Binge Watching TV and User Experience (UX) Design

The Wonderful World of Binge-Watching (and UX Design)

Justin Rossi

By Justin Rossi
Associate UX Director

The Wonderful World of Binge-Watching (and UX Design)

The rise of on-demand television streaming has fundamentally changed the way that we consume entertainment. No longer must we rush to the couch for that coveted Sunday night prime time slot. Instead, we can watch what we want, when we want, for as long as we want. In fact, ‘binge-watching’ (the term used to describe this phenomenon) officially has its own page on Wikipedia[1]. That means it’s officially a real thing.

Preparing for an extended TV session can take more effort than one might initially assume. It is a commitment and, if you are finally going to take the plunge and catch up on that HBO show with the dragons everyone has been talking about, you’ll need to understand what you’re getting into. It pays to have a strategy. And, since we’re on the subject of strategy, this would be a good segue to bring up the ‘UX Design’ part of the title. As a UX Designer, ‘strategy’ should be a fundamental aspect of your job description. So, in this article I will attempt to illuminate the similarities between the two and discuss some tips you can employ to help your next binge-watch session and/or UX Design project go over smoothly.

Part 1 – Preparation

Snacks, anyone? (extra credit if you can spot the popcorn in each photo)

While it’s impossible to cover every scenario, there are certain steps we can take pre couch/conference table to help ensure there will be solid ground waiting for us when we jump in.

Set up a feasible timeline

  • Be prepared and know the scope of the endeavor. Are you going for a few episodes or a few seasons? Do you have a single evening or a 4-day weekend? Time is limited and you want to make sure that you can chunk it effectively. If it’s going to be a marathon having the right mental state is key to avoiding burnout.
  • On the UX side, you need to…. do pretty much the exact same thing.  Know how similar projects have gone. Know how other work with that client has gone. Are you being tasked to tweak a feature or design an application from the ground up? If you’ve prepared and done the legwork, you’ll be fairly certain of the tasks you need to complete to help the client reach their objective. Of course, it always pays to be flexible and roll with the punches, but having an idea of where you are, where you need to go, and how long you have to get there is key.

The start line

  • Any good binger knows that it’s important to have all the materials at hand so you aren’t looking for things once the show has begun. Is your subscription up to date? Is someone’s intense gaming going to suck all of your bandwidth? Is the kitchen stocked and accessible? The bathroom? (you never know). Try to reduce the likelihood you’ll face interruptions that you weren’t prepared for.
  • On the UX side, that means doing your due diligence before you touch those pixels. Do you know your client’s target audience? Are you aware of the competition? Have you researched the tech stack that the client will be using? Will any main stakeholders be transitioning roles or taking vacations during the course of the project? Though it may seem excessive, it’s always better to be over prepared than under prepared.

Part 2 – Implementation

All work…and all play.

Once you’ve done the initial prep and you feel your ducks are neatly in a row, it’s time to hit play.

Rally the troops

  • Will you be descending into the world of binge-watching alone? Yes? Well…lucky you. But if you have other ‘stakeholders’ joining you (e.g. friends, spouses, cats) then part of managing the binge-process will lie in managing the expectations, habits, and time of those other individuals. And if you’re going it alone, it becomes equally important to manage those things in yourself.
  • As a UX practitioner, it means you should know with and for whom you’ll be working. The overall goal of the team is to see the project through successfully. Each individual will have a unique set of skills and constraints. Knowing this and in some cases, tweaking your processes to accommodate them might be the needed to help the team reach that goal in one piece.

Keeping up with the Joneses

  • Experts can debate why we binge watch. Perhaps it’s because we crave some long form storytelling in a world rife with bite-sized nuggets of distraction. Or perhaps, “we are rejecting, in at least one crucial aspect of our lives—entertainment—the idea of instant gratification”[2]. I personally think it’s just so we don’t feel left out at lunchtime. So, while the binge-process is running, you’ll need to simultaneously prepare for the water cooler talk. Here is where it pays to recruit a team of fellow watchers and/or internet analysts. You don’t have to remember everything on your own; you just need enough to contribute meaningfully in a conversation with others.
  • For a UX project, the process is the same. You typically won’t need to tackle the whole project by yourself. Work smarter not harder. If you’re part of a team or have a partner that can help bolster your knowledge then let them. Just know enough so you’ll know what questions to ask and whom to pose them to. Keep the lines of communication open so that you can repeatedly circle back and check your work to make sure you are on the right track.

Binge-watching and UX endeavors both benefit from experience and iterations. The more times you do them, the smoother they will tend to go. Hopefully, thinking about the tips outlined in this article will help boost your chances of success. If all of your processes are in place and you trust the people working on your team, the chances of crossing the finish line triumphantly should be higher than the chances of crawling across it with a trail of popcorn and/or post-it notes behind you.


Photo Credits: Ryan and Kyle Czepiel

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