Redesigning the boxee experience

It’s been a few weeks in the making, but today boxee announced that they’ve hired me to help redesign their user experience from the ground up.

If you haven’t heard of boxee, where have you been hiding? They’ve been in the top 10 trending topics on Twitter for the past month. They’re blowing up the web and putting cable out of business.

boxee is a media center interface for aggregating both locally stored and streaming movies, TV shows, music, photos and more. They’re far and away the best solution out there, and they have a massive, loyal following even though they’re only in alpha (and have more than 6,000 followers on Twitter).

So I have quite a challenge ahead of me — how do I preserve the existing elements of delight while making the app more scalable, more social, more effective and easier to use by a larger audience?

I’m starting off by doing usability testing with current alpha users, using boxee both on laptops and TV set-ups, and will additionally conduct interviews with prospective boxee users to learn their media consumption behaviors, attitudes, motivations and frustrations. Together these findings will be brought to light in a small set of user personas and scenarios, from which the necessary features for the ideal experience will emerge. Working closely with the boxee team, I’ll develop a set of wireframes to communicate how the features should be woven together in the most useful, usable, pleasurable way, screen by screen. From there the visual designer and developers will bring the product to life, infusing all of the sleekness and fluidity you’ve come to love so much. And all together we’ll test it, and validate it with users, and tweak it and test it again. On and on and on until we’re ready to launch beta.

I can’t say enough how stoked I am to be working on this project. There are great challenges and yet very few constraints. Avner Ronen, boxee founder and CEO, is putting his trust in me to protect his baby but help it grow up. That is an enormous responsibility and a huge honor.

boxee recently received $4 million in funding from Union Square Ventures and Spark Capital. Oddly enough, that has played a pivotal role in how I am now finding myself in this unique and thrilling situation. So I have to take a moment to thank Fred Wilson of USV for referring me to Avner, and to my friends Charlie O’Donnell and Michael Galpert for referring me to Fred. I really hope to make you all proud.

Thank you to everyone in the Twitterverse and beyond for your overwhelming support today. I will definitely be reaching out in the next few days to start setting up user interviews and usability tests. Stay tuned to this blog and my Twitter stream for frequent updates on our progress.

I look forward to sharing the experience with you as we radically transform home entertainment.

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Comments

  1. Steve Baty says

    That's fantastic news Whitney!

    Launching something new is hard enough; turning something new into something better is a real challenge. I know you're up to it; and I look forward with interest to reading your updates as the project unfolds.

    Steve

  2. says

    I LOVE Boxee! It has more than doubled the usefulness of my AppleTV. I'm glad to hear they understand the importance of user experience. Congrats on the project. I wish you the best.

  3. says

    Congrats on the new position. Sounds like a great and fun challenge ahead.

    Question: How will you determine what the next gen/level of users need? What if the “masses” need something different from the (presumably tech-savvy) early adopters?

    • says

      No, not at all. I work with a few startups who don't yet have funding. The hope is that by integrating user experience design into their business practices they'll end up creating better products and become more attractive to investors and customers.

Trackbacks

  1. […] how Whitney Hess describes the project in front of her, “So I have quite a challenge ahead of me — how do I […]

  2. […] how Whitney Hess describes the project in front of her, “So I have quite a challenge ahead of me — how do I […]

  3. […] you know I’m the UX consultant for boxee, right? Well they’ve been in private, invite-only alpha since June, and already they have […]

  4. […] month I posted that our portfolio company Boxee (featured in the NY Times today) had hired Whitney Hess to help rethink the user interface and I asked everyone to go give them and her comments on what […]

  5. […] some major features coming in the beta alongside Avner Ronen, boxee’s CEO. I’ve been consulting for boxee since December, and put a lot of work into figuring out how to further revolutionize the living […]

  6. […] year ago I very proudly announced that Boxee, the much-loved social media center software company, had hired me as the user experience designer for their beta. In the five months that I worked with them, I conducted user interviews and usability testing to […]

  7. […] year ago I very proudly announced that Boxee, the much-loved social media center software company, had hired me as the user experience designer for their beta. In the five months that I worked with them, I conducted user interviews and usability testing to […]

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