In the entertainment business, awards season usually begins in September and ends in March. Throughout this season, each studio will finance and host multiple private screenings nationwide in order to raise awareness and to get voting members to watch their films.
Problems to Solve:
Currently, there isn't a way to manage any of these events, add new attendees, edit a guest list or to communicate relevant information to members, outside of traditional email correspondence.
My Role & Mission:
I designed a new platform to engage directly with voting members and to incentivize it by using an ad-based revenue stream.
To comply with my non-disclosure agreement, I have obfuscated confidential information. The information provided in this case study is summarized, consists of my own ideas, work and concepts.
Challenge of Exclusivity
One of the best measures of a product's success is user engagement and profitability. This app was created as a solution to an industry-wide problem, but will always be faced with the challenge of its limited user-base. Academy and guild members are only in the thousands, which is a far reach from the active daily users of comparable products. Aside from the limited audience, it will also always be a "members only" type of service. This added another layer of complexity that I needed to solve for.
Due to the clientele, the experience needed to feel premium and polished. This would be an app made for the entertainment industry elite, showcasing the best works of the year for the very filmmakers and crew who made them. The first challenge of this project was to find a way to monetize while still providing a valuable service. What I wanted to build was unprecedented.
Starting in the early fall, graphical mailers and invitations are mailed out informing members of screenings in their area. Usually, this is through either an e-mail blast or the postal service. If the mailer isn't received or it goes into a spam filter, it's likely never seen.
Each studio has its own website for awards screenings, but it often changes slightly each year and sometimes brings security flaws because it isn't updated regularly.
I also discovered that there wasn't a consolidated list of information, nor a way to view everything together. Members must visit each website manually and submit a form, then wait for an e-mail confirmation. If plans change or a guest needs to be added, the e-mail chain continues.
The first project goal was to find a way to pull information from different sources and create a secure, scalable database as more information was added.
This became the core foundation of the app and developed into an aggregate platform crucial to organizing data. It would also give me a launchpad to create a revenue stream in future versions.
Realistic User Journey
Now that I had a lot of data being pulled from many places, I needed to determine the use cases. It could be simple and straightforward.
After interviewing several guild and academy members, I created a realistic user journey and started conceptualizing what this experience may look like.
Next up was the the wireframe process. Since this was a new concept, it was important to get the product in front of actual users quickly to test in the field. I took my sketches and made a rough first pass at wireframes in Sketch.
Then, I created a prototype using InVision and started testing ideas. People were excited! I took the feedback and made some usability changes.
The Great Debate
In my experience, there seems to be an issue haunting all media apps. Which way should the artwork be displayed - portrait or landscape?
Movie posters are generally displayed vertically (2:3 ratio), while television shows can range between a 4:3 aspect ratio (square-ish) and the more suave 16:9 (HD) version.
Did I want a traditional carousel with text labels, or something cleaner to allow the artwork to be displayed beautifully? It was time for an A/B test.
Vertical orientation won by a landslide. I had my answers and it was time to move on to visual design.
Minimum Viable Product
A great experience is important with any product. If this was to be the new platform, it also had to have a great look and feel. I wanted it to feel as comfortable to use as something like Netflix or Hulu, apps that are familiar and well-designed.
This is a product for busy people, so it wasn't necessary to spend a lot of time logging in or learning something new. Displaying the artwork immediately would enable the user to select a screening quickly, reserve a spot and repeat.
I determined to leave out the option to watch trailers or clips, especially since I didn't yet have any plans for a CDN (content delivery network). Plenty of apps exist for this and it was determined to be out of scope. Balance was key.
Security & Blockchain
Integrity of the platform is mandatory. Members include celebrities and well-known filmmakers. It was necessary to build this product with their security in mind. It also had to be scalable to meet future business needs.
The websites often have expired security certificates, which can cause software exploits and browser issues. Since the app is being built natively, I found a solution for this by partnering with engineers and data scientists to build a ledger using a private blockchain (something more difficult to achieve in a web-based environment).
Visually, I turned to Apple's Human Interface Guidelines and designed the authentication method using Face ID (and Touch ID for older phones).
Perhaps the biggest goal with this project is to become the standard in which screenings are managed. The more members that sign on will provide an opportunity for more content engagement and social impressions.
In the next version, there are plans to expand our database to include more members as the industry evolves, introduce a CDN for curated content, and monetize using an ad-based revenue stream.
This app is currently being developed and will be available soon for iOS and Android.