BuzzFeed Video—A Video App for Superfans

When this project was started BuzzFeed published almost all its videos on third party platforms, with a small number published to the website, and none in BuzzFeed app. Superfans of our video would have to platform hop to catch up on their favorite videos. And thus the idea to build an app for superfans to watch and share our video content.

Role

  • Product Design
  • Product Strategy

Defining the MVP

When I joined the team, the project had been under way for a few months and was struggling to define an MVP feature set. After a few personnel changes, the PM and I took this as an opportunity to re-anchor the project with a new mission statement: Make BuzzFeed video easy to binge watch and fun to share.

We wanted the structure of the app to reflect the directness and simplicity of our mission statement. We quickly settled on the following two view types

  • Video feed
  • Browse

Feed UX Paradigm

My inspiration for this was the experience of turning on a TV. You’re immediately watching something, and a click away from watching something else. We wanted to create a similar sense of immersion in the app. In our initial explorations, the feed was comprised of video cards that a user would tap on to launch a video player. I wasn’t happy with the friction in this approach. So I explored integrating the player into the feed, and having videos play when they scrolled into view. We knew that autoplay might turn off some users, and this was confirmed in our user testing. Despite the mixed reception in initial user testing, we decided to stick with autoplay as the only option for launch due to its immersive qualities. In hindsight, we should have given users the option to choose.

Scoping Down Browse

We launched with a shows and 4 playlists based on our most popular stars at the time. Search, our rationale being the shows list was a passable discovery vector in the interim. And we wanted to give ourselves the time to ship a quality search experience.

Evolution of App Structure


Look and Feel

For the initial phase of the MVP, our color palette hewed to the palette of the BuzzFeed app, name a white background with bright highlight colors. To distinguish the app we chose pink as the primary highlight.

Initial Color Scheme

However as we once we conflated the feed and video player I decided to switch the color palette to support the immersive experience we were going for. I presented the revised palette and rationale for it to the design team. After a few rounds of critique, we were given the green light.

Final Color Scheme and Styleguide

BuzzFeed Video logotype designed by Chris Rushing.


UX Challenges

Finessing Player Control Layout and Positioning

Getting the player right was the biggest challenge in the app. It had to work for the 3 primary aspect ratios of our video library: 16:9, 1:1, 9:16. My initial hypothesis was that consistent placement of the player controls regardless of aspect ratio would be best. This theory didn’t hold up in testing, and upon further inquiry, we deduced that attaching the controls to video itself was what users expected.

Player Configuration Evolution

Dimming sequence to highlight the active video.


Launch

The app was released to a warm reception from BuzzFeed video fans. The initial reviews proved our hypothesis that a single venue to catch up on all BuzzFeed’s shows would be appealing to superfans. This was corroborated by our usage statistics which showed that the Shows List was the most popular view in the app.

Epilogue

The video app was sunset in 2017. It's features live on in the video functionality in the BuzzFeed and BuzzFeed News apps. Also, the engagement with the Tasty show on BuzzFeed video was an early indicator that there was an audience for a Tasty app.