Inside Fandor’s Design Team

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How the Fandor community of film lovers helped us design the new Film Page.

In a world where streaming platforms unapologetically copy each others’ interfaces, we believe there is room for Fandor to create a unique and welcoming place where cinema lovers can follow their bliss. Prominent streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and HBO Now are great for some things, just as Costco is great for bulk purchases of toothpaste, but we know that people come to Fandor for something a little different. So, with last week’s launch of the all-new Fandor Film Page, we thought we’d share with you a bit about what we’ve learned about our Fandorians, and how we learned it.

Here on the experience design team at Fandor we’re pretty much obsessed with discovering what film lovers want when they settle in at night (or pull out their tablet on the bus) to enjoy some streaming entertainment. Our irrepressible curiosity about what makes people click, coupled with a scientific approach to user interviews and analysis, informs us as we make design decisions to improve our product… so that you can discover great films.

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First off, we looked at site metrics to get a broad idea of where people were struggling. We  examined:

  • Most popular films on Fandor
  • Where some of Fandor’s potential members came from
  • How long members stick around
  • Where members go if they leave

Next, we took a close look at other streaming services, andt how they addressed — or didn’t address — usability issues. This helped us later on to make sure we weren’t making the same types of mistakes.

Taking a step back even further

We’re not only experience designers but also avid film lovers and users of the service. This allows us to look at Fandor with non-techie eyes, as movie lovers. While we develop “gut feelings” about what we should improve upon, this doesn’t dictate precisely what we should work on. This is where we rely on research to guide us.

Let’s talk focus groups

At Fandor HQ in downtown San Francisco, we conducted a series of focus groups that included potential, new and existing Fandor members, movie lovers all. Participants were guided through a discussion about the pleasures and frustrations of streaming movies online, with special attention paid to how they choose films to watch and what kinds of recommendations they most value. We received a lot of fascinating feedback and input from all of our participants, listening to them describe their love/hate relationships with the well known movie-streaming sites that they used.

Down with robots

Several participants expressed frustration with services they felt lacked a human voice. Moreover, the algorithmic movie recommendations offered by many services were felt to be unreliable, and often even annoying. When they felt that a computer algorithm was presuming to understand their personal tastes and cinematic preferences, participants reported feeling put off. They articulated a desire for movie recommendations from trusted sources—real people—served with appropriate context and explanation.

Why do you watch what you watch?

It’s well known in the movie business that a friend’s recommendation is powerfully persuasive in getting someone to watch a particular film. At our focus groups we also heard how the context and commentary surrounding a film — a well-written film description, a positive quote from a recognized film critic, a personal review from a community member — really impacts a person’s perception of a film. They told us they wished more services would give loving attention to the quality of additional content they presented. Perhaps our biggest takeaway from our focus groups was that it’s the voice of the film expert or trusted friend, not some pre-generated algorithm, that appears to make a real difference to people.

The path forward

At this point, Fandor’s product team considered everything we’d learned thus far and decided to focus on the following areas:

  • Creating an experience that brings a cinematic quality to the surface
  • Building on the trust that film lovers have invested in Fandor as a cinematic tastemaker
  • Improving the context, personalization and messaging around curation and recommendations

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Picking where to start

Since people typically come to Fandor to watch a movie, we decided that the best way to improve the viewing experience was to tackle the Film Page. After all, it’s where all the magic happens.

Knowing that engaged members who actually watch movies are most likely to remain within the Fandor community, we focused our efforts on presenting only the information and resources that we believe  will inspire someone to watch a film.

When it comes to major design overhaul projects, the ability to rapidly test assumptions and experiment — with real people providing feedback — is an essential ingredient for success. One of the amazing aspects of the design culture here at Fandor is that we are encouraged to explore freely. Each designer on the team got a chance to create their own dream film page, drawing from the learnings gained through focus groups, data-driven design metrics and personal assumptions. After critiquing them internally with the full product team and revising them to address product and branding concerns, we knew we needed to test them further with a live audience to make sure we were going in the right direction.

Prototype testing

After a few weeks of intensive work, we coalesced around a design for a new Film Page which we felt was very close to realizing the values that we had aspired to. But we still didn’t know for sure whether the design correctly addressed a key question that we had posed to ourselves at the outset of the design process:

“What information about a film is most relevant to the viewer, and how can we quickly deliver the information they need, in the right order?”

So we created a clickable prototype from our design and recruited a fresh crew of Fandor members to interact with it, listening intently to their feedback and watching them complete typical tasks such as watching and queuing films, tipping off friends to newly discovered gems and writing film reviews. We were gratified to discover that our prototype was popular with the people we tested it on.

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At this point, we felt confident in our design approach and decided that the Film Page was ready for buildout. After an intense period working closely with Fandor’s engineering team, we launched the new film page to all of our members last week. But we won’t stop there: we’re currently finishing a total revamp of our home page. Stay tuned, it’s coming soon!

2 thoughts on “Inside Fandor’s Design Team

  1. Pingback: Hard-Core Punk, Hard-Boiled Eggs, Rhythm, Revenge and More (In Case You Missed It) | Fandor blog

  2. Pingback: Dissecting Fandor’s New Member Homepage | Fandor blog

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