Reinventing the Wheel: NDTV Play

Product development is a thrilling experience.  I love the excitement of a blank canvas, inventing what hasn’t been done yet, and most importantly, giving our customer a product that makes them happy.

Microsoft invited Aditi to take part in the MS Web Excellence Challenge. The ‘Online Video Category’ was sponsored by NDTV, one of the biggest news media houses in India. They had a very simple requirement – ‘Submit a proposal for an application built using Microsoft tools and technologies, which will present NDTV’s video content in a “lean-back” experience for the users.’ This was a three round selective process: First, we submitted a proposed solution.  Second, we showed how we arrived at it, why it would work, and come up with a prototype.  And finally, we presented the working prototype. Simple enough… …or so we thought. We went to the drawing board. First we needed to understand who the user was. We asked questions like, “Who would use this product?”… “What do they do?”… “When would they use this product?” …“What are they trying to achieve with this product?”  …“What would make them come back to use it?” This is where our user experience practice came in extremely handy. Answer the basics first and understand your user.  Become the user.  Then create.

We designed the solution keeping a wider demographic in mind; people from various backgrounds and experiences who will spend time every day to catch up on news and other interesting video content and want to share them with their friends and family. Usability and user experience ruled supreme as we tried to make this work efficiently across the board.

Next… the pretty pictures came up on the white board.

NDTV was created as a Microsoft Silverlight solution, which would work across PCs and MACs, creating the “lean-back” experience with complete keyboard access, that continued to play videos one after another without asking the user to sit up and click ‘Play’ on every other video. When the user begins to use NDTV, our custom built algorithm starts recommending content that is more in-tune with videos the user has watched, liked and shared, keeping them glued and engaged.  Simple and advanced search allows users to dig into NDTV’s archives for specific content as well. A news ticker informs the users of any and all breaking news as it happens, and each story is one click away. NDTV Play is also integrated with Google, Facebook, Yahoo and Twitter logins. Collaborative pieces were added in, like sharing on Twitter, Facebook, as well as the functionality to  even send a simple email to friends that the user could voice their own comments and opinions.

One of the slickest parts of this tool?  On the back-end, a Silverlight and Google Analytics framework allowed us to keep NDTV informed on how the application fared with users. It provided useful data like What they were watching, what they weren’t, what they liked, and what they didn’t.

That was easy. What more could we do that hadn’t been thought of yet? With NDTV being one of the biggest media houses in India, we knew we could leverage their vast news content. What if you were able to play news segments that aired over time to create a storyline? Awesome. We ran with this idea and now, for each piece of news that you watch, the application puts together a string of videos on a timeline showing you how the story unfolded.

The solution wowed NDTV AND Aditi won the web design challenge at the Indimix event in May 2010! After Aditi’s six month partnership with NDTV, ‘NDTV Play’ went live as an immersive and intuitive UI, rich in features. The application today has over 334,000 returning users.

Download NDTV Play and try it for yourself!

-Souparna

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