Connected Studio: Now pilot

Wednesday 21 November 2012, 10:15

Eleni Sharp Eleni Sharp Product Manager

In May the BBC Homepage became the first product to take part in the new Connected Studio initiative.

As product manager for the Homepage I was really looking forward to this and couldn't wait to hear the ideas which were going to be pitched to us.

The Creative Studio Workshop Day

The Creative Studio Workshop Day

Over six months have now passed since the initial creative studio day and the pilots are now well underway. One of these pilots is called Now by creative software team Red Badger.

As the champion for the Now project I thought I would share my experience so far.

As the name suggests we want to create a time based Homepage to give a real feeling of liveliness.

By offering different levels of manual and automatic personalisation the user gets live information on things that they are most interesting in, be it Strictly or F1.

This 'fast lane' of content, which is relevant to you, sits on the right hand side of the page and updates dynamically.

I offered to champion this project as I feel it offers something new to the page and thought it could offer real value to our audience.

I also felt the potential to integrate social media and tie-in to big events such as Radio 1's Big Weekend, Children In Need or Wimbledon was really exciting.

Getting started

We initially took a small step back and did a little bit more discovery work to validate the ideas before jumping into the build.

This started with a great workshop day at Red Badgers studio.

Myself and colleagues from UX and Editorial spent the afternoon reviewing the work so far, looking at our audience personas, reviewing competitors, market trends and also sharing what we thought were the most important elements of the concept.

It was really important to me to get something in front of the audience as quickly as possible to gauge what they thought of the idea so a prototype was swiftly put together and we agreed to spend a day showing it to our audience the following week.

User testing

Last week we completed a day of user testing in the R&D lab at Media City in Salford. We spent a whole day speaking to representatives from various audience demographics and ages.

We showed them our idea, listened to what they thought about it and observed how they would use it.

The main concept was positively received by all participants. Some of the key things we learnt were:

. Filtering content by topics was popular.
. There was an expectation to remove content and topics if they aren't of interest.
. General impression was that the page is more up to date.
. People weren't comfortable with seeing social media content from their friends alongside BBC published content.
. Keep it simple - people would generally prefer larger images and slightly less functionality. For example the full set of share tools on every item isn't necessary.

We are now using this insight to help form the final idea and help us prioritise what features will make it into the backlog.

papers and post-it notes on desk

Work in progress on the Now pilot

What the audience said

"You could just have it on your laptop or whatever, [...] you could have it minimised, and it's there and just refreshes it, and keeps it up-to-date."

"That's a BBC reporter. It was seven minutes ago so you don't get more up to date than that"

"These are up to date things that [the BBC] have posted about the show. That [post] was only 30 seconds ago that's brilliant'

"Definitely [I'd come back throughout the day] because that's going to guide me to the interesting bits of news and save me time looking for it."

"Not really [interested in seeing what his friends shared], only because I go on to BBC for professional journalism and BBC opinion on views and journalistic approach. I don't go on there for other people's opinions really."

The prototype

As this is a pilot we have got the opportunity to use a range of technology which means we can build as much as possible in the time we have, which is just four weeks.

We are currently prioritising the features we feel offer the most value to the audience and are at the heart of the concept.

The biggest challenge with this project is how we make it relevant to people. The BBC publish so much content every day how do we decide what is important and relevant enough to appear in the fast lane?

We are hoping by using a combination of linked data and filters we can solve this problem.

What next?

The current plan is the pilots will be live to the public on the Connected Studio site where possible so I will be able to put links to them for everyone to access.

We are also planning on running user testing sessions with 100 members of the audience so we can gather feedback before making a decision on whether to implement it into bbc.co.uk.

Eleni Sharp is Product Manager, BBC Homepage, News & Knowledge, BBC Future Media.

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