Does the current discover page meet the changing needs and expectations of our members?
Use design thinking to explore the problem space, generate ideas as a team and rapidly test with members
Stakeholder interviews, user interviews & testing, competitor analysis, workshops
Pollen began as a peer-to-peer ticketing site for small groups looking to go to festivals and other live music events. As a VC backed business, Pollen is encouraged to explore new markets for growth. Over the past year Pollen has significantly expanded its range of experiences, with clubbing, as well as exploring travel packages, sports and dining offerings.
The discovery section of the Pollen website is our ‘shop window’ where we surface experiences that our members may want to go to. Split into multiple categories, it displays a range of events ordered by distance or date.
The business focus has shifted from a small, easily browsed range of events, to a large range of varied experiences across multiple genres. This has quickly led to some features being left behind and not kept up to date with the changing business needs.
We set out to explore whether the current discovery page continues to meet the changing needs and expectations of our members. If we found discovery was no longer serving member needs, we would explore proposals to better match expectations.
We knew that to make changes to the core discovery product, we would need to get buy-in and agreement from the wider business. A small squad was formed of a project manager, junior researcher and myself to explore the problem space.
To support our proposals we kicked off a discovery process to explore the purpose of the page, its perception and usage both internally and externally. Because Pollen is an international brand, we knew we would have to run sessions with members and stakeholders in both London and Los Angeles.
To get a sense of how discovery on Pollen was working, I ran a series of stakeholder interviews (for internal perception), member interviews (for external perception) and competitor analysis (what does good look like).
I identified 14 key stakeholders across the business, from the demand, operations, marketing and customer teams. They were sent a survey to get a sense of the internal perception of the product, following up with short interviews to allow stakeholders to elaborate on key points and increase understanding.
- The discovery page is static and doesn’t respond to members preferences. All members are seeing the same experiences, regardless of music taste or location.
- Search and filtering is poor, or non existent, so it is hard to find events. The membership team needs to find and relate events together to recommend to customers.
- There is no ability to order events by date or date. This means it is hard to find events around a specific key date or event.
Speaking to the membership team, I organised 14 phone interviews with members, 8 UK and 6 US, to understand their goals and motivations when finding events and using the product. Members were asked what kind of events they go to, how they find events, what the key features of an event are and how they organise their experiences.
- Members find events outside of Pollen and the platform is used as a secondary source of event information
- Line-up and artist(s) are the most important factors that members are looking for when deciding what to go to
- Members follow artists, festivals and promoters on social media, once an announcement pops up for an event they will act immediately
Using the competitors and apps mentioned by stakeholders and members, I carried out a round of competitor analysis, with 8 direct and 8 indirect competitors. I did a deep dive into competitors such as Resident Advisor, Dice, Festicket and Skiddle to explore how their products were organised, what information is displayed, what can you sort and filter by.
- Pollen lacks multiple key features that the majority of competitors already have
- The majority of competitors split out discovery from exploration. This was likened to looking in the window of a shop at the highlights Vs walking down an aisle looking for a specific event.
- Competitors have lineup, venue and artist pages, enabling events to be related together and showing more relevant suggestions to customers.
Distilling the research completed so far, it was clear that there were some obvious quick wins and key features that the product team could implement. Features such as relating events together, improving search and finding by date would all be much needed improvements to the product.
However the most pressing concern, that “Members are not using Pollen to discover events to sell for, because competitors are much better at showcasing relevant events”, required a deeper dive to explore how we could make Pollen into a best in class discovery product. The concern that if members were not coming to Pollen first, they would be more likely to purchase through other sources.
We decided to run workshops in both London and LA in order to engage the wider team and stakeholders in the idea generation process.
We ran a light design sprint over a week in each location, with a workshop on Tuesday, refinement of ideas on Wednesday and testing with users on Thursday and Friday. We decided to rapidly iterate between testing sessions, based on the participant’s feedback, to quickly focus on promising areas.
As the facilitator, it was good to take a step back and let the wider team have an input into the problem space. To have a good idea you must first have lots of ideas, so i set the teams a series of tasks to use divergent and convergent thinking to generate ideas to explore further.
Because the product and engineering teams are in Europe, the group was more tech and product heavy in London, while LA is more commercial, demand and marking oriented. We expected this to naturally influence the types of ideas that were generated in each workshop.
Crazy 8’s – Participants were asked to individually generate 8 ideas to solve the problem
Pairing – After grouping into pairs, participants presented their ideas to each other and decided on the most promising or interesting outcomes
Combining – The most promising ideas were then combined into one or two more refined ideas
Presenting – The pairs presented their ideas back to the wider group, giving everyone a chance to ask questions
Dot voting – The whole group voted on what they felt the most interesting ideas were
Running the workshop in London included my immediate product team, based in London and Wrocław, as well as members of the demand, operations and membership teams.
As expected, the outcomes were more technical in nature with suggestions to explore search, filtering and new ways of displaying data.
- Advanced filtering – Allow members to refine by event type, location and genre
- Map search and aggregated events – Create a map view, allowing members to explore the range of events in new ways
- Natural language search – Give members a better search experience, enabling them to search in whatever way works best for them
The LA workshop included US members of the demand, operations and membership teams, as well as my product manager and researcher who also travelled from London.
The outcomes were more marketing and engagement focused with the second group, with ideas around encouraging members to explore more and new ways to pull them back into the product.
- Curated following list – Allow members to “like/follow” artists, venues or promoters with bespoke notifications sent when there are updates
- In-app notifications – Make better use of notifications to push updates to members, encouraging them to return to the site and explore
- User profiles and social features – Give members a “shop window” where they can show off what interests them to their friends and potential customers
After the first workshop in London, my product manager, UX researcher and I took all the post-its, ideas and notes generated in the workshop, as well as our initial research findings, and used them to generate some ideas that we would later test with members.
- Personalised homepage – Give members a more dynamic and personalised view of things that interest them
- Import playlists & following – Explore connecting Pollen to music services to pull in artists and genres that they follow
- Advanced search & filtering – Add deeper and more meaningful ways to refine what members are looking for
- Map & calendar views – Explore some ideas for new ways to view events and campaign information
- Artist pages – Rather than searching by event, see if there is interest in finding events based on who is playing at them
- Related events – Use member preferences, event information and lineups to relate and suggest similar experiences
With only a single day between the workshop and testing, we opted for low-fidelity paper prototypes and card sorting exercises to enable us to test quickly and make rapid iterations without a significant production overhead.
We were able to test with 7 members, 4 UK and 3 US. The sessions were a combination of user interview and semi-guided exploration of the paper prototypes I created for the 6 areas agreed above.
User interview – This was another change to confirm our initial findings, understand group dynamics and how they find and experience events on Pollen
Paper prototypes – Ahead of time I sketched the ideas onto paper, displaying them one at a time to participants as they asked questions and talked about their perception of the screens
Card sorting – We created 2 card sorting exercises. One relating to the Pollen homepage and the sections visible on it, and a second relating specifically to filters and ways of ordering information
The testing sessions were successful in validating some ideas we had about the future of the product, highlighting areas where member response was less enthusiastic and giving us a clearer steer on what areas to investigate further.
Homepage – A more customised homepage was received positively, with members expected their preferences to customise the homepage. They expected sections to move based on popularity or seasonality and the ability to connect music was popular as this allows for customisation
Filter & search – More ways to filter were seen as a positive, however some filter combinations would confuse participants (e.g. music genre and dining). Search was less well received, with the problem identified earlier that members are only coming to Pollen once they have already found an event
Map & calendar views – Participants felt these would be a benefit but not add a tremendous amount to the search experience. Used more to explore events in unexpected places, the ‘zoomed in’ versions of the map tested best
Campaign pages – Members liked having the ability to “like” an artist or event and expected this would customise their experience and liked to see artist pages, complete with all the events they are appearing at
Card sorting – The cards relating to personalisation (for you, new popular) were consistently ranked higher than the generic event type pages, giving weight to our findings that members want a more tailored browsing experience
After combining the initial research, stakeholder feedback, workshop outputs and user testing results, we settled on a set of proposals that we present back to both the wider tech team and the CEO/owner.
Proposals included testing a new personalised homepage, system changes to tag events with lineups, similarity information and related data and spiking a similarity algorithm, comparing it against manual suggestions.
As we came to the end of this piece of discovery work, COVID-19 started having a major impact on our events and travel business, so any significant product changes could not be tested and measured in meaningful ways, so the decision was taken to pause the work and reconsider ways to sustain the business through social distancing measures.