UX Strategy Musings from Will Tschumy, Microsoft User Experience Advisor

UX Strategy header image 2

Problem Statement for Phizzpop Design Challenge LA

December 3rd, 2007 by Will Tschumy

We handed out this problem to our participants this morning:

Phizzpop Design Challenge LA: Overview

“PhizzPop Design Challenge” is an invite-only, nation-wide competition focused on solving an interaction design problem. Contestants will attend 2 days of Expression, Silverlight, WLP, as well as be supported by technical staff from Redmond. At the end of the training, the teams will be presented with the design problem and personas. The teams will have the next two and a half days to solve the design problem. At the end of the work period there will be a reception/party at which each team will present and demonstrate their solution to the panel of judges for 7 minutes.

There will be 6 teams of 2-3 people competing at each event, each representing a top agency. Approximately 150 attendees are expected at the reception, primarily consisting of designers, developers, and agency representatives. After a short deliberation, the judges will announce the winners, along with comments. At the team’s discretion, they may work at Microsoft’s offices in the host city. There, they will have access to Microsoft technical experts well versed on Expression, Silverlight, Visual Studio, and Windows Live Platform.

The Los Angeles party is December 6th, beginning at 6pm at the Elevate Lounge. The winning team will win Xbox 360s, Software and a trip to SxSW in March 2008 to compete in our national championship.

Phizzpop Design Challenge: National Championship Overview

The winning team of up to 3 contestants from each regional event will win a position in the final round of the design challenge in Austin, TX on March 8th, 2007 including round trip flight $500 stipend, $150 food stipend, $400 hotel stipend, and passes to the Interactive portion of the SXSW conference. Any other costs associated with travelling and participating in the Final Event are the sole responsibility of the winning agency.

Following the Finals round, one winning agency will receive $2000 cash or equivalent prize with option for $2000 cash for each of the 2-3 team members for a total of up to $6000. If the Final event is cancelled, for any reason, Microsoft will have no further obligation to the winning teams.

Problem Statement


You and your team have just been hired by a consortium representing all of the major Movie and Television studios. Your team constitutes the Office of the President of Products. You are responsible for determining the product strategy for this consortium. While your authority is considerable, it is not absolute.

You must pitch your product solution to the Board of Directors, also known as the Judges.

The media industry is facing an unprecedented set of challenges today. Digital distribution, a dramatic reduction in traditional advertising, the rise of social networks such as MySpace and Facebook and other factors have all combined to force a fundamental rethinking of the entertainment industry.

Your job is to:

  • Find new ways to monetize the deep catalog of content that the consortium has. You should specifically be thinking beyond simply pay per download, subscriptions or advertising
  • Look for new ways to create fans of our content. Sites like MySpace and Facebook (among others) have shown us that social networks are powerful tools. Figure out how to exploit the principles of social networking, integrate into existing networks, or both
  • Look for ways to exploit the Long Tail. The consortium has a fantastic amount of old content that’s very valuable to many people. Figure out how to best help our users find existing content, discover other content, and share this with friends
  • Figure out the device & platform landscape. Between iTunes, the iPod, Zune, Media Center, UnBox, Xbox Live, Joost, and everything else, it’s difficult to understand the overall experience system for our users. Explore creating your own, partnering, or both

A large part of this design challenge is to make whatever experience desirable, rather than simply a forced option. Specific features and functionality should be determined by the needs of the personas (see following pages). While your solution does not need to be functional, it must simulate the experience of each of the personas you’ve chosen to solve for.

Persona 1: The always connected gadget junkie

Name: David

Age: 32

Primary Computer: Sony VAIO running Vista; Alienware Mediacenter PC

Devices: iPod Touch, Zune, Xbox 360, 2 Tivo Series 3s, SlingBox HD, 2 AppleTVs, a 3G Phone (with SlingBox Player), PMP, Sony XBR3 LCD TVs, PS3, Wii

Internet Connection: FIOS 50Mbit downstream / 10Mbit Upstream

Overview: David is a high-tech executive. He’s the first to admit it: he’s a gadget geek. He as all the new toys, and rationalizes it by saying it’s important for his job. The truth is he just really likes toys. His secret love is when he has the gadget *before* Engadget or Gizmodo know about it!

David has recently had his house renovated. As part of the renovation, he had a high-speed network installed. Finally he can stream movies and TV from his media servers (iTunes and Media Center) to his various different TVs. Prior to this, David was very annoyed by the speed of his wireless network – he *hates* it when the program he’s watching skips.

David signed up for Joost when it was in beta, but it never quite clicked for him. He played with Democracy (now Miro), but could only deal with so much random and free media. I mean really, how many episodes of Democracy Now! can you really watch?

He’s also dabbled with P2P networks (shhh! don’t tell anyone), but recently has been spooked by the RIAA. On a more practical note, it’s a real pain when you almost get a file and then the last host drops. He doesn’t mind paying for the movie or album, he just can’t always find what he wants. He’s terrible with names, and usually remembers TV shows or Movies by scenes, rather than by actor or name.

iTunes, XBox Live, along with Amazon UnBox help, but he gets frustrated with having to split his catalog between services. Amazon / Xbox Live have some of the movies, TV shows, and songs he wants, and iTunes has others, but it still means that he has to have multiple accounts with his services, have multiple devices when he travels (and he does a lot), and multiple devices attached to his TVs. He also gets frustrated with ripping his NetFlix rentals. It should just be easier.

His other frustration is that all of his friends are scattered across all the different services. He know what he likes, but is only deep in certain areas (cartoons, crime movies, and electronic). He really relies on his friends to show him new options (and Amazon’s recommendation engine). With his friends so spread out, it means, gasp, he has to actually speak with them.

Persona 2: Isn’t impressed, and doesn’t care

Name: Erica

Age: 38

Primary Computer: ThinkPad X61 running Vista

Devices: iPod Nano, Verizon Chocolate phone, Bose Lifestyle 48 Series IV Entertainment System, Tivo Series 2

Internet Connection: Cable via WiFi

Overview: Erica is a corporate lawyer at a big firm down town. She just recently made Partner, and works long hours. Her focus is Entertainment Law. While she knows the legal issues surrounding digital distribution backwards and forwards (at $400 per hour, she’d better), digital media just doesn’t connect with her.

On the few moments she does have off, she usually spends them at the gym. Her iPod is always attached to her, and is the only thing that gets her through her hour long runs. She’s experimented with buying TV shows from iTunes Store, but hasn’t been happy with the quality (either the fact that she has to watch it on her very small iPod Nano screen, or when she hooks her iPod up to her TV). It just hasn’t seemed worth it.

She bought a Tivo Series 2 a couple years ago, which she uses a lot. That is to say, she has a lot of season passes but she almost never makes it through a show without falling asleep. At the end of the day, if she’s going to spend the time watching anything, it needs to be much higher quality than she’s seen to date. She’s got so little time, that she wants to feel like she’s spending it wisely. After all, she did buy that Bose thing.

At the end of the day, she just doesn’t care about the tech, or the ability to get new music, TV shows and Movies. What she’s seen hasn’t impressed her, and she doesn’t have enough time to find something she might like better.

Persona 3: Tastemaker without the matching wallet

Name: Jake

Age: 23

Primary Computer: MacBook

Devices: iPod

Internet Connection: DSL

Overview: Jake graduated college last year. His ‘day job’ is as a personal trainer at the local high-end gym. At night, he practices with his band as much as possible. He’s got a MySpace page for his band that’s gotten a lot of traffic, and he thinks he’s close to ‘making it.’

His life is on his MacBook he bought during his senior year of college. It’s his juke box, his recording studio, and his home theater. The only time it leaves his side is when he’s doing a training session at the gym.

Jake ‘gets’ it: He knows that people deserve to be paid for their work. He also knows that he gets inspiration from lots of different sources and he’s not able to afford the amount of music he listens to, or the number of shows and movies he watches. Whenever he does get some cash, he tries to buy the best stuff he’s sampled. Before the internet, Jake’s most hated experience was buying a CD after hearing the single on the radio, only to find that the rest of the album was trash. Part of the reason he spent so much time on Napster was to get back at the record companies. The rejection letters he’s gotten in the past don’t help either.

Jake spends a lot of time on P2P networks right now – so much so that his cable modem was been shut off for ‘exceeding bandwidth limits.’ It’s now back on, since it’s in his roommate’s name, and he’s trying to be more careful. Also, his neighbors don’t seem to have mastered turning on security on their wireless network.

Jake is ‘the man’ everyone goes to for the newest music, TV or movie trend. His clients at the gym always ask for suggestions. Amazingly enough, they keep asking for more. Through his MySpace page, he’s also gotten a lot of people (700!) to sign up for his Twitter feed. He was amazed to get 300 people to his last show at the local bar.

Now that he’s trying to get into the industry, and more than that, understands how much work it really is to produce a song, much less a record, he wants to be certain that artists get paid for their efforts. After all, he’d like to stop working at the gym sometime.

At the end of the day, he really wants to support the artists that are good. He buys as much of the movies and music he really likes (most of the time he can get it at the used CD store). He drives so many sales, shouldn’t the industry be happy with what he does?

Related Posts: