Wow! It’s been a while since I’ve penned a blog post; but this isn’t down to laziness or lethargy! I’ve been really busy here at Channel 4 working on our video propisition. A week ago we launched our online 30 day catch-up service, but that isn’t where it ends. Ever since Project Kangaroo, the video on demand collaboration between the BBC, ITV and Channel 4, was canned by the Competition Commission we have been working on our own solution for getting of our archive content online; and I’ve been doing all the IA/UX work on it!
It’s been a really interesting and exciting project to work on, making a user-friendly video proposal that will fit into the current Channel 4 site without too much impact, while making sure video is simple to find and watch. I think that the solution we’re implementing meets those goals. One challenge was making sure that Video home page did not get too catch-up centric and promoted archive material adequately. While the main user goal is catch-up, our current 4oD service shows us that archive material is becoming more and more popular.
But there’s a problem when you come to design a particular aspect of the online video user experience: advertising.
And when I say advertising I am specifically referring to pre-roll (the ones that play before the video) and centre break adverts. The particular aspect that I mention is the pop-up player experience. Channel 4, unlike the BBC, relies on advertising for revenue, which means that like on TV, our online video needs to have advertising. This advertising comes in the form of ads before the video the user selected plays (pre-rolls) and in the middle of the video (the centre break). There is a specific business rule with adverts online, and that is that users cannot fast forward through them. This is fine in principle, and other than the usual annoyance that users get from online advertising, it has little impact on architecting the user experience around video… until you think about how pop-up players work.
When there is no advertising in a video, users should be able to open the video that they are watching in a pop-up player at any time; with the video beginning from the point that they clicked the pop-up button. With video containing advertising this is problematic. Allowing users to pop-out at any point during video playback means that they need to watch the pre-roll advertising again and perhaps the centre break also (if they opted to view pop-out three quarters of the way through the episode). This is not a good user experience, not a good user experience at all!
The solution that we are implementing means that when a user chooses the episode that they wish to watch, they are given the option to play in the page or to watch it in a pop-out. Once the video starts playing the option to view in a pop-out player is no longer available. Now, I know that this is now at all ideal. However, given the constraints that we are working in, this was deemed the best solution. What makes it palatable is the fact that user research has shown is that most people make the decision to view a video in a pop-out at the very beginning of their video viewing experience, and rarely at a point during playback. Meaning that our solution meets the needs of the majority of users.
The BBC is in a really envious position in that they have no advertising, so can allow the user to switch to a pop-up player at any point and fast forward to the appropriate place in the video, commercial broadcasters and online video sites don’t have this luxury! This is the solution we’ve come up with. I’d love to hear your comments and any suggestions for a better approach!