DTV- Where's my Full Week View?


In the five years I've worked in station services at PBS, I don't know how many times someone at PBS asks me some variation of "what do stations really need?"  Now, I've never presumed to have an all-seeing eye that can predict the requirements for new tools that are going to serve the most stations.  That's why we have station advisory committees, conduct station surveys and try to get as much face time with station staff at major conferences as possible.  But from my five years, I think I can say a few things with confidence: 

 

1. Our system is incredibly diverse.

2. Every tool and service we release needs to be as flexible as possible.

3. It's close to impossible to release a product that meets everyone's needs.

 
We focus on the features that are going to serve the needs of the largest number of stations, and provide maximum flexibility so that stations can make adjustments as they need to.

 
From the user feedback we're getting on the new DTV modules, we may have missed one key feature:

There is no longer a full week view on the full TV schedule grid, and that's a problem.


I don't think it's worth spending a lot of time discussing how we came to that decision.  It had to do with trying to find a usable way of navigating through some much data on a single screen with all of our interactive features (favorites, highlighting, etc), and not seeing a clear way to make it an effective user experience.

 
Judging by the viewer email some stations have been passing on, viewers aren't necessarily interested in interacting with a full week's worth of data, but they do seem very keen on printing out a full week's programming on a piece of paper to help them plan their TV viewing.

 
Luckily we planned for this.  Sort of.  Let me explain -  

 
Because the TV Schedules system is so mind-bogglingly complicated, we knew from the on-set of this project that in order to get the service rebuilt in time for stations to implement by February 17th, we would have to develop at the speed of light and make some tough decisions.  We also knew that it was entirely possible some decisions made could be the wrong ones and we would have to correct.

 
Enter our new versioning strategy. 

 
In order to truly overhaul our online tune-in service, we wanted to transform it into a living, breathing tool that could be improved and enhanced incrementally instead of being left to languish for 5 years like the code for our old tune-in modules.  In fact, we're getting ready to start work in the next few weeks on a handful of improvements and tweaks that will be a v1.1 release of the tool.


Near the top of our list for that release is the inclusion of a printable full week program guide that will give users easy access to a full-week's snapshot of your schedule.

 
We're also gearing up to conduct some comprehensive user testing on the tools to identify other areas where there is the greatest need for change.  The new DTV Schedules are at baseline and will require some real-world experience to determine which enhancements and features should come next.

 
And, most importantly, we'll need your continued input.  After all, these tools are for you to help your viewers find your programming.  We'll be following up in the next few weeks about more formal ways to share your feedback on what works and what doesn't with the new tools as we prioritize what to include in the next release.  In the meantime keep sending us your thoughts through email or this blog.  Trust me, we're tracking it all. 

 
I'm excited by the prospects for this new suite of tools.  The new TV Schedules API is going to give stations and producers so many more opportunities to experiment with ways to use tune-in information, and everyone I talk to here at PBS is salivating at the idea of using the API to get tune-in information integrated with COVE.  With all the innovative talent in our system, who knows where these schedules can go?

 

10 Comments

  1. Posted March 4, 2009 at 10:48 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Thanks Sara! I can say from my user feedback that the weekly schedule print option is mentioned in almost every call or email I get. That I can tell these users that the weekly schedule will be coming back will be a great help to me.

  2. Posted March 6, 2009 at 9:16 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Thank you. At WSRE, I have had the same requests for the week view. Nice to know ya'll are on it!

  3. Posted March 6, 2009 at 10:43 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Is there an ETA estimate as to when a printable week view might be available? It would be great to have some sort of time to give our customer service folks to tell people when the call or email. That's the biggest comment we're getting from viewers right now about the new schedules at WGBY too. It's enough that they're planning to mail out printouts from Protrack to people who call or email and complain.

    -Jen
    WGBY, Springfield MA

  4. Posted March 6, 2009 at 12:51 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Thank you for making this the high priority it needs to be. We've taken a lot of heat on this one and I'm glad to see that you've been so responsive.

  5. Chris G.
    Posted March 11, 2009 at 3:07 PM | Permalink | Reply

    We're also getting many complaints that the week view is missing.

  6. Chris G.
    Posted March 11, 2009 at 9:25 PM | Permalink | Reply

    I re-read this post. I think giving users the ability to print a full-week schedule is a poor-excuse for a solution. My stations put out program guides with full schedules. There's definitely value in having the online Week View available. I think it was a poor decision, not to investigate it further before eliminating this valuable option for viewers.

    I'm surprised that a print solution would even be considered - since the medium isn't. It would seem to be a safe assumption that most web users, don't want to print anything. Both options should be available to the users.

    It's disappointing that the new modules went backwards—and not forward.

  7. Posted March 12, 2009 at 10:26 AM | Permalink | Reply

    I was directed by my GM and Deputy GM to come up with a solution immediately because of the irate phone calls and emails we're getting.

    I was originally told that I should post a pdf every week with output from Protrack. I didn't really want to do that.

    So for the past week, this has been my project. I now have this linked at the bottom of our schedule grid:

    "View or print a full week's schedule for each channel."

    Written in Coldfusion using the RSS feed.

  8. Posted March 12, 2009 at 11:03 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Thanks, everyone for this great feedback. Here's an update on where the full week view stands:

    First, we're finalizing our strategy for user testing later this month. It's clear that we need more hard data on how users interact with TV Schedules to help us prioritize the next steps for supporting the new DTV tools. I'm working on a blog post that should be ready early next week which will outline our user testing plan which I hope everyone will have a chance to look at and comment on.

    Concurrently we're working on creating some short-term solutions to the clearest problems we're gleaning from the user feedback that has been passed on to us, specifically:

    1. We were surprised by how much feedback referred specifically to wanting an easy to find, concise, printable view of a full day's schedule and a full week's schedule.

    2. It's clear that users are having trouble finding the full day view of the data, and a clearer link needs to be provided.

    As the printable full-week view will be much easier to develop than a full-week view of the fully functioning module, we're moving forward with that right now as a first step. Our hope is for the user testing data to help us determine where the potential of a more interactive full week view fits into the prioritized list of updates for the next version release.

    As far as timeline, this is what we're looking at right now:

    - Our designer has begun mocking up designs that address the clearer link to the full day view and access to printable full week & full day views. I'll likely have more specifics on the timing of this update next week.

    - We're finalizing our user-testing strategy with a plan to conduct testing at the end of this month.

    I'll provide another update once we have some projected dates to share.

  9. Posted March 13, 2009 at 11:26 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Thanks for the update on the update, Sara.

    While I think the user-testing will be helpful, it sounds like the feedback from the system is pretty universal - the users who are missing the printable weekly schedule aren't really interested in "interacting" with that schedule, unless it is with their highligher after they've printed it out. They are using this as a subsitution for newspaper, TV Guide, or other hardcopy listing now not avaliable to them. I think part of the anger they are showing is that they've watched these other options slowly fall away, and now they feel we have joined this conspiracy against them.

  10. Posted March 19, 2009 at 1:19 PM | Permalink | Reply

    In case you're interested, I just posted a summary of our user testing plan here - http://www.pbs.org/cove/blog/2009/03/dtv-modules---user-testing.php

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