Author: oliviadenne

Idea

Welcome to the BFI Film festival, one of the UK’s largest film events. Host to over one hundred films, finding the right movie isn’t exactly a walk in the park. My project takes a different approach to helping user’s decide on a film. By projecting their opinions through visual film boards, user’s create a network of aesthetically pleasing ratings as deciphered by festival goers. User’s engage with one another by reposting comments that they feel are valuable and decide as a community the most highly rated by ‘liking’ films. Thus creating an interest network, based purely around individual’s opinions and the BFI’s film content.

The idea for this project was sparked after reading the mixed reviews of the existing mobile app. Initially intending to build on the existing concept by Kotikan (2011) I decided to change direction after researching the products success. With a download rate of 5000-10,000 (Google Play, 2011) and an overall 149,000 visitors (White, M 2012) to the festival I believe the existing app failed to effectively engage audiences. I began carrying out market research into the most popular and current website themes and investigated user’s needs, to gain a comprehensive understanding of the initial downfalls of the existing app.

Defining Interest Based Networks

To understand whether an interest based network was the right path to go down I began researching their key features and functions. Through researching Catmoji, Thumb and Foodspotting I began to understand the fundamentals of these social systems and the specific characteristics that attract users. For the aims of this project and analysis, the following definition will be used to define an Interest based network:

Jay Jamison (2013) states there are two categories of interest based networks:

1). Subject themed which create strong online communities for users who share one common interest.
2). Social networks that span a broad theme or range of topics but offer a different form of interaction than the standard social network, either through pin boards or questions and answers. Research suggests that although these networks are niche, they’re not small, a prime example being Pinterest, with 11.7 million visitors monthly. (Afetian, 2013)

“People are using social networks not just to socialise with friends and family, but to connect with people who share common interests.”

(Blaise Lucey 2013).

This statement implies the growing popularity of these websites is dependent on user’s ability to engage with content and individuals who share a common interest or goal. I aimed to incorporate this characteristic into my project in order to create a successful interest based network around the BFI’s contemporary film festival.

Competitors

Designed as an information based app with minimal social interaction other than the ability to share films via Twitter and Facebook, the original concept featured the whole festival programme with images, trailers, ticket availability, a personal festival planner, map integration and a live video stream. To avoid competition and merely adapting their basic concept, i decided to focus my project around social interaction and the ability to post film reviews. I also aimed to focus heavily on visual aesthetics, reflecting the contemporary and avant-garde characteristics of the festival, a factor I feel the original apps fails to do.

Case Study: Pinterest

The analysis of Pinterest provides a clearer understanding of the requirements of the modern day user. Jennifer Cario (2013, p.25) highlights the growing popularity of the social media site stating,

“With more than 25 million active users, Pinterest has fast become a major player in the world of social media, ranking as the third most popular social network behind Facebook and Twitter.”

This emphasises the impact Pinterest has made on the social networking world in a short period of time with Facebook and Twitter taking several years to gain popularity. This may be due to its unusual approach to social networking, where individuals categorise their interests through visual book marking and connect with friends by sharing boards of interest. In doing this, “Pinterest becomes an ever evolving collection of the things that interest them.” (Cario 2013, p.35). This highlights the enhanced user experience that Pinterest creates by integrating visual boards of content that present useful information to users, contrasting traditional search engines which provide textual content.

Facebook and Twitters inability to tailor content to user’s specific interests is what’s attracting users to networks like Pinterest, which allow them to create a visually stimulating environment around a collection of interests. Furthermore it highlights the importance of a visually clear and well-designed interface in initial user interest. I hope to recreate a similar online environment by creating a visual and minimalistic design that primarily focuses on presenting films and users opinions. In doing so, I hope this will attract users to the website and encourage them to join in and share their views on films.

Experience Design

To fully develop my project it was essential to consider what field of design it was situated. Basing my project around the experience of social interaction and the ability to project one’s opinions through visual film boards, I consider the project sits within experience design. In order to create a strong user experience i had to focus on creating a clear responsive website that was easy to navigate across all screen resolutions. Leung (2008, p.94) states, “understanding the relationship between user and application is fundamental to developing something that works at a functional as well as experiential level.” This stresses the importance of understanding users and their needs, in order to create a product that satisfies.

Mcdonagh (2004, p.44) et al further support this view stating that people’s choice in a product are for both practical and emotive reasons. They state, “to design with the intent to satisfy function alone is no longer enough. Better design makes space for a feeling of identity, achievement, inspiration and joy.” Therefore the quality of the design needed to reflect the personality and motives of its users rather than function alone. To achieve this I incorporated a flat design that focused primarily on imagery and limited textual content. By contrasting and overlaying colours to make content appear more prevalent whilst maintaining a clear and minimalistic layout helped place focus on films and users opinions. To gain further knowledge of what users wanted to benefit from the site, user testing and questionnaires were undertaken.

UX Design

As an aspiring UX designer this project intends to show my ability to create a clear user interface whilst meeting the user’s needs for an engaging and stimulating experience. The following definition encompasses the key elements of UX design and touches upon the specific methodology needed to determine a good user experience. Wilbert Galitz (2007, p.4) states, “Human- computer interaction is the study, planning, and design of how people and computers work together so that a person’s needs are satisfied in the most effective way.”

Therefore an essential part of my research was to examine all of the theories and patterns surrounding UCD in order to establish the most appropriate way to present website content. This involved considering what elements of information to focus more heavily on in order to obtain the audience’s attention. Focusing heavily on imagery seemed most appropriate as users valued a more visual, rather than textual interface. A better understanding of users, tasks they wanted to complete and the environments the website would be used was necessary to design the right functionality and look for the website. This was perhaps the downfall of the initial app, which merely provided an information based application of the festival programme. Testing highlighted that user’s valued social interaction above any other component which is why I have taken my project down an interest based network route, primarily focusing on user’s opinions and the ability to repost ‘valuable’ comments.

A better understanding of how users interacted with the website, what they found most enjoyable and what they expected from the interface was established through surveys and prototyping. The survey below was created for a different project purpose but still proved useful to the field of endeavour.

Chart_Q1_140502

For all survey result see Appendix A.

Audience Research

I struggled to decide an initial target audience for my project as the festival hosts a broad range of films for most ages. One of the first steps I took was to research film audiences in the UK, which allowed me to pin point a smaller age range. Figure 1 demonstrates the trends of cinema audiences from 1997-2012.

Figure 1 Age distribution of cinema audiences aged 15+, 1997-2012

survey1

Source : National Readership Survey (NRS), Cinema Advertising Association.

According to a report on film audiences (Cinema Advertising Association, 2013) cinema viewers aged 45+ have steadily increased over the last eleven years, particularly in 2011 where they represented the highest percentage (36%) of cinema viewers. Additionally the graph highlights that individuals aged 15-24 and 25-34 cinema viewing, has gradually decreased by 18% and 10% over the last fifteen years (British Film Institute, 2013). This underlined that an older target audience of 35+ would be more suitable for my project, with a more mature audience regularly going to the cinema and increasing each year.

I also created a survey that questioned individuals about their social media preferences and search tendencies. The questionnaire was posted in numerous film forums and on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter and obtained 100 respondents. When asked why individuals use mobile apps/ websites most (80.81%) respondents said for social reasons, with 69.7% stating for fun and 50.51% stating to gain information. This highlighted that users valued social interaction most, compared to all other activities. Additionally 41% respondents said they would use an interest based network on films, with 32% stating they might.

The survey proved extremely useful to the field of endeavour and provided me with enough information to prove that there was an audience for this project. It also underlined the original apps mistakes that my project should avoid, for example, rather than focusing on film content, ticket availability and venue location my project aims to focus on user interaction and the  ability to connect with people who share one common interest, a passion for films. Lastly it confirmed the assumption that users predominantly search for films via genre and most highly rated, a factor I took into consideration when planning the navigational properties of the site. chart2

 

Prototypes : First Iteration

login

index

movie

nav2

When asked what improvements could be made to the website, users responded :

355934 I found the vertical navigation a little confusing and the settings icon hard to read
355935 a home or menu button
355942 More prominent settings/profile
355943 I wanted clearer options on the navigation bar
355945 the icons in the bottom left weren’t totally clear
355947 the settings section symbol could be slightly clearer
355948 Clearer icons
355964 it’s very well done
355965 Finding out info about films
355988 An about page that provides an insight into what the site is all about and how it works

See Appendix B for further user testing results. Results highlighted that the navigation needed to be reconsidered in creating an overall clear and concise design.

User Testing

I took a lo-fi approach during user testing, aiming to gather information on the way users interacted with the website as quickly and efficiently as possible. Egger, F.N (2000) characterises low fidelity prototyping as, “a quick and easy translation of high-level design concepts into tangible and testable artefacts.” This was particularly true during initial design phases where I gained a greater understanding of how to structure content across all devices. By drawing wireframes and setting tasks for a small test group, I was able to identify areas of improvement and better able to understand how users interacted with the website. User testing primarily highlighted issues with the vertical navigation from both a user and design perspective.

Louis Lazaris (2010) supports this notion stating the issues surrounding a vertical navigation in his article “The case Against Vertical Navigation.”
1). It discourages information hierarchy: I feel this was particularly true, as user’s took a much longer time to find the settings button with the vertical navigation. Having the most important/visited links at the bottom of the page discouraged the hierarchy of the website where the film categories became the user’s main focus. A horizontal navigation created a more logical hierarchical structure, with the most important links being, “home, search, profile, login and register” at the top of the page and the film categories sitting just underneath.
2). Vertical navigation fails to reflect real life reading: The integration of a header and footer reflects an individual’s desire to read in a similar format to a magazine or book. A vertical navigation disrupts this reading format appearing unnatural to users and may account for the long time spent searching the navigation bar.

Testing identified that users found textual links easier to read than icons within the navigation. The orange graph demonstrate the decrease in time users spent looking for the settings icon ( 1 second) when changed to a textual link, rather than icon.

Testing also identified that users were unclear of where to click to gain further information on a film.The graphs demonstrates the length of time it took participants to recognise that clicking on a film would allow them to view further information. By incorporating a plus sign underneath each film, users were able to identify that there was something ‘clickable’. This decreased the time users spent searching by 7 seconds, highlighting the importance of icons in representing information.

User testing highlighted  the importance of making icons as clear as possible and using them within the right context. For example, in the navigation they appeared to confuse users, who were unclear of what each icon represented. However when incorporating a plus sign to signify that more information could be seen on a film, icons appeared to be more effective and a more appropriate choice to represent information. For these I have decided to incorporate a mixture of icons and textual links to guide users around the interface.

Although testing proved extremely useful to refining the interface, there were anomalies within results produced. Rosson and Carroll ( 2002, p.200) explain the importance of informing users of the concept of projects before presenting prototypes. They state, “ If the team offers little orientating information, assuming that a prototype will be self-evident, viewers will rely on their own backgrounds and expectations to make sense of it.” This was certainly a downfall of mine, in which I failed to explain what the prototypes represented and the main aims and purposes of the website. This would account for anomalies in the data collected during user testing, in which some participants took a much longer time to complete  tasks, due to confusion and lack of explanation on my behalf. However disregarding those figures, overall, user testing proved very useful for the aims and uses of this project and led to a number of improvements in the website.