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Designing a dynamic streaming platform

Generating profits from freemium model streaming 

StreamTimes is a pre-existing, fictional video streaming app offering free movies and shows with ads. The app uses a freemium model and is now looking to attract paid Premium users within the sign up and sign in flow for both new and returning users.

Duration:

Lead UX Designer

3 Weeks

Role:

Discovery and Research

The economics of free streaming

Streaming content is now by far the most popular method of consuming watched media. From Social Media Content to Movies, TV Shows, and everything in between, the internet is a hotbed to attract mass customers and a large market to tap into. Unlike traditional media which is a paid service prior to accessing the content, streaming gives the option to release free content while generating money through memberships, special access, or other forms of incentives to drive profits and user retention. This process of granting free access to shift to premium is colloquially called the Freemium model I wanted to focus on the premium access features in this project to find good ways to motivate consumers to buy a premium product.

Discovery and Research

Looking at the Industry

Competitor analysis reveals freemium strategy trends and best-practices for user sign up & sign in flows. By analyzing how other freemium app models design their product offerings and flows, I learned how competitors designed their product offerings. This way, I could incorporate industry standards and existing design flows that would best fit the app. 

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Screens from Spotify, MyFitnessPal, and Crunchyroll show how these freemium models offer their subscription upgrades. 

Discovery and Research

User Interviews

I conducted 15 user interviews to understand my users and to identify key insights to help incorporate into my designs. The users were evaluated to have different levels of financial backgrounds, interests, and viewing preferences so the feedback generated lots of perspectives in varying directions. Below are the top key insights from users considering a paid streaming plan.

No-ad experience 

Nearly all users expected no-ads in a paid plan as this is a common aspect on a free version.

Expected features

Users expect paid plans to include exclusive content, early access to content, and sharing accounts with friends. 

Low budgets

On average, users were willing to pay $5-10/month for a paid plan

Price hike concerns

Most users expressed that they would cancel if there were constant price hikes, indicating that the expected price should remain stable as much as possible.

Define and Ideate

Brand Identity

With the general research in hand, I needed to discover the brand identity of the app. I began by looking into the name that will help set the tone and sentiment of the platform. A deeper insight from my interviews and industry research, these are some of the concepts that spoke positively across many different platforms.

Unique - People want to feel like what they choose to use is different from other choices. Specifically they want to pick something that's particularly suited for their needs.

Bold - Because the platform is an interactive element to finding content, the process should exemplify something interesting to generate a good sense in the user. They should also feel a sense of excitement/anticipation while still being able to complete their desired tasks

Modern - As all platforms tend to go through changes overtime in response to services, our app should maintain a sense of familiarity to existing options but also keep our own flair and identity. Additionally, it should be easy to identify and mention when discussed about.

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I settled for StreamTimes in bold san-serif as the name for the app. The boldness and the name gives it an easily identifiable feature of the app, passive explaining what the general purpose is and how you're expected to feel when using the app.

Expanding the Details

With the name in place, I proceeded to discover the general tones, themes, and feeling to be shown through the app. Alongside the previous concepts, I also looked into the general age demographic that would make up the core of my audience and look to ideas and feelings that would gravitate to them. The result came out as such:

Youthful - As things are, streaming generally gravitate towards a younger audience due to their internet savvy tendencies which is often necessary to navigate to streaming platforms to begin with.

Tech Savvy - Coinciding with the previous point, the audience is often more technically savvy since streaming tends to be more of a personalized and customizable experience compared to traditional broadcasted media. However, that comes with the caveat that the user input and make their own decisions which requires some technological finesse to navigate.

Hip and Trendy - While not exclusive to the previous points, trendier concepts do tend to gravitate more powerfully to a younger crowd. As such, themes that speaks of something fresh or new will be viewed more positively.

Given the key brand characteristics and target audience within the challenge brief, I came up with the name StreamTimes and built a brand style guide that could be used to determine the product UI. 

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Moodboard filled with inspiration of a colorful, vibrant city nightlife - an iconic representation of a high-techy vibe.

From the moodboard, I broke down some key elements that makes up the general sentiment and feeling on these concepts into the following:

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The Brand Style Guide defines the visual product design within the StreamTimes app.

Design and Develop

Wireframes

Taking the key learnings from my research, I sketched out a first iteration of the user sign up & sign in flow. Per the challenge brief, I made absolutely sure to incorporate user opportunities to upgrade to premium.

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Low fidelity sketch of the user sign up and sign in flow with the opportunity to upgrade to premium.

I conducted a short usability test with 10 users to identify any critical issues before producing high-fidelity mockups. Testing revealed a few key issues listed below that I aim to flesh out moving forward to the next prototype stage.

Premium offer should appear organically for returning users

Brief requested an offer during sign in but testing revealed major frustrations.

Sign in flow should be short so users can start quickly

Users wanted to quickly access their home page without any interruptions like an offer or welcome screen.

Upgrade button should be less obnoxious

Free users were frustrated with the upgrade button being in the way of viewing content.

Design and Develop

Style Guide

Going into the final iterations, I had to expand the style guide to incorporate the various UI elements alongside the established style guide. I made some changes into the brand logo by adding a few more visual details to make it a little more dynamic.

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Design and Develop

Prototyping

Based on user feedback, I created a prototype that incorporated these elements.

Organic opportunities to upgrade within the product after signing in

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The sign in flow for returning users was kept short so users can immediately access content.

Users were frustrated with being asked to upgrade during the sign in process. This redesign also focused on unintrusive ways to offer organic opportunities in-app to upgrade after signing in.

Premium offer should appear organically for returning users

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In-app organic opportunities to upgrade to Premium

  1. Prominent sticky upgrade button pinned at the top that does not annoyingly block any content

  2. Exclusive locked content that requires upgrade to watch

  3. Premium upgrade page within navbar to always allow access to hottest offers and plans

  4. Limited time offer popup with a persistent notification on the Premium navbar to incentivize upgrade

Premium upgrade offer purposefully redesigned

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The Premium upgrade offer shown only during Sign Up flow calls out important feature benefits.

  1. A free trial offer was specifically chosen to increase chances of users upgrading just to try it risk-free for one month.

  2. User interviews and competitive research indicated that these were some of the top features to include in a paid plan.

  3. Since users were annoyed with constant price hikes, this provides an option to lock in to a Premium plan for up a whole year!

Additional organic opportunities to upgrade during sign up for new users

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  1. If users skip the Premium offer the first time during sign up, users have another opportunity to upgrade to Premium if they wish to customize their profile icon.

  2. Once the profile has been customized, the Welcome screen provides another opportunity to upgrade to Premium.

Updated Testing

This second round of usability testing was conducted with the previous users to gauge the success of the redesigns and find new issues with either the user flow or the premium offer. 

 

I implemented a rating system to gauge how satisfied the users would be when going through the process. Overall, users found the new premium offer and flow redesign to be very straightforward and easy-to-use with an average of 9.2 out of 10 rating. 

 

Most new issues and feedback logged this round focused on feature improvements and bugs as noted below: 

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Design and Develop

Improvement and Finalizing

With the feedback, I made some final adjustments to perfect and finalize the design.

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Final Thoughts

Closing Reflections

The Next Steps

This was a fun design challenge project that required careful consideration of the business goal to increase user upgrades to the paid premium plan.

In a real world scenario, this product would still require additional user testing and refinement. 

 

I would recommend A/B testing with the Premium offers to see what UX copy or timing works best to increase the actual number of upgrades during sign up or even within the product.

Thanks for Reading!

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