Old School Radio Meets the Digital Age
Take a look inside Cooper's June, 2013 UX Boot Camp with American Public Media’s Marketplace Money radio show, where students explored the next horizon of audio programming—a paradigm shift from broadcast to conversation-based platforms.
Students rolled up their sleeves to help the show respond to the trend away from traditional radio by finding the right mix of alternative distribution platforms. Marketplace Money came equally ready to take a radical departure from their current format in order to create a new model that redefines the roles of host, show, and audience in the digital age. To reach this goal, students focused on designing solutions that addressed three big challenges:
- Engage a new, younger audience that is tech savvy, and provide easy access to content via new platforms, such as podcasts, satellite radio shows, and the Internet.
- Inspire audience participation and contribution. Facilitate conversations and inspire people to share their personal stories so that listeners can learn from each other.
- Design ways for the host to carry an influential brand or style that extends beyond the limits of the show and engage with the audience around personal finance, connecting with listeners in ways that are likeable, useful, and trustworthy, making the topic of personal finance cool, fun and approachable.
At the end of the four-day Boot Camp, student teams presented final pitches to Marketplace Money, and a panel of experienced Cooper designers offered feedback on their ideas and presentations. In the following excerpts from each day, you can test your own sensory preferences for receiving content as you see, hear and read how design ideas evolved at the Boot Camp, inspiring new relationships between people and radio.
"Truly, in just one day on this @cooper bootcamp I've gained more insight into personal finance on the radio than I've learned all year."
—Paddy Hirsch, Senior Producer, Personal Finance at Marketplace
Take a listen to the stakeholder interview moderated by Cooper U's Managing Director Kendra Shimmell with Marketplace Money's Senior Producer Paddy Hirsch and Digital Director Matt Berger. These excerpts demonstrate how talking with stakeholders yields insights about the scope and direction of their design needs.
"We don't need to know your persona is an architect, unless we NEED to know he is an architect." —Kendra Shimmell, UX Boot Camp Creator, Managing Director of Cooper
The second day of instruction was led by Cooper U teacher Bobby Hughes. Students reflected on what they learned from research and figured out how to take that forward and use it to inform their designs. Here is a look back at the day from Bobby:
On Day 1 we spoke to a variety of Marketplace Money followers about their attitudes and behaviors around learning, listening, and interacting with online content. Day 2 was about figuring out what to do with all that we had learned as a group.
The first step was to look for patterns. As a group, we looked at this in a formal way, pulling out criteria under which we could categorize users, such as people who were scared about finances or confident, knowledgeable or clueless, dedicated or casual listeners. We noticed that several interview subjects mapped together across a number of traits, so we created archetype personas to represent them.
Each UX Bootcamp team created a persona based on the patterns they saw across a few people and the personas gave the teams a target to design for. The strength of a persona is in its specificity; being clear about who you are designing for frees a team to focus on the essential elements and go deep with the design. The trick is figuring out what the elements are and making sure they are essential.
We carried forth this aspiration for specificity as we began to explore stories of how our personas might interact with Marketplace Money. Where might they physically be when they interact? What might they be thinking? How might Marketplace Money continue to encourage their contributions in that moment?
The afternoon was filled with exploring and imagining how each persona would behave, think and react, and how we might create rich and fulfilling experiences for them.
"Drive toward causality; don't ask what, ask why."
In the morning on the third day, students worked with Bobby Hughes and Cooper U's Design Education Strategist, Teresa Brazen, to work on exploration techniques such as mining bad ideas for good solutions. Following that exploration, students focused on principles of Design Framework. Teresa Brazen offers the following overview of that process:
After going wide in exploration that morning, we brought that fodder and all that we practiced and learned over the three days together to create the design framework, which is essentially a hypothesis that describes the whole system of the product or service at once. It's a high-level, big picture look at a cohesive experience, much like a floor plan, without the nitty-gritty details. This is where the rubber really hits the road, and where designers often forget all about the people they are designing for and get too caught up in the details of the system. So, we talked about how frameworks must stay grounded in the personas and scenarios and kept anchoring them to that throughout the day.
I warmed them up for creating design frameworks that are grounded in their personas by asking them to:
- Do rapid-fire sketching of screens from their favorite app in less than a minute
- Brainstorm interaction and interface ideas that brought the "ideal relationship" between the radio show and audience to life ("ideal" as defined by what they learned in research)
- Brainstorm interaction and interface ideas that addressed the emotional goals of their primary persona
Then, we got to business. They created design frameworks by:
- Looking at their scenarios to ID opportunities when their persona might interact with the product
- Exploring what their persona might need to do, think and feel to have a successful interaction in those moments
- Mapping how their persona might move through the system
- Translating all of that into interface layouts
- Looking at how to reduce, prioritize, and organize their interface layouts to minimize the cognitive load on their personas
- Then iterating, iterating, iterating
It was exciting to see their designs really crystalize and come to life. By the end of the day each group had at least a working draft of a design framework that served the needs, goals, and motivations of their personas (and, ultimately, listeners of Marketplace Money). The next morning they refined it even more.
Take a listen to this audio excerpt from the morning group discussion when every bad idea —from public shaming to shameless plugging—came out on the table.
"Speak up!" —The audience (during final pitches)
On the last day, students refined their designs more, learned tips on pitching, and pulled together all of their deliverables—which included a synopsis of their concept, personas, scenarios, design frameworks, wireframes, and other big ideas that didn't make it into their concept—to hand over to Marketplace Money.
Then students delivered final pitches to the stakeholders and received feedback from a panel that included Alan Cooper and Doug LeMoine from Cooper, and Paddy Hirsch and Matt Berger from Marketplace Money. In the following video of pitch excerpts, Teresa Brazen introduces the session. Cooper Interaction Designer Nate Clinton sat in on the pitches and summarized each group’s pitches in the commentary below.
It’s tough to get people to open up about personal finance, an impersonal and scary realm for most folks. Team Piggy Banks’ solution introduces a novel approach to humanizing finance and engaging with other Marketplace Money listeners by creating a set of listener archetypes. Each archetype has their own experiences and struggles, so when a user feels a connection to one of the archetypes, they serve as entry points into show content and the wider community of listeners.
Radio isn’t just one-way anymore. To evolve, Marketplace Money wants to start engaging in two-way conversations with its listeners. What better way than one-on-one? Team Solaré’s solution has two parts: a direct channel to the show’s staff, including the host, and an app concept they call “Dollar Diaries”—a place where users can get help addressing real-world financial scenarios, and a collection of advice and personalized content.
The word “radio” doesn’t really capture the reality of today’s connected user. Yes, there are still big antennae broadcasting FM and AM signals to millions of tuners stuck in car dashboards and receivers, but people’s mental model of “radio” has expanded to include streaming audio on mobile devices, satellite transmissions, and other forms. Team JABBR envisioned taking radio to the next level with apps that know where and when users listen to stories, and new ways to drive engagement, such as adding “game-ified” elements to establish trust between members.
Life is a journey, and like it or not, money is often a key determinant to successfully navigating life’s events. Team Scream designed a mobile app—Roadmap—as a companion to the Marketplace Money audio content. The app helps listeners feel in control as they plan a wedding or buy a house, and gives them a way to both engage with the Money team and other listeners who face similar challenges. Roadmap also gives Marketplace Money a new way to understand their listeners in aggregate, allowing them to adjust their message to address the things that matter most to the users.
Too often, when we talk about making experiences “social,” we think of facebook, twitter and comment feeds. Team DCPF’s proposal was so clever, it seemed almost startlingly obvious (as all the best ideas are): Marketplace Money listening parties—a way to create a face-to-face community of listeners, and a potential point of contact for reporters eager to engage users and hear their stories first-hand.
One of people’s biggest obstacles to learning about effectively dealing with personal finances is simply where to find help. Team Les Matchmakers’ pitch to Marketplace Money focused on better tools to find those answers. They pointed out that the key to active engagement on financial issues is confidence, and building confidence is all about trusting the source. The team’s proposal included both a more organized search and navigable set of Marketplace Money content, together with the ability to route users to “community experts” who can field questions with targeted advice and encouragement.
Video Interview with Paddy Hirsch
After the pitches were done and groups had received feedback from the panel and stakeholders, Teresa Brazen sat down with Paddy Hirsch for a final interview about the experience.
UX Boot Camp: Coming Up
Cooper's next UX Boot Camp hits the ground running in September! We'll be pairing with Wikimedia to make mobile content contribution more approachable, intuitive, and less reliant on traditional input methods like typing. Learn all about it here and find out more about other Cooper U offering here.