Guide Studio

Guide Studio was conceived by the Entertainment Data Services group (eds) within DIRECTV as a central point for metadata management for all video titles. For this, eds needed to develop an understanding of their internal customers’ needs and give their engineers a set of design and usability guidelines to consider when building software solutions for metadata management in Guide Studio.
My Role

Based on a previous, successful project I was requested to lead, demonstrate, and teach customer-centric research and design to a team of engineers and product managers from eds. My responsibilities included: Business & Design Strategy; Creative Direction; Information Architecture; Design; UI/UX; Research Lead.

Once the research was completed, I lead the team to produce, design, and present our findings to stakeholders, department leadership, users, and engineers throughout the various involved departments.
The Goal

Interview, collect information, and synthesize solutions to internal-customers' (co-workers) day-to-day needs with metadata. By having focused solutions in-line with real needs, the engineers building Guide Studio are able to work more efficiently, define better solutions, and make their co-workers' jobs easier. Put together this makes more accurate information and robust experiences, which in turn makes the consumer at home happier, and that leads to better business for the company.
What it is:
Guide Studio was developed as a single place for DIRECTV metadata management.
What it does:
Allows the editing, inspection, modification, and prototyping of and with metadata.
Why it is important:
Excellent management of metadata means a higher quality experience for our consumers.
Starting from Within

We interviewed a sample of DIRECTV employees across diverse departments who use and interact directly with metadata. We talked about their behaviors and workflow needs, documented pain points and opportunities, and gathered ideas on how the user experience could be built.
Empathy And Understanding

We defined a base set of user needs with direct insights into what our customers want to do and accomplish. These interviews and opportunities will be used as a source to set the core structure for Guide Studio and what to build in future projects.

Setting the Foundation

To assure Guide Studio will be a natural and efficient place to modify, inspect, and prototype, eds used the Design Thinking process to develop a refined workspace and cohesive set of design elements.
Summarizing And Reporting
The ability to search for shows or groups and generate reports based on parameters for any data set.
Editing And Fixing
The ability to work directly with the details of the metadata: make corrections, add new information, or update existing content.
Building And Prototyping
The ability to design and prototype ui/ux concepts, searches, or alternate design directions.
Challenges and Learnings
Changing Mindsets
While metadata was the focus of the project itself, changing the department mindset by working with engineers to consider users' needs turned out to be at the core of what was most needed to accomplish the expressed goal of building Guide Studio.

User Empathy
For years the engineers had been given the task of developing modules for users to do a variety of tasks related to metadata, but no one asked the users of this software (co-workers) what tasks they wanted to accomplish. The new goal became clear: ask your customers what they want to be able to do, and you can build something amazing.

Uncover Opportunities
Engineers are wired to find solutions, it's what makes them so good at their work. What proved to be most challenging was communicating what the change in the approach needed to be: don't ask what is broken, don't look for solutions to problem, dig into the context of the project and examine why problems are there, find what is the root cause. Once you have an understanding of these things, don't try to fix what exists, use the opportunity to uncover the best way to approach building a better solution.
Communication and Collaboration
Bringing teams of engineers to meet with and talk directly to those using what was to be built had never been done and was revelatory. Direct interaction and interviews had never happened (one interviewee was ecstatic, “No one has ever asked what I need to do before!”) and this specifically had a huge impact on understanding what could and should be done to create this or any future project.

Analogies and Understanding
Analogies to contextualize goals is a great way to bring clarity and keep teams on-target. One we used was a tailor of bespoke suits. A customer can't walk in and just buy a suit and expect it to fit properly. A good tailor (and by extension, a good engineer) needs to ask: what event/activity is this suit for? What colors do you like? What material interest you? What measurements are you? You must take the time to make a new start and ask what needs to be accomplished, not what isn't working right now.

After successful reception of the project and its findings, I continued to work directly with the eds engineers to visualize information presentation, define a design language, set templates and structure, and collaborate on the best solutions defined by the research. Together we built new tools, refined existing areas, and brought usability and focus to the work across departments. This baseline we developed became a template for future projects.

While changing an entrenched workflow is always difficult, work to communicate that the goal isn't to change the way work is executed, it is to give better focus on what needs to be done, create clarity of for whom and why, and support others' expertise throughout the project.

In the end, I find I am most proud of two things that had a direct effect on how the department and company does business:

1. Bringing together multiple teams that had never talked or met before, yet did work that directly effected one another, and then to have them collaborate actively was a great success and built a new sense of teamwork and cohesiveness across these groups and throughout company.

2. A new position was created in Engineering specifically to have a designer support and guide design for eds projects. The value of this combination in project workflows was made clear based on my successful leadership throughout the project.