You make us Q: designing the Q mobile app

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Justin Strategy Project Manager

10 Nov 2016  ·  7 min read

We've written about our collaborations with Belgian media company Medialaan before, when writing about the VTM app we built. This time, we'll be talking about another one of Medialaan's brands: Q.

Qmusic has been one of Flanders’ most popular commercial radio stations for a while, and we’d collaborated with them on different projects throughout the years. Recently, the company launched a new TV channel, Q2, under the Q brand as well – so of course, we saw an opportunity we couldn’t resist…

To complement their offering on radio and now television – both traditional, linear media – Q also wanted to create a new digital platform to interact with their audience. They saw this mobile application as a place where people could consume the Q radio and television content, but also as a platform with its own identity and content offering.

That, of course, was right up our alley, and we were happy to get to work on it. In this blogpost, we’ll talk about the way we tackled the project, our research, and the thought process that lead us to the finished application.

You make us Q

At November Five, we believe that a digital product has to be an integral part of a brand’s communication. This was one of the main focus points during our Service Design trajectory for the project: the mobile Q application should not be treated as an afterthought, but serve as another way to get Q’s brand values across.

In the case of Q, the brand message is as simple as it is challenging: “you make us Q”. The user needs to be at the heart of all communication. Each message should be either directed towards him/her or directly stemming from him/her.

In other words: this product has to put its users front and center.

To achieve this, we started researching and making explicit Q’s target audience and brand values. From this, we distilled three guiding principles that we could use as our blueprint when designing the app.

Tablet example

Micro-moments: the way we spend our time

The rise of digital media and mobile has changed the way we divide our days, and the way we consume media and entertainment. An average day no longer consists out of an eight-hour work block and a four-hour leisure block. For many people, this has become far more fragmented. We have become used to having information and entertainment at our fingertips, so we consume much of it in small, intent-driven moments, which we call micro-moments. This means that a company like Q has the opportunity to present different types of content – short-form and long-form video, audio clips – at the right time to the right users.

The future is contextual and personal

These micro-moments have given rise to the importance of contextuality and, in a more advanced form, personalisation.

The fact that our time-spending has become more fragmented means that it’s up to us as brands and builders of digital products to embrace this evolution and capitalise on these micro-moments. By offering the right input at the right moment, a brand has the opportunity to surprise, delight and get its values across. And by tailoring its offer to individual preferences, a company can improve users’ happiness and engagement.

Millennials and the economy of experience

For the Q app, the main target group were millennials. Not only are they a prime example of the trend we described above – they’ve lived in this connected world for their entire (adult) lives – but they also have a number of other interesting shared characteristics. Relevant for a media brand, they tend to value experiences over owned objects – you’ve probably read about the economy of experience or service economy. Millennials don’t want entertainment brands to deliver just content anymore. They expect them to deliver an experience which they can share with friends and loved ones and recall after the fact as a pleasant memory.

This also means they see their relationship with brands in a different way. They’re more likely to think of it as a conversation than a clean transaction.

Into the app

When we started brainstorming the functionality of our application, we used these three key findings as our blueprint.

Consequently, we decided early in the process that the Q brand would not benefit from creating two standalone apps, one for Qmusic and one for Q2. We would instead look at a platform that would unify these two brands, and their respective audio and video content.

Different sections

In fact, we set out to make the first cross-over entertainment app, which can combine best-in-class radio and tv content, together with Q-exclusive content. After all, if we want to create a digital platform that can accompany you throughout the day with relevant content, it shouldn’t be tied to a single medium or content type.

Of course, with this decision, we set ourselves the challenge of designing an app where audio and video could coexist, together with the existing (and loved) functionality that was already in the existing Qmusic application – without cluttering the UI or overcomplicating development. For this exercise, we could draw on our previous experience designing and building the VTM application. We took our learnings regarding a clean, simple navigation and structure, and a killer video experience, into the Q app – and we think the results shine through.

The feed: focused, intuitive, fast

The feed is not only the best way to implement the contextual and personal aspects of the application. It’s also a great means to combine and connect the three distinct “brands” that have to be represented in the app: Qmusic, Q2, and the digital brand itself. Each lives in a different environment in the app – users can quickly switch into radio or TV mode – but is united in the feed.

Horizontally scrolling cards

From the start, we had a clear vision for the content feed. We wanted to ensure that it was focussed and never too overwhelming. To achieve this, we opted for limited content, presented consistently in Qs strong visual style. Most users opening an app are goal-oriented; we didn’t want to shower them in pointless information. We also decided against Facebook-like endless scrolling and went with horizontal scrolling between cards in the feed.

In order to further integrate the radio and TV functionality into the app, we took a slightly different approach to navigation. Although we are big fans of sticking to OS conventions, we felt we needed a slightly different approach here. We needed something that could clarify both the coherence and differences in content and functionality between the different sections.

During our ux exercise, we let ourselves be inspired by mobile apps like Snapchat and Kickstarter. Eventually, we selected our vertical swiping gesture to navigate between the different sub-brands.

Meanwhile, the overlapping functionality, such as chat, the radio alarm, and search, are now sticky items at the bottom of the screen. This way, they’re visible and close to the thumb wherever you are in the app.

A companion app that knows you

The feed is not only the best way to implement the three different brands. It’s also a great means to offer personalisation and contextual awareness to the app.

We always take a phased approach to more far-reaching forms of personalisation, and this app is no exception. We started by making it contextually aware, to serve the users in their micro-moments, and created opportunities for further personalisations in the (near) future.

Depending on the time of day, the feed will adapt both in terms of content and in terms of ordering. For instance, let’s say you are not really a morning person (trust me, I understand). You have just woken up and started your daily struggle to get to work. At this point, the last thing your brain wants is to process a large amount of content. Instead, the app will bring up those things that will make your drive to work as pleasant as possible. The app will present you with a traffic and weather update, and will offer you to start live radio playback. No nonsense, no overkill, and no intrusive ads.

When you arrive home from work, the app will look significantly different. After the daily rush (and rush hour traffic), it’s time to unwind. The app will show you the tv guide for the evening, and suggest new updates related to your favourite show.

In the future, of course, we’ll be looking into more elaborate ways to expand this contextual awareness, and add in true personalisation features.