End-to-end experience design for a career and networking app tailored to creative professionals
Helping creative professionals from the entertainment industry to network and seek opportunities through a centralized application.
While staying in Mumbai, the prime center of the Indian Film Industry-acclaimed as one of the biggest film industries in the world and visiting sets frequently, I realized there is a dire need to streamline and organize the way creative professionals work. This inspired me to work on this project, which I co-created as one of my course projects with four other researchers and designers.
According to Variety.com, the global entertainment market is worth $2.3 trillion worldwide and is one of the most unorganized sectors for decades because of its traditional work culture. The film industry in the USA itself employs roughly 2.1 million people across a wide range of job types, fields, and salaries. After a quick market and domain analysis, we realized the industry is widely untapped with a two-point challenge:
- To be visible on all the platforms that are available for uploading showreels, and portfolios, and listing themselves in an online database, artists frequently juggle their time. There are, however, no venues for them to network with other professionals in the field.
- The opportunities for creatives largely depend on recommendations, relationships, and word of mouth. According to our analysis, there is a lack of a platform where they may search for work or recruit artists.
In preliminary research, we understood the context of the problem, conducted contextual interviews, and audited existing solutions. For generative research, we recruited and interviewed creative professionals which helped us find opportunities for solutions and innovation.
Although there are a growing number of resources for performers, film review websites, and movie databases, only a few of them cater solely to networking. We analyzed the problem space by classifying relevant platforms based on direct and indirect competitors. To fully comprehend the existing gaps we reviewed articles and reports which emphasized the challenges and risks encountered by creative professionals.
Knowing our users
We conducted 7-remote interviews with directors, actors, writers, etc to understand the existing workflow and mental models. We aimed to start with an informal conversation, followed by standardized open-ended questions to truly understand how people work, including their environments, behaviors, attitudes, and perceptions about the creative industry. Since this is a new domain, after each interview, we interpreted the conversations and tweaked the interview guide as per the users. Overall, our interview was centered on:
- Journey as a creative professional
- Locating new opportunities
- Creating and sharing portfolios or showreels
- Connecting with peers
- Hire talents, technicians, or assistants
- Usage of social media to find work and build your network
After performing the first round of formative analysis, we discovered that the solution must provide specific characteristics for a variety of user categories. For instance:
- Showreel/Portfolio: Our users vary in age from young to old performers to tech-savvy directors to inexperienced technicians. Some users struggled to convert their files to a specific format so they could post them to a platform, while others maintained numerous platforms to keep their presence known.
- Profile: Physical characteristics, linguistic skills, accents, etc. are essential for performers but not for other users.
- Auditions/Hiring: Actors should be aware of casting calls and audition opportunities. Production companies, media organizations, and individuals, however, may recruit on a project-by-project or full-time basis.
Ideal User Profile
For each proto-persona, we identified the key tasks and their emotional state at each stage in their journey. The age, demographic, occupation, and skills closely resonated with our participant pool to make sure it outlines the needs of the app. These personas serve a prominent purpose while mapping the user journey.
Future-State Journey Map
We merged user emotions, obstacles, and steps in a visual route from one experience level to the next using the variables and use cases. The personas assisted us in creating a hierarchical task analysis, which we used to produce a hybrid future state journey map using an assumption-based research approach.
However, a few users’ objectives stayed the same, including learning about opportunities, growing their network, and finding reliable sources to hire creatives. The app has to be active in order to facilitate networking and user referrals.
Before starting with the designs, we documented divergent feature ideas that tackled the problem space. The hierarchical diagram of the application helped how pages will be prioritized, linked, and labeled. The features spanned from providing a job section for audition announcements, a community to look up theaters and groups for people in related professions, and the individual’s profile to add a portfolio and recommendations.
Kicking off the design
We created a style idea for the app based on the loose idea of the product and brand tonality. We agreed on the brand color as yellow, which symbolizes optimism, energy, joy, happiness, and friendship that we wanted the product to give off. The style guide should serve as a point of reference for all colors, fonts, and icons used within the app. We chose the font ‘Inter’ to be used throughout the app, which is a Sans-serif typeface intended to portray the contemporary and progressive mindset of the app.
Iterated Hi-fidelity Wireframe
User Testing 1: Mid-fidelity Wireframes Concept Testing
We conducted a round of mid-fidelity wireframe testing with 5 users and they mentioned that the concept of the application was relevant and meaningful. However, The interface of the wireframes resembled apps that they have used already and there’s nothing new. 3 users suggested the language needs to relate to their industry and requested to incorporate ‘stories’ on the homepage which they often used to share daily work.
Adding metaphors for iterated mid-fidelity wireframes
Before starting on the prototype, we iterated on the mid-fidelity wireframes. We incorporated metaphors that were minimalistic and didn’t hinder the functionalities of the app.
- We designed the ‘Stories’ icon as film reels, but it wasn’t very minimalistic. Hence, we adopted the rectangular shape of a reel and used it in our designs instead of the regular circles that we find in typical applications. From this stemmed other buttons as rectangles with rounded corners.
- We also wanted ‘Reactions’ to be relevant to the entertainment industry. Hence, we provided the ‘Applaud’ reaction for appreciating/liking a post, ‘Confetti’ to celebrate, and ‘Popcorn’ reaction to engaging content.
- We also tried to use words in the content design that are commonly related to the entertainment industry. For example, we used the word ‘spotlight’ to signify trends/latest news.
User Test 2: Hi-fidelity Wireframes
For our final prototype, we conducted 3 rounds of unmoderated usability tests using Usertesting.com for ages between 20-39 years old. To evaluate this prototype, we conducted a remote un-moderated task-based usability study with 15 participants, spanning senior actors, technicians, and other creative professionals. This was followed by a qualitative survey that asked participants to describe their thought processes while performing the tasks.
We believe the percentage increase in task completion for Task 1 in Round 3 as compared to Rounds 1 and 2 validates our design decision to add a 3-bar icon to the profile thumbnail. Given in mind the errors participants encountered during testing, it is possible that task completion percentages for Tasks 2, 3, and 4 could have been higher for Rounds 1 and 2 of testing where applicable. However, given the low task completion rates for Task 4, it is clear that there is still much room for improvement in that flow.
The team members assumed varying responsibilities throughout the project but shared the product vision and responsibilities necessary to plan, research, design, and user test the application. However, there were a few errors from the usability testing results we are still yet to work on but we sincerely hope and trust that this application would solve the major needs of professionals in the entertainment media industry.
Based on user feedback, the app proved to create transparency, trust, and credibility among users. On MediaN, users have access to daily job postings, unlimited audition calls, and unlimited media uploads. Our users will achieve a level of satisfaction where they can easily build their portfolios and look out for jobs. Filmmakers and casting directors can find the right cast for a project which helps determine its success.
Design & Research
- Implementation of card sorting and tree testing would have improved the usability of the application if performed ahead of wireframing.
- Spending more time on the problem space to understand what other features users would wish to leverage on MediaN.
- Need a better design system for when we had multiple team members working on the same version of the prototype.
- Research extensively about the different platforms where our surveys could be published to yield maximum results.
- Spending more time on user testing after being armed with the high-fidelity version to tweak and add further changes along with testing focused on the design itself besides the flow.
- Since all the usability tests after developing the hi-fidelity prototype were performed on usertesting.com we would probably try to schedule more usability tests in person since it paves the way to understand user emotions and also lacks face-to-face communication if the user misunderstands task instructions or runs into issues.