METACRITIC WEBSITE UX & CONTENT STRATEGY
I was assigned to take a look at a website I am familiar with that I felt could use improvement from a user experience standpoint.
Metacritic is a service that is intended to help users decide what content is worth investing their time and money into in a world where there is a content overload. Since it is backed by CBS Interactive, Metacritic definitely has the resources and creatives available to be successful. Metacritic is often referred to by other industry sites and has strong characteristics that set itself apart from competitors like including music and gaming instead of just movies/tv. But there seems to be a lack of direction making it overcomplicated and difficult to navigate.
I began with basic research on potential users and looked at the site's functionality. In order to get a full 360 view of Metacritic’s website, what audiences want to see, and the way that users interact with the content, there are a variety of research methods and requirements to consider.
- monetization from advertising or paid features
- partnership from major trade sources (build credibility)
- music and games included to set itself apart
I conducted a competitor analysis with the following websites: Rotten Tomatoes, IMDb & Fandango. The criteria they were evaluated on were unique features, design strengths, design weaknesses, device requirements, business requirements, and core features.
The core features that I identified were:
- critic reviews
- user reviews
- synopsis of content
- new releases
- platform category
- recommendations based on selected content
I conducted various interviews and surveys with a variety of different types of users to find basic user requirements. My findings were that external links, information about the content (synopsis, running time, genre, etc.), trustworthy reviews, and a search feature by platform were most common throughout.
Key Elements for Success / Failure
This site would be successful if it was easy to use and had a good reputation, which it already has built. But what brings upon the opportunity for failure is too many advertisements and poor UX strategy.
A card sorting activity is one where a participant is given a set of cards with words representing functions, features, and categories and are asked to group them and place them in order of importance. This activity is conducted to find how items on the website should be best grouped according to the users’ perspective. What I wanted to focus on were what order do features appear on the page, what features are unnecessary, how should features be grouped, would the user change anything about the options they had, were any features missing, and why the user chose these things.
Generally, this study has helped gauge what is most important in the bones of the site and how things should be accessed. Although the three participants found different things should come in alternative places, there were enough similarities in the function of how they were accessed to allow the researcher to find common ground on how users might be able to access the features on the site easier.
Usability Inspection methods allow a researcher to inspect a website’s interface to see its potential strong points and flaws. There are different kinds, two of them being a heuristic evaluation and a cognitive walkthrough. A heuristic evaluation was the ideal type of usability inspection method to analyze Metacritic because each type of user is going to have different tasks that they are looking for.
For this reason, the heuristic evaluation would need to be completed by multiple users. For this website redesign purpose, we would have about 4 participants with somewhat different purposes for using the site so that there is an increased likelihood that each person would find some usability problems that vary from the others. Some problems would likely be found similar in each evaluation and would highlight the biggest issues, but having smaller issues brought to light would be most helpful here.
How it works: Each participant inspects the interface alone. An observer will be present but only to take notes and is not to interact with the participant. This eases up the evaluation process and this observer will analyze the user’s actions to see how they correlate to the problems that they bring up.
I completed a heuristic evaluation by myself for purposes of the assignment. The criteria I rated the site on were: jargon, navigation, range of features, advertisements, recognition of similar features, the efficiency of use, aesthetic design, help, and documentation.
This usability test was be conducted in two rounds with the same 5 participants. The first round was with the existing Metacritic Website. The second was conducted with a low fidelity prototype with the same tasks. A summative evaluation allows the participant to attempt to achieve success in certain tasks in whichever way that they feel is best. This helps determine if the system design is accurately prompting the user to correctly execute the tasks.
This section was completed with both the actual existing website and a basic paper prototype that I created based on business and user requirements. Both were conducted with the same sample group of users and the same representative tasks, detailed below with the findings.
1. Leave a review on a video game.
- Generally took less time to do, but there are too many ways to leave a review
2. Find a movie with good reviews that is only on Hulu and watch the trailer.
- Took most time because there is no prominent way to only find Hulu content
3. Find an editor’s review of the best comedies.
- Search bar is not extremely navigable
- Terminology is hard
- “Editors Picks” and “Reports” are confusing
For the prototype, the biggest thing was the simplicity of design and color cues for clickable items.
Terminology for Editor’s Picks, Reports, and Critic Reviews is unclear.
Advertisements are distracting when they move, but are also irrelevant in content.
Participants found it difficult to find a simple way to leave a review.
The submenu on each page does not consist of options that are helpful for typical users’ purposes.
The search feature only finds content that has the exact wording typed in.
The design of the site is overall distracting and overcrowded, making it difficult to navigate.
Creating more of a platform for Personalized Recommendations could be a great addition and would fit in well with your already existing functions.
Shop related feature does not give accurate products and does not serve as a good way to monetize. It just creates busyness.
“Editors Picks” and “Reports” should be considered under the same terminology. Potentially considering the words “Articles” or “Blog” could be helpful to understand this difference between the long-form pieces and normal links to external critic reviews.
Advertisements that align with the content from the website (i.e. studios, companies, films, games, etc.) would be beneficial to make these worthwhile. It also gives an opportunity to cross-promote any CBS Corporation content. These advertisements should also be stagnant and not move the screen.
The permanent location of a “Leave a Review” button toward the top of the screen would be useful.
Each sub-menu should include specific things like different platforms or genres to extend a search more directly for the user. The inclusion of the words “Reports” and top lists could be included on a sidebar menu for easier access that is less important or direct than finding content by the platform. This recommendation includes the omission of submenu items like critics, publications, and trailers because these can be added onto a lower priority menu or in a different way. Those words are misleading to users.
The search feature should be more organized and come up with a wider selection of results based on the words not the exact wording.
A more direct way to search through streaming service offerings goes along with the side menu recommendation.
Having a simple side menu that includes a search bar and basic search options like “comedy” or “Hulu” as fast click options would be beneficial to the functionality of the site. This would simplify the number of buttons and words that the main part of the screen includes.
There must be a simplified way to represent your content on the page that is less overwhelming to the user. This could include using fewer options on the main page or even just utilizing a color scheme to differentiate different options and clickable items.
There are many ways that these issues can be rectified or benefitted in even the smallest of ways. These recommendations vary on different levels to which the CBS Interactive team can make creative decisions on. All of these recommendations are based on findings from the research methods detailed above. These recommendations can be implemented in alternative ways based on the company’s requirements for the site and creative input. Metacritic has a strong foundation to build on and can very much benefit the intended audience with some changes both aesthetically and functionally.