekly allows people to catch up which encourages content discussion leading to more long term traffic, but prevents people from binging.
An SVOD site’s experiments with content release schedules
The product should do the hard work ...
In general we see digital products gain more traction the more they improve people's real life experiences. When thinking about how VOD products impact our users lives, we need to remember what people are using them for - to be entertained. At their core VOD products allow users to access content that entertains them, when they’re bored, stressed or looking for a bit of escapism for a few hours. These are the situations we are designing for, not just allowing people to access content.
In the 21st century we seem to be increasingly time poor, and have even more forms of media seeking to fill the free time we do have. We can now easily spend hours watching Youtube videos of kittens, Top Gear repeats on Dave or Snapchat stories. Why we allow certain content and not others to take up our precious free time requires more insight and exploration to understand fully.
You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And you are the one who’ll decide where to go. - Dr Seuss
Figuring out the decision making process for users, and designing products that adapt to it is a big challenge for product designers in the immediate future. Having good content is just the start. Guiding people to it and giving them a reason to watch it is the hard part.