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Delivering The Right User Experience For OTT

Recent years have seen tremendous growth in the OTT domain with consumer viewership getting skyrocketed on digital as well as on the connected devices while the video consumption on traditional devices delivering the linear streams has been on a constant decline.

According to the latest TRAI report, the number of unique wireless subscribers in India had reached a whopping number of 536.73 million by the end of September 2018 with data consumption reaching to 15,185 petabytes out of which 10,658 petabytes is consumed on 4G network.

Most of the quoted consumption is driven through online video (65-75% of overall data consumption) which makes it very important to deliver the right user experience (UX) to retain the users while opting for innovative and data-driven design approaches to cumulatively increase the viewership in the competitive landscape of OTT segment in India.
The quality of the UX is one of the decisive factors for a user to choose among the various available products/services in the market.

A user interface done beautifully is not a UX done right
Many people confuse UX design with user interface (UI) design or even graphical design or styling. But a UX designer’s job is much broader than designing the visual appearance of the interface.

The design is a perfect combination of art and science where UI represents the art and UX represents science. While it is important for the UI to represent the brand in an attractive manner, it should also be backed by the data and information to have a right balance in order to create and deliver perfect UX.

Usually, designers are bound by their imagination on what they think and perceive is right for the target group (TG). Since they don’t actually represent the end-users, their designs won’t suit the needs of TG and may result in a complete design failure. User research techniques provide a way of knowing the users in the TG and enable designers to create the perfect designs to deliver the right experience.

Companies do a lot of brainstorming in choosing the right technology, acquiring the best content, planning the infrastructure, selecting the right feature-set while trying to keep the cost minimum. UX is one part which often gets overlooked in the whole exercise.

If UX is done right, it becomes the catalyst to bring the users, technology, and business together in a way that creates synergy and targeted user experience.

Creating the perfect UX
In today’s era, creating a powerful user experience is the most important thing, as well as a major challenge, for the organization delivering the video ecosystem to end-users over OTT.

There are certain factors which should be considered such as:

Identifying the target group. Knowing your target group (TG) is a very important step in the product journey. Finding the right audience for the content to be served on the platform is of prime importance to device an effective marketing strategy to maximize the RoI. It is imperative to know the following for the target group (not limited to): which geography, age-group, and gender users fall in; which language they speak; and which income group they fall in.

Market research via interviews, surveys, and focus groups is one of the best ways to learn about the target audience.

Understanding user challenges. There are several applications providing users with access to video content library by means of certain UXs with or without design thoughts. A user may encounter different challenges while traversing through the applications and churn may thus occur. While some of these challenges are common among apps and preventive measures should apply to ensure smooth user experiences on each platform. Some of the main drivers for churn are: multiple numbers of clicks to start content playback, content discoverability, design ambiguity, too many ads, and poor network performance.

Data-driven design. Designing is a continuous process where improvements are rendered in iterative cycles. Data-driven design approach focuses on various kinds of quantitative data such as app analytics, A/B testing or multivariate testing data, app heatmaps (behavioral flows) and others to find out why users do what they do. The answer to this question is the key to create an optimal user experience.

In the initial phases, data from case-studies or market research by a third party can be used to optimize the user experience. The designs should further be revised and revamped as the actual data from the live app is collected to ensure continuous improvement in UX.

Quantitative data such as analytics can be very important to understand : which page has the max/min user affiliation; bounce/exit rate from pages; average/minimum/maximum time spent on the app; active users by time/date/day; and OVP/CDN/App performance stats for QoE/QoS.

This data can help to find out design flaws or improvement scope within the app, and with the help of A/B testing or multivariate testing, the revisions can be validated.

Following the UX process regime. The primary factor in the success of the UX journey is that the end-user should always be at the center point of UX process flow.

There are multiple steps in a common UX process and they are crucial for creating a perfect user experience. In general, the UX process can be broken into three phases: (a) discovery phase which usually encompasses research activities followed by a workshop with respective stakeholders. The final user flow, information architecture, and the design plan are some of the outcomes of this phase; (b) conducting a discovery workshop in this phase helps define the demand in detail and align the teams involved in the development of the product. This phase focuses on knowing the end-users, competitors, and market through substantial user and market research; building personas for a realistic representation of target users and their goals; feature exploration via focus groups, card sorting and prioritization, and interviews; user flow creation for the defined personas; sitemap building; information architecture; and design plan; (c) design and iteration phase focuses on realizing the design concepts using UI/UX designing tools and validation of the designs using various UX activities/techniques; Lo and Hi-Fi prototyping, A/B testing and multivariate testing, Guerilla testing, and usability testing activities are performed for design validations; and (d) delivery phase is when designs backed by data and validated through the process are delivered as the final outcome of the design project.

Robust feedback/support mechanisms. Many a time, there are practically no feedback mechanisms available to a user apart from the app store/play store review board which results in poor user experience.

While there are several ways to record the user feedback on service credibility, issues and suggestions (like user surveys, usability testing, direct approach); recording in-app feedback from users is one of the most cost-effective ways to improvise the user experience, products, and services.

It is imperative to ensure that the user is provided with a satisfactory response to ensure customer loyalty to the brand.

Loyalty/rewards programs. These programs have become quite popular during the recent years. These provide a way to show gratitude to the hero customers and ensure higher engagement. Such programs also help in building rapport with the user.

While these programs are primarily targeted to increase brand reputation, attract new customers and achieve greater engagement, they substantially improve the user experience to a great extent as well.

Research indicated that the users are more likely to spend, be loyal and engaged with a brand if such a program is in place.

OTT world is moving fast, so should we
OTT domain has been on a continuous shift and is evolving day by day. User’s preferences, the way they consume video on various devices is changing considerably by the time and hence the user stickiness, affiliation or loyalty toward a certain brand has been reduced substantially.

By providing users with a perfect experience which is customized according to target users’ needs, the user churn can be reduced a lot and a higher user engagement can be achieved. While user experience is not the only factor to attract high user volumes and better engagement, it should always be complemented with the right content (with personalized user recommendations) and better quality of services to achieve the revenue goals.

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