For this 48 hour hackathon, Thi Dang and I explored how we might turn Hulu into more of a social destination and platform. How could we introduce social functions and features across the apps? We mostly wanted to transition the excitement and anticipation that people have around real-life social viewing parties to something you could do online with Hulu's new user experience.
Imagine if you could watch your favorite shows along with friends in different cities? Even when you're in Los Angeles and they're in New York, you would still be able to hear them cry, shriek and laugh at the same times.
After crafting a mission statement, we started to sketch wireframes, draft user flows, make mockups and eventually a clickable prototype built using Principle. We had only 48 hours to come up with a feature idea supported by a high-fidelity, clickable prototype. Our idea, “Add Me on Hulu,” introduces social features to the platform that would allow Hulu users to engage as a social community around the content they love. Here is the final result that we presented at the Hackathon:
A Shared Love for TV
Whether you think about it or not, watching TV is a social experience. When you tune in to watch the latest episode of Game of Thrones on Sunday night, you know you are not alone. Your friends and coworkers are watching too.
They might not be in the room physically with you but they’re there with you every step of the way. You’re connected to your friends via Snapchat, Instagram, Messenger, and more. When the credits roll, you might go on Twitter or Reddit to see what strangers have to say about the cliffhanger season finale. On Monday morning, you’ll have a conversation with your coworkers and buddies about what happened in the show just to relive the experience one more time.
What Hulu Does Well
Hulu’s mission statement is to captivate and connect people with stories they love by creating amazing experiences. The people behind Hulu believe that TV is something people can bond over — and it’s true.
When I met my roommates for the first time this summer, we didn’t have a lot to talk about at first. Our conversations picked up in a short amount of time when we realized that we liked the same TV shows. We made plans to watch those favorite shows together during the summer. Some of the best memories I had with them happened occurred in front of a TV.
Where Hulu Falls Short
Hulu is captivating its audience with original content but it could do a better job at connecting viewers over the stories they love.
We noticed that practically all streaming platforms (like Hulu, Netflix, and HBO) don’t provide users with social capabilities. As two interns on the UX Design team, we attempted to find a solution to this problem in just the span of two days. On the first day, we spent time researching and doing a competitive analysis of social community features on popular platforms like Instagram, SoundCloud and Spotify.
Researching Social Patterns and Platforms
Together, we did a mind mapping exercise to derive a holistic view of the Hulu platform and TV watching experience. Doing this helped us gain a better understanding of the relationship between our feelings, experiences, and ideas and how that relates to the topic at hand. One important insight we got from doing this exercise is that watching TV is inherently a social experience crafted by communities.
Multiple Modes of Communication
From there on, we examined the trends in how people communicate today about the content they watch. From sending snapchats to friends over the latest Game of Thrones release to reading fan theories on Reddit, people like to show their participation and appreciation in different ways. Following our affinity map, we looked for inspiration in terms of content engagement from other social media sites. We quickly drew up various social media UX based on our own usage. Our goal was to think about all the different ways in how users experience content socially.
Why Social Profiles?
This exercise actually help pushed our design further because we were able to look beyond just thinking about TV. For example, we noticed how people love to put TV premiers on their Snapchat story. Our assumption is that they are creating a micro-community within stories themselves. Another interesting example was Spotify “Friend Activity” and how people can actively engage with music content directly when their friends are watching it. This led us to think about profiles.
Profiles is the truly foundation for social identity and community. It lets people have a sense of belonging within a larger community and to think about social aspects within the Hulu platform.
Our Solution in Lo-Fi
This was our first stab at profile page. Our goal was to give users an identity beyond lineup recommendations. Some of our early ideas was having profile skins based on user’s favorite content.
Our other idea was Watch Parties, a feature product that allowed users to watch the content they love with their friends in real time.
From any TV show, users could set up a watch party and invite their friends, similar to a party invitation in real life. One of the challenges with watch parties was the introduction of “friends.” It adds a complex layer that was critical in order to get the experience right. We spent a lot of time discussing the tradeoffs of how to treat friends.
Social Profiles & Watch Parties
To solve for the lack of social features on Hulu, we developed the concept for Hulu Profiles and Rooms. These features help bring about a sense of personal identity and community within the larger ecosystem.
Friends can follow other friends and strangers to see what they’re watching in real time, the way Spotify lets you see what friends are listening to. With friends on Hulu, you could get recommendations for what to watch next from your trusted friends who are the best sources. In addition, you could leverage these profiles to create viewing parties, a feature that allows Hulu users to watch content they love with their friends in real time. In these viewing parties, friends would be able to gasp, shriek, cry, and laugh at the same moments.