Media Center

The Media Center project was well funded, and because of this an emphasis was placed on continual usability studies, leading to an incredibly successful product launch. Ample time was also allowed for the small Digital team to really put together something to be proud of.

What really helped kick off this project was having the current Media Center still up and running, and unlimited access to the users. Our research started with shadowing and interviewing these users, as well as conducting usability studies with the current system. The insights gained from this were pure gold!

Phase II of research was wireframing. Lots and lots of wireframing, both for desktop and mobile. One big change with the new Media Center, was that it was now going to be written as a web application and could be used on a mobile device. Unfortunately legal shut down mobile access, but we won the fight to build the site as if mobile access would still be allowed. It’s an interesting story actually about all the arguments for and against mobile access.

Media Center is a rare tool in that nearly every department in the company has a use for it. Not only that, but there are external users who also have requirements for access. This creates a very complex set of requirements and simplification becomes a massive challenge. Here are just a few examples:

  1. The Creative team uses Media Center to showcase top media, as well as company messages from leadership. They need showcases that can be featured and adjusted as needed by their own team
  2. The Sales team needs the ability to create their own playlists and send links out to potential clients
  3. The Exhibitor team needs to be able to pull up a playlist for any given theater at any given time for any auditorium and movie title. There are over 70,000 screens in the network, playing multiple shows on each screen every day. This system needs to be able to dynamically generate a playlist in real-time to match any one of those hundreds of thousands of options. AND, there needs to be a way to save this and send it out
  4. Similar to the Exhibitors, Circuit owners need a private login to the system where they can also view any of the playlists for shows playing on their screens
  5. Quality control experts require a place to pre-screen spots sent in prior to them being placed into a show. This media still needs to be viewed and searched in the same system, but cannot be viewed by everyone.

As you can see with just this limited set of requirements, permissions have the potential to change the system in many ways. The battle is to keep the system as simple as possible while still working for everyone. I would not allow this product to have multiple forms if possible – and it was. But when you’re dealing with this many groups and building one product to serve them all, you are going to stir up some battles. We were building for the Marketing, National Sales, Regional Sales, National Advertising, Regional Advertising, Regional Ops, Media Production, Media Programming, Media Traffic, Creative, Producers, Online Sales, and Research teams just internally. I can’t tell you how many times I heard someone say “but that doesn’t work for our team”. Luckily, I could target each of these groups for usability testing and UAT, and was able to find the right solutions to their problems.

Let’s throw in another giant challenge here! The currently functioning Media Center has been around for 10+ years. Remember me mentioning the creation of playlists? Well, many Sales reps had hundreds of playlists created and could not lose them. Ok, so from a development standpoint this initially seems easy. We just convert them and tie them to a user profile right? Not really. Unfortunately over the years media had underwent quite a few changes. From being different filetypes, to different resolutions, to even living on different servers. Our new media center was built to ingest one type of media. This was by design so that we could ensure consistency, but conversion of hundreds of thousands of files into this media type didn’t work perfectly. Who would of known? Also, and I can’t explain this in detail, finding all the media turned out to be near impossible. To keep this short, yes, we overcame this challenge, but it required additional UX work to create graceful solutions to many media issues.

Man I loved this project…

I could honestly go on forever about this with as many challenges, changes, hiccups and wins we had, but I will need to wrap it up. What I can say is that, by far, this was the most rewarding project from a user standpoint because the success was great, and immediately noticed. I had the luxury of teasing the release for the month prior, as well as reaching out a month after to collect feedback.

The flow of praise was unbelievable. The bug list was almost non-existent. The project was a massive success.