Pluto TV Project Venetia

A complete overhaul of the Pluto TV experience
Connected TV
User Experience
User Testing
UI Design
Design System


Design & Product took on a major make over of the CTV product, starting off with 1 platform, slowly evolving it into other platforms eventually releasing to all major platforms with the full feature set.

Key Results: Re-design the CTV platform so that it can support future growth, increase session duration and frequency.

Skills: Cross-Platform Design System, Atomic Design,

Contribution: Lead Designer on CTV (Roku, Set-top boxes, Smart TVs, Game Consoles)

Tools: Sketch, Figma, Principle, Lucid Chart, Overflow, Jira

Project Duration: 1+ year

Team: Ben Hickman, Courtney Taniguchi, Consumer Product Team & Myself

Goals of the design

Pluto TV first launched in 2014 as a linear only product that mimicked the traditional cable TV experience. Since its first launch, there had been only minimal changes to the experience and it started becoming clear that the design would not be sustainable for all the features that were planned.

Previous Design

Pluto had outgrown this design, we kept adding features and channels and it started to feel like everything added was an after thought. This design could not support the vision.

These are some of the pain points & insights we saw

• Having to navigate 100+ channels was time-consuming
• The On-Demand section did not meet the expectations of the users
• The activate feature was not fully supported and caused user frustration because they thought they were doing something wrong
• Player controls were very limiting to the point where it was causing accessibility concerns

Additional Insights we knew from data
• Users frequented the same channels and often switched between them during a session
• The On-Demand section had incredibly high bounce rates and very low retention rates
• Users who watched On Demand proved to be more valuable customers

Finding the right approach

We had a lot of data, and there were a lot of issues we could quickly fix, but we needed to focus on the vision and plan further ahead.

The solution started at the navigation, we needed a clearly defined navigation structure that could support additions (or removals) to top-level sections.

This approach was extremely simple and that was the goal. In order to design for the future, we could not have any cross dependencies between sections or features at the navigation level. The plan was to not have any navigational changes to the experience, doing so would cause rage as we had learned from a previous project.

Generating Initial Ideas

In all honesty, this is my favorite part. I must have spent weeks on this phase alone going back & forth with multiple stakeholders trying to decipher what was best for the end user, the business, and met the requirements.

By no means was I a lone wolf here, all 3 designers (at the time) had a huge impact on this. There were also 3 product team members who were heavily involved in the process. Not to mention the various other stakeholders involved across the whole other organization.

There must have been a few dozen approaches we sketched out, mocked up, prototyped and went back and forth on. This is another learning I took from this project, don't fall in love with any one design or concept, in order to build a great product it may mean destroying a concept we spent weeks on.

Validating Venetia 0.01

Once we had a good idea of the overall functionality, layout, features, and design It was time to validate its usability and get qualitative feedback internally.

User testing on web & mobile is really straightforward, we can link up a few screens and test for usability on any device.  However this test was for a connected TV, there are no tools that allow us to quickly test using a TV remote.

We had a few constraints, we needed to test this fast, and we had very limited toolsets. After some quick brainstorming, I put together a clickable prototype for a CTV application by mimicking the TV interface and remote control. While I knew this was not the best method, it served us a huge gain eventually turning into one of our primary tv testing methods.

Quick Learnings & More Testing

From our internal user testing, we got enough feedback to validate the testing approach actually worked. More importantly, we got qualitative feedback on Venetia.

Some issues that were uncovered (in retrospect they all sound obvious)
• Users didn’t always take the fastest path, typically they took the most intuitive, which means we had to open up new pathways for users to get to the same navigation item
• When testing media-based prototypes, video motion & sound make a big difference to the experience
• When testing with content, the content displayed plays a big role to the perception of the product. From now on we try to be as neutral as possible with content embedded into any user test.

From here, we were ready to move into external user testing. We used to setup unmoderated testing sessions and within a few days, we had a few more adjustments to make to the experience before I felt comfortable handing it off the product team.

Development, Iterations & Launch

Up to this point, all the tests and prototypes were done so that we can move forward with our first platform who would use Venetia. As the lead & embedded designer on the platform team, I was involved throughout the day to day development of the app. As new engineering constraints arose then that meant requirement changes on the design had to be made.

Ultimately we got to a state that we were satisfied with and launched our first ever Venetia platform. This week was incredibly rewarding as our months of work was finally in production and we were getting great feedback from all over the place.

But this was the just the beginning

Remember the list of pain points? Yeah well, this was just the foundation for actually enhancing the product and solving for those pain points.

Our goal for Venetia was to make it the best & most sustainable Pluto Product. The next phase of this involved more features & more platforms (13+ more)

Phase 2 of Venetia

Now that we had a working foundation and we were getting data & feedback it was time to start working towards the vision. I spearheaded the design of all the "Phase 2" features. This included Favorites, Watch List, Watch from start, and Continue Watching features.

While none of these features by themselves are innovative when you look at the industry, it was the first time Pluto would introduce any of these features so we had to get it right from the get-go.

It was my responsibility to ensure that the features worked in tandem and were clear to the end-user.

Going mainstream on more platforms

The implementation of Phase 2 was not smooth, as expected we encountered some hiccups but as the lead designer who was also wearing the product owner hat, we had to find the line between making the best user experience and hitting the committed timeline.

Luckily for me, everyone on the team is just as excited as I am so we gave every effort to ensure the product was up to standards before its release.

The cross-platform implementation took an enormous collaboration across all teams at Pluto.  At this stage, the design team had grown so we were able to go into our respective engineering teams and ensure that the product was up to spec and behaved exactly as anticipated.

Venetia & Beyond

All major platforms have been released since March of this year, Venetia is now in a state where we can fine-tune the experience & design.  As stated earlier Venetia is the start of our journey building on top of this foundation is what will allow us to test and implement the right features and experiences so that we can propel even further into space.

While I cannot speak to any specific stats, we were able to meet and excel past all the KIs including Session Duration, Frequency, and the ability to build on top of a stable foundation for future growth.

Please go ahead and try out Pluto TV's Venetia experience on any major CTV such as Roku, Fire TV, Xbox, PlayStation and many other Smart TVs. I would love to hear your feedback!

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