Tiffany, UX Design Intern @ Hulu
Hey everyone! I’m Tiffany Jiang, a senior at Carnegie Mellon University studying Communication Design and Human Computer Interaction. This summer, I had the incredible opportunity of interning at Hulu’s HQ, in Santa Monica, for ten weeks on the UX Design team.
The New Hulu Experience with Live TV
Earlier this year, Hulu announced its Live TV program, allowing users to watch live content in addition to shows and movies on demand. If you aren’t familiar with the product, feel free to check it out below.
For a monthly fee, you can cut cable and use Hulu’s Live TV service to watch your favorite content from the networks shown in the image below. You can also record shows and movies to your Cloud DVR. Thanks to the Hulu app, I was able to watch ABC’s live broadcast of the solar eclipse today using just my phone.
The TV Landscape is Changing
What exactly does “watching TV” mean nowadays? Are you getting your content from Hulu, HBO, Netflix or Amazon Prime? Does your family still have cable? Are you a cord-cutter or a cord-never? (Does anyone remember when Blockbuster was a thing?…)
“Television” has evolved so much just in the last few decades. The behavior around how people consume content is no longer the same. We now get our news from places like Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter. Trends have shown that people want their news delivered to them in short, quick video snippets that they can digest easily and share around on social media platforms. People don’t really sit around to watch hour long segments of the news anymore. That’s a research insight that my teammates and I discovered while working on a 5 week intensive project focused around news and short-form content.
Intern Project: Short-form News
Unfortunately, I can’t share too many details about the news project as the work has to remain somewhat confidential…but I will say that our group utilized many of the research methods I’ve learned about through my HCI courses. I’ll briefly highlight parts of our process and the methods we used.
This project initially was brought to our attention by one of the product management interns who proposed that we should investigate how users would want to interact with short-form content (ex: news clips, clips from SNL) on a streaming platform like Hulu.
For this 5 week project, I teamed up with another UX design intern, UX research intern and a Technical Program Management intern. Together, we collected a ton of research on how people discover and watch the news on different devices from Web to Mobile and Living Room.
In the first two weeks, we developed a literature review, looking into data sets, research studies, and more around how news consumption has changed in the past decade. I conducted a competitive analysis of other living room apps that focus on delivering news content from CNNGo to ReutersTV. We began to pick up on certain patterns that other apps utilized.
Many of them create playlists of news clips around a single topic (ex: Health Care Bill) for viewers to watch. Compiling curated playlists helps the user get to the news they want to watch quickly and efficiently without having to do much browsing or searching around. These collections of playlists would usually fall under the category of “Trending News” or “Top Stories”.
After sifting through all this information, our team sat down to create an affinity diagram (pictured below). Doing this exercise helped us understand what aspects of this project we needed to focus on in order to deliver a good user experience. When we think about the news, we have to consider things such as: context, discoverability, relevancy, source, and the environment.
Working with UX Research
The other awesome piece of this project to highlight is the testing that we got to do with 8 different employees at Hulu. In the photo below, you can see Lauren (UX Research intern) setting up the research lab we have in our office on the second day of testing. Lauren helped lead two whole days of user testing on her own. She drafted up a test plan for the research study, aligning our goals and questions with the mockups that we created.
Think Alouds and Paper Prototyping
My teammates and I watched Lauren conduct the interviews from the other side of the two way mirror. As she asked participants to do certain tasks, we would be on the other side transcribing the interview in real time. The notes were a valuable resource for us to have as we moved our designs forward after completing user testing.
For our user testing, we chose not to show high fidelity prototypes because we wanted candid feedback from our participants which we knew we could get from showing paper mockups. People are more likely to sketch with us or comment on our work if it looks like it’s still in an early stage of design.
It was cool to watch Lauren conduct Think Aloud tests. I have only ever had practice running Think Aloud tests with friends at school for HCI. At my last internship, I had the opportunity to sit through different testing sessions but I didn’t get to help plan it from start to finish. I got to work much more with the Research team this summer which is something I really enjoyed doing.
After user testing, we synthesized our notes and came up with a research output which we referenced in the final week of our sprint. We began to spend a lot more time in whiteboard rooms, planning out how we would move the project forward given what we now knew about our users.
So what’s the best way to present a bunch of clips? How does time of day play into this experience? Should we look into notifications? How much metadata do we show upfront about the content they’re going to watch?
At the end of the 5 weeks, we presented the research, designs and business plan to a large group of Product Managers and UX Designers. We’re not sure exactly what will become of our work in the future but we know the work is in good hands.
What else did you work on?
I did a number of other projects that mostly focused on the onboarding experience for XBOX. I worked with the copywriter and developer intern to make some changes to the activities we ask users to do when they first set up an account. The last project which I handed off on my last day had to do with rethinking what a progress bar might look like in onboarding. It sounds like an easy task but there are a lot of factors involved.
During my time at Hulu, I got to participate in the company hackathon with a fellow design intern (Thi Dang). We’re doing the write-up for it right now in a separate Medium post which I’ll link to when it’s done but for now, I’ll share a quick description of it and the prototype that we built in Principle.
Thi and I noticed that Hulu, like many other streaming platforms (Netflix, HBO, Amazon Prime), currently don’t provide users with social capabilities. Our idea, “Add Me on Hulu,” introduces social features to the platform that would allow Hulu users to engage as a social community around the content they love.
As two interns on the UX Design team, we brought this concept to life in just the span of two days. On the first day, we spent time researching and doing a competitive analysis of social community features on popular platforms like Instagram, SoundCloud and Spotify. Once we crafted a strong mission statement, we sketched wireframes, drafted user flows, made mockups and eventually a clickable prototype which you can view below:
To solve for this problem, we crafted this concept around Hulu Profiles and Rooms. Having profiles allow users to create a sense of identity within the larger Hulu ecosystem. Friends can follow other friends and strangers to see what they’re watching in real time, the way Spotify lets you see what friends are listening to. With friends on Hulu, you could get recommendations for what to watch next from your trusted friends who are the best sources.
In addition, you could leverage these profiles to create viewing parties, a feature that allows Hulu users to watch content they love with their friends in real time. In these viewing parties, friends would be able to gasp, shriek, cry, and laugh at the very same moments.
Imagine two strangers meeting at Comic-Con who bond over a shared love for Silicon Valley. They can now add each other on Hulu and deepen their relationship with just a follow. In essence, we aim to capture the spirit of real social viewing parties and put that to use through the Hulu experience.
**Note: The idea is not anything that is currently or will be developed by Hulu. It’s important to note that this was just a hackathon project!
How did you like being a Living Room UX intern?
As an intern on the User Experience Design team at Hulu, my area of focus was on the Living Room platform. The Living Room team, recently formed and based in Hulu’s Seattle office, creates the Hulu experience for varying devices such as XBOX, Apple TV, Fire TV and Roku. The complete list of devices that we support are listed below. We’ll be adding more soon!
Coming into this internship, I had little to no experience designing for Living Room. In school and in my previous internships, I had only ever worked on Web and Mobile (iOS/Android) designs so I felt a bit unprepared. After my first few tries at designing Living Room interfaces I got the hang of things pretty quickly. I like designing for the Living Room space because there are so many more inputs and variables that you have to account for.
When you’re designing a mobile app experience, the person’s face is close to the screen. When you’re working on a Living Room app, the designs have to reach a 10" distance comfortably. My mom, who likes to watch TV while she cooks, should be able to navigate the app experience without much trouble, standing 13–15 feet away. I also like the challenge of designing around a TV remote or device controller. You can’t just tap around on the screen like you could on a phone.
When you want to create a sign up flow, you have to think about how many taps or swipes it takes to type in a long email or username. How do voice interfaces play into the living room experience? How can our experience account for having an Alexa or Amazon Echo in your home?
With the advancements we’ve seen in the area of augmented/virtual reality, the desire for immersive experiences has never been greater. I think about how every Sunday, tons of viewers across the country tune in to watch the latest episode of Game of Thrones. For an hour of their week, these viewers are transported into an entirely different world where they can escape from whatever is going on in their daily lives.
As a Living Room designer, I’m constantly wondering how we can make that viewing experience so much better. How do we make use of light and sound in your home? What’s going on with your phone while you watch TV? How might social interactions play into this?
There are so many challenges to designing for the Living Room environment but I’m really intrigued by the scenarios and audiences we have to account for. I think there’s still so much to be done in this space (Living Room and Streaming in general) and it’s clear that companies like Facebook and Apple now want in.
What sparked your interest in Hulu?
There were a number of reasons but to be brief, I chose Hulu because of their people, culture and the product. I bonded extremely well with every designer that I talked to during my interview process. Hulu has shifted its focus to be more design-driven. Everyone I spoke to at the company, from product to leadership, understood the value of delivering a strong product with a delightful user experience.
“We aspire to captivate and connect people with stories they love by creating amazing experiences.”
You can’t fulfill a mission statement like that without good design. One of Hulu’s core values is to start with the viewer. We actually take the time to comb through user feedback whether that’s through an online forum or an app store review. Hulu’s design team has grown significantly in the past year to take on the challenges of creating a Live TV service.
Early on, the team started out with 5–10 designers. Now, there are around 40 people on the team. The group consists of visual designers, copywriters, technical program managers, UX designers and researchers.
The design culture is really great at Hulu for a couple of different reasons. I liked that it was still somewhat undefined and rapidly evolving. I enjoyed working in an environment where things didn’t feel so rigid. People were very open-minded about trying new tools and ways to work together.
Lastly, I care a lot about the product and the vision that people have for what Hulu will be like in a couple of years. I hope we continue to produce incredible, original content like the Handmaid’s Tale. Crossing my fingers that we’ll win an Emmy this year.
Thank you Hulu for a very, memorable summer. #praisedbe
How did you like being in LA?
Having only interned before in New York City and San Francisco, LA was a whole new environment to take in. It was refreshing to be surrounded by so many like-minded, ambitious and creative individuals on a daily basis. The opportunities are endless in this city, attracting people from all around the world. So many of the strangers you meet are trying to make a name for themselves as an actor, musician, producer, writer, filmmaker, artist, game designer…you name it.
When I visited coffeeshops on the weekends, I often found that the people around me either spent their time coding or writing scripts (the Hollywood kind). All in all though, I enjoyed the laid-back atmosphere of Los Angeles. It was great being just a short car ride away from the beach. There are lots of museums to visit in LA (Hammer Museum, The Broad, LACMA) which I really appreciated.
Unfortunately, since I didn’t have a car this summer, getting around was pretty difficult. Everything is so spread out in Los Angeles…if you want to meet up with a friend or go somewhere to hang out, you should plan for at least 30+ min of sitting in traffic. That’s probably the one thing that I won’t miss about Los Angeles. The traffic is horrendous. On a good day, my commute would take about 30–40 minutes one way. 😭
There were many highlights to my summer that happened outside of work. On the left is an image of the Venice Canals. The sunsets in LA were pretty incredible. The middle photo is of my friends and I on Splash Mountain. All the interns (even the Seattle ones) took a day off to attend Disneyland! The last photo was taken at our Intern Happy Hour event where we decorated a part of our office and hosted a get together.
Visiting San Francisco and Seattle (for the first time!)
In the 10 weeks that I worked at Hulu, I got to take a weekend trip up to San Francisco to catch up with some good friends. I made sure to visit SF MoMA where they currently have a special exhibit on Edvard Munch. They also had an awesome exhibit on sound and space which I’d highly recommend you to check out if it’s still around in the school year. If you’re in the Environments track, you’ll probably love it.
In the last week of my internship, I got the chance to travel up to Seattle and work out of the office over there for two days. I visited friends interning at Microsoft who showed me around town. The Design team up in Seattle is much smaller at the moment and is made up of only Living Room designers.
They’re planning on adding more people in the coming months. Most of the Seattle office is filled up by developers who work on various Living Room devices (Xbox, Apple TV, etc). The office has much more of a start-up vibe.
On my first day, I was surprised to find out that Hulu has offices in a bunch of different cities, including one in Beijing!
I couldn’t cover everything I did this summer in this one post but I tried to get through most of it. If you’d like to chat more about the work I did or about opportunities at Hulu in Design or another field, please reach out! Hulu recruiters will be visiting CMU in early September for the TOC! I’m happy to answer any questions.
Thanks for reading!
— Tiffany Jiang, firstname.lastname@example.org