a google podcasting platform to help content creators who want to increase ROI by simplifying content management and increasing revenue and audience engagement
Google doesn't yet have a podcasting app, and in an effort to compete and capitalize on the steady growth of podcast listening, a team of fellow DevMountain students and I were given the job to conceptualize a Google podcasting application. A two week design sprint with classmates, this project focused on Material Design and the ability for podcasters to easily monetize their craft.
My responsibilities as a team member included:
- Research: establishing relevant interview questions to best discover behaviors and potential solutions, conducting user interviews with both a dedicated podcast listener and a podcast creator, and synthesizing this information into our features and site map
- Sketching and wireframing
- Prototyping: contributing options for both the Home and Notifications screens
RESEARCH & DISCOVERY
To begin, our group unpacked our task, gathering as much information as possible about podcasting, brainstorming potential interview subjects, and devising an interview guide.
According to data accumulated by Edison Research and Triton Digital for the Infinite Dial 2016, an estimated 57 million people listen to podcasts every week. This number has grown steadily year after year: 9% of the US population listened to podcasts every month in 2008, when they were introduced, and in 2016, that number was 17%. In 2016, radical podcast listening growth shows approximately 21% of the population listening to podcasts regularly, at least once per month. They are affluent, and spend an average of just over four hours per week listening to podcasts. 70% of them pay to subscribe to premium video streaming services. Podcast listening lags behind on the Android versus the iPhone, 41% to 49%
We chose to interview both content creators and podcast listeners. We wanted to understand their behavior not only in relation to their podcast listening/creating, but as to their subscription habits elsewhere online (would they be willing to pay for a service, or would we need to integrate ads using AdSense?), what they do for work (could podcasting become a viable career for any of our creators?), and what kind of goals they have (why do they listen to/make podcasts?).
I interviewed an upper middle-class father, thirty-four years old, who works in the tech industry, holds a college degree, and listens to approximately eleven hours of podcasts per week. He listens to podcasts because they're interesting, saying, "I feel like I’m getting something valuable from them. The ones by NPR are really good, because I feel like it’s time well spent. I’m learning stuff as I go. The other ones are kind of like junk food, if I listen to them too long, I feel like I do when I eat too much barbecue." He listens to them when he's performing otherwise habitual tasks, primarily driving and working out. He wouldn't pay for a subscription, but doesn't mind customary podcast ads when they feel native to the content. He would be annoyed and feel cheated if he paid for a subscription and yet his podcasts still had ads, saying, "I’d feel like they were double-dipping me." He listens via the Apple Podcast app, and discovers new podcasts via the Most Popular tab and native ads that tease content from the rest of the podcast channel.
I also interviewed a podcast creator who regularly works on three different comedy podcasts. His small team (of two people) uses LipSync to host their podcasts- they pay a $5 fee per month, and the app sends their podcasts to an RSS feed, iTunes, Stitcher, and their website. As he says: "it's almost too easy." They used to track their users (which is a higher monthly price), but they prefer to interact with their listeners via social media. The creator started podcasting "as an excuse to have time to see [my brother] and catch up... we’ve just kept doing it." They don't see it as a potential career, but as a creative outlet. Their revenue model is "very guerrilla." They record a show, and post bonus episodes and exclusives to their Patreon [a subscription service based on donations for episodes], setting a monthly donation limit.
After aggregating and sharing our data, our team identified the most pertinent creator problems, and chose the top, most common themes to incorporate as solutions in our app:
- Provide source of revenue
- Provide content management, including hosting, editing, and data
- Increase audience engagement and promotion
And with this information, we established our value proposition:
Our podcasting platform helps content creators who want to increase ROI by simplifying content management and increasing revenue and audience engagement.
We also used our research to create personas of our users:
We started mapping our application, establishing potential features and user flows:
We conducted a Design Studio, rapidly sketching our ideas for home screens and features:
On our own, we designed wireframes and prototypes using Material Design for both the home screen and our assigned features. These included Recording and Uploading, Library/Content, Analytics, Promotions, and Notifications. I was responsible for Notifications.
We chose a direction and color scheme to focus on, and reiterated our prototypes to start aggregating our screens together. Our teammate Jacob Russell created branding assets, including our logo, and edited final elements of our screens to unify the design, and Marvin Nelson put together our Marvel prototype.
Introducing: Google Go
Try it out!
We set out to test our app's usability with our product manager, Jay, and our lead DevMountain instructor, Britton. For the first task, we asked them to record their first podcast episode. This was not as direct an experience as we'd hoped. Both the Explore and Promotions features were confusing and unclear, and distracted one user from the task, going to his Library before finding and pressing the Record button, which we'd intentionally placed prominently (or so we had thought) on two primary screens for easy upload. The other user found the Record button more easily, but was confused by the audio files and upload options.
We also asked our users to see how their most recent episodes were performing. Instead of choosing the Analytics tab, one user went to his Library. There was no easy way to navigate back to Home from the deeper analytics, and the Navigation changed too frequently. The Analytics were hard to see and digest, requiring better visual hierarchy.
Working as a team was awesome, as collaboration and cooperation were vital to our process. Learning how and when to compromise or stand up for certain ideas, users, or concepts was really valuable, and as any former team athlete knows, we all needed to be successful individually to succeed collaboratively. Utilizing each team member's specializations and strengths meant we were stronger together.
We had lots of takeaways from our testing. With more time, we'd address the following:
- Many of the designs are still incohesive: Roboto, the Material Design typeface, was not used throughout all the screens; spacing and padding does not uniformly conform to Material standards
- Our "Library" would more appropriately be changed to "Feed" or "My Episodes"
- The Analytics design, particularly the hierarchy and the typography
- The placement of the Record buttons
- Reducing sub navigational confusion