Following on from the Zoe dashboard, we thought we would keep our focus on the user experience, but this time, we are looking at the content streaming service provided by NOW (formerly NowTV) and how the desktop user experience just doesn’t meet user needs.
Although there has been a huge surge in users accessing subscription-based streaming services via their mobile devices, there are still plenty of users who are viewing online channels using their desktop computers.
NOW was analysed and reimagined by:
We can all agree that for many reasons the recent Covid-19 pandemic led to an increase in online content streaming. For many, it was being locked out of all live professional sports games that encouraged consumers to satisfy their sporting thirst via sports streaming subscriptions, with some, including a few Strafe team members, opting for NOW’s Sky Sports package as it appeared to fit the bill!
Although the sports streaming experience varies slightly from device to device, the user experience seems to be relatively similar, that is until they are viewed on desktop computers. Now we aren’t looking at redesigning the full desktop offering, we just believe that the desktop user journey is unnecessarily hampered and that the NOW service could benefit from some key improvements that will make the user’s (our) life easier. After all, watching sports is stressful enough, right?
A split user journey...
One of the main issues is that the desktop user journey appears to be split between both the browser experience of the NOW website and the NOW Player app. The choice to bounce between the two platforms not only results in a clunky and counterintuitive user experience for desktop viewers but also lengthens the user journey unnecessarily.
Simply put, each platform handles a specific part of the user journey; the NOW website is used for browsing content and accessing account functions, whereas the NOW player app solely functions to receive and display streams. One inconvenience of this is that the user is required to flick through channels or content using the web browser before the NOW player desktop app is engaged to display the chosen stream.
Unlike many other on-demand streaming services like Netflix and BBC iPlayer, who champion browser-streaming, it also appears that NOW’s streaming service experience is dependent on security and legal restrictions. Due to NOW’s rights agreements with content providers, all content must be transmitted to the user via a local application.
Let’s centralise the user experience...
With so many ways to access NOW, it is common for viewers to use the Xbox app or the mobile iOS app. Contrasting to the desktop experience, both Xbox and iOS applications seem to follow the more usual ‘sign in, browse, and watch’ user journey, a concept not exclusive to NOW and one which has been utilised by other desktop apps like Apple TV, who prove that it works seamlessly when implemented correctly.
Surely understanding that there is no scope for NOW to support in-browser streaming, it would make sense to expand the desktop NOW Player app to include more functionality and create a user experience consistent across all devices and platforms.
You can see our simplified login screen concept below.
Taking into consideration the issues highlighted above, we have looked to streamline the process within the NOW Player app. We did this on the basis that if a user has the NOW Player app downloaded on their desktop computer, it is likely that they have a NOW subscription and want to use the app to stream content.
As the current app doesn’t have any browsing functionality, we looked to the desktop website for guidance on all additional requirements. As previously mentioned, although the existing service design works well, some small changes to a variety of existing elements could really help improve the user journey and provide some much-needed personalisation.
First, we decided to expand the sign-in area from a small ‘functional’ login box to a full-page experience, drawing more attention to the page as a whole which we envisage could be used to promote seasonal or special content at this key touchpoint. We have, however, kept a link to the main site to account for new visitors who may still need to sign up and create a NOW account.
A home screen tailored to you...
In case you aren’t aware, NOW’s streaming service allows users to subscribe to specific genres or types of content by purchasing a specific ‘Pass’. This means that users may not be able to stream all the content available on the NOW platform unless they have the appropriate ‘Pass’ subscription. In principle, the ‘Pass’ approach sounds like a great way to only see the content you want to see, however, this doesn’t seem to be the case once you actually log into your account.
Unfortunately, it is not easy to see the content relevant to the chosen Pass subscription as it is dotted throughout NOW’s full range of content, most of which are irrelevant to the selected Pass subscription and a clear upsell technique.
From a business point of view, we absolutely understand the desire to upsell these additional Passes to existing customers, but from a customer perspective, we think it is key to have the content you’re paying for, front and centre.
With this in mind, we tweaked the home dashboard to implement some account-specific personalisation and an easy subscription content browsing flow. Although these feel like small changes, they make a huge difference to the service’s ease of use and customer engagement.
Implementing a permanent, on-screen menu system helps the user to navigate the large amounts of content.
Highlighting brand new content to the user that is relevant to their subscription pass will enrich the subscription service.
A simple, personal greeting helps add some personalisation to the service.
Introducing autogenerated quick links based on user habits and subscription choices helps the user experience constantly evolve and improve.
Live, or on-demand?
Similarly to the subscription-relevant content being hidden amongst everything else on offer, there doesn’t seem to be a clear and simple way to switch between on-demand content and live (TV guide) content.
Although this may seem like a small superficial criticism, we imagine this could be very useful for sports pass subscription users. Not only would this improve the user experience by reducing the amount of time a user needs to find the live content they want but it would also speed up the general browsing experience considerably.
As all NOW content falls into either the ‘on-demand’ category or the ‘live’ category, we decide to add in a quick action toggle that gives the user the ability to switch between the two and filter their browsing experience effortlessly.
Although we have focused on enhancing the NOW player to include browser functionality, user personalisation and clear content navigation, we think that all account functions, ‘Help’ links and subscription pass payments should remain on the website. This helps to keep a distinct separation of purpose between the two different platforms and create consistency across all devices.
Redesigning to help convert and improve online experiences
The Strafe design team is always looking at ways that they can help businesses build and thrive, specifically by applying our UX and conversion expertise. We were excited to analyse NOW's subscription service because it gave us an opportunity to look further into device-specific user journeys and the considerations solely focus on the user experience without being governed by the need for website conversions.
Even though NOW is at the forefront of streaming services, we wanted to highlight the importance of having a consistent user journey across a variety of devices, especially in today's technology climate.
“By simplifying the user journey and aligning it across all devices and platforms, I feel that the product is now working better for me, the consumer."
Senior UX/UI Designer
Applying Strafe expertise
As previously mentioned, although we haven’t completely redesigned the desktop streaming platform you will see from our fully animated concept below that we tightened up the user experience to allow seamless content browsing.
In conclusion: Paid users come first
The NOW product has proved itself to be a worthy market leader in the world of streaming, and in terms of advertising and sales, it continues to be a hard hitter. However, the paid user’s journey can still benefit from the small customer focused tweaks we’ve suggested as we believe these improvements will not only create greater UX consistency across all streaming platforms but it will also improve the consumer’s experience to a point that will encourage them to make more recommendations to their friends and family.
Ultimately, companies strive to keep levels of customer satisfaction high, and we know this will make a world of difference for NOW streamers.
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