Video On Demand Configuration UI
Cable operators need to be able to manage their Video On Demand systems. This is typically done in a bare-bones, feature-poor application. This obviously leaves much to be desired for our customers. This new UI adds all sorts of functionality for our operators and the cable operators to manage their assets, customize their dashboards, run special promotions and even track activity logs and roll back changes. This all new tool and user interface makes it easy and almost fool-proof to manage Video On Demand systems.
The first thing I did was to try to understand the needs of the folks in our Operations department as they fulfill the same tasks that the service providers eventually would. After a few meetings with one of their lead guys and talking with our developers, I started to get a sense of what this application needed to do. Once I received a few sloppy sketches from one of the engineers who understood the backend workings, I was ready to get started.
Initially, we had a few sessions where we'd hit the whiteboard and discuss the task flows and details of certain interactions. There were a lot of 'nice-to-haves' mixed in with necessary features. These were identified and prioritized accordingly using colored sticky notes. Afterwards, wireframes started taking shape and were further refined over the course of a few weeks of more meetings. I'd share these basic designs with the developers and Operations people and hosted several sessions to solidify the direction. Zeplin proved invaluable as we exchanged feedback and ideas. Once in place, I was able to tie user flows together and map out the interactions.
Things had been moving slowly throughout this process on the development end, which gave me the opportunity to start conceptualizing the visual aspect. I was way ahead of the game at this point. I started defining styles and the wireframes started turning into more polished designs thanks to the flexibility of Sketch.
I received positive feedback from Operations and the Zeplin comments trickled to a stop. I had an approved design direction, a flow chart for easy understanding and consensus on the approach from the actual users. Since this was uncharted territory for the developers, I had finished the UX design months before they even started doing the frontend work. But, I was there to support their efforts once they began.
One of these support task was to turn the entire web tool into an interactive prototype. The ended up being a huge effort that filled my time for a couple months. I loved it! I used Axure RP to create complex interactions, which up being a full-featured, polished tool to train Operations and help them visualize their work flows in a more straight-forward manner. Creating these high-fidelity prototypes is like doing visual design, production work and solving puzzles at the same time. It's very stimulating and rewarding once complex problems are solved.
The other support task was to document user flows and guide interactions for new users with a 'user manual'. This document serves as a reference for new users who would be tasked with using this tool for the first few times. Though the product tested very well and was, in a way, designed by the people who would ultimately be using it, we plan to productize it. In order to reduce calls to our specialist from the service provider customers, this document should have most of the answers they're looking for.