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The UX Design Process for the Boxee Beta

The UX Design Process for the Boxee Beta

Whitney Hess

December 06, 2010

More than a year ago I very proudly announced that Boxee, the much-loved social media center software company, had hired me as the user experience designer for their beta. In the five months that I worked with them, I conducted user interviews and usability testing to identify people’s needs, behaviors and frustrations, and redesigned the app’s navigation and key screens.

Earlier this month the Boxee beta was released, and the consensus so far is that the overall experience is a huge improvement over the alpha. While I have not been formally engaged with Boxee since May (such is the life of an independent consultant), I am incredibly pleased to see that many of my ideas were implemented and made all the better by Boxee’s small but outstanding team of visual designers and developers.

The Process

I conducted interviews with six prospective users (people who at the time had never used Boxee) and five existing users. I also performed usability testing with five existing users (three on their laptop and two on their home TV).

For the user research, I asked a boatload of questions about people’s media consumption habits and attitudes. Of the 11 people I interviewed, two people subscribed to basic cable without DVR, five people subscribed to digital cable with DVR, and four people did not subscribe to cable at all.

Everyone I interviewed watches TV and movies using their computers, at least in part; approximately half had substantial personally-stored media collections and almost all used streaming media online. All interviewees also consumed digital music and photographs to some degree.

These individuals all considered themselves tech savvy, but represented both ends of the spectrum: from tinkerers to zealots. While some were programmers, others worked in technology only tangentially as business analysts, writers, designers, and sales representatives. They also had varying use of social networking websites, Web applications, blogs, and other websites.

The questions I asked during my interviews are below.

User Interview Questions

- Tell me a bit about yourself. Where do you live? Where are you from? What do you do?
- What kind of computer do you have?
- What kind of TV do you have? What stuff do you have hooked up to your TV?
- Tell me about your TV watching habits. Cable? Satellite? How often? Where?
- Who do you usually watch TV with? How do you decide what to watch?
- What kinds of shows do you watch? Are there shows that you watch regularly? How do you remember to watch them?
- What are your movie watching habits?
- Do you watch movies on your computer? How? Where? When?
- Do you watch videos, movies or TV shows online? How? How often? Where?
- Do you subscribe to Netflix or similar? How do you use it?
- Do you use Hulu, YouTube or other online video sites?
- What is your personal movie collection like?
- Are you using any media centers now? Which ones? Experience with them?
- What is your personal music collection like?
- What are your music listening habits? How and where do you listen?
- Where do you find music?
- Do you listen to music on the Internet? Where?
- Have you ever played music at a party you were hosting? How? Where?
- Have you ever played music through your TV? What do you use? How do you navigate? Keyboard/remote
- What is your personal photo collection like?
- Where are your photos stored?
- What photo applications do you use?
- What photo sites do you use?
- Have you ever displayed your photos on your TV? How? What do you use? How do you navigate? Keyboard/remote
- What websites or blogs do you frequent?
- Do you comment on blogs? Review sites?
- Do you use Facebook? How?
- Other social networking sites? Twitter?
- Other Web apps?

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