Vlog 3 [1/2]: Adventures in ViewX - Double Diamond for Watch Parties

Reflecting on designing a watch party for UX Brighton

Edited Vlog Transcript

Hi folks, I know it’s been a while. So, yeah basically what I can say is I’ve had a couple of really paperwork intensive months. I ran a watch party for UX Brighton because I presented about a few of the challenges I’d found through working on some discovery at my workplace. The suggestion was that perhaps we could do a UX Brighton watch party and that might provide me with an opportunity to experiment to try out some things that I couldn’t try out at work and to get some really helpful critical feedback. So, I’m really delighted to say that I got that opportunity because I really did get amazing feedback and I have since used the learning that I gained from that particular watch party to feed into my professional portfolio, and I’ve also used it to think really critically about how I talk to staff about watch parties how I encourage them to onboard people during watch parties.  


Three key problems to solve

I’ll come on to some of the key takeaways in a little bit, but I’ve used a mural board to help me reflect. This is based on the Design Council’s Evolved Double Diamond (2015) which is what I used as the sort of basis for my design process for the watch party. From my discovery work within my workplace there were three key problems to solve. So, first of all staff had been screen sharing video that they wanted to show to students, and they wanted to screen share the video so that everyone could watch it together at the same time. The key issue was that when you share video over a tool like Microsoft Teams, like Zoom, it’s very much reliant on the speed of your broadband connection but also the speed of the people’s connection who are watching at home. So, what we’d often find is that the video would play fine for the person who was sharing but then at home people would find that there was no audio, or the video was kind of juddery. Some of the screen shared video was blocked by Digital Rights Management. So particularly in Microsoft Teams it has some Digital Rights Management and so what the student would see on their end was just a kind of grey or black screen there would be no content even though it was playing fine for the instructor. The biggest problem of the three was that when if you, as the instructor, were playing a video out to students and you were screen sharing it would look to me, as the student watching, like I could use the closed caption tools say if you were sharing a YouTube video. Most YouTube videos have a CC (Closed Caption) button on the bottom right-hand side that allows you to access the closed captions. Well, if you’re screen sharing it it’s sort of a flat facsimile of the video so I couldn’t actually interact with those subtitles, those closed captions so that wouldn’t help me if I needed that.  

Facilitation and watching other people ‘watch’

Another key ingredient that I identified through the discovery phase was that there must always be a facilitator. SAnother key ingredient that I identified through the discovery phase was that there must always be a facilitator. So, for example if you were someone who had content ready, and you gave people a watch list of stuff it doesn’t mean that you can then go away and just leave them to it. There’s something about needing to be there, needing to guide that discussion, or guide the activities which are kicked off by the video content, so the video content is really more of a prompt to get things going it’s a way of presenting information and then interspersing it with something more personable something more um discursive. So, it allows you to potentially cover more content quickly because a video is kind of produced. The next point here is that I think there’s something to be said for watching other people ‘watch’ things (I have included some of my favourite references related to this concept at the bottom of this post). So, I know that when I’m in a cinema my attention span is much better than it is when I’m just sitting at home watching Netflix. So, if my attention’s lagging in a film I kind of look around and go “are other people still interested in this film or is other people looking kind of you know a little bit bored” and if everyone else is really engaged then that kind of makes me think well “_I should re-engage, obviously I’m missing something her_e”.  


Software requirements to address the challenges

The next thing was to think about “well what interface do I actually need?”, “what software would meet these requirements um for the watch parties?”. So, I had some must-haves: audio discussion, must have space for people to write into a chat that is yep definitely needed, webcam video connection yep, and access to closed captions (my post, ‘But what about the subtitles?’ Discussed issues meeting this requirement). We needed some kind of high-quality way of sharing the video. Basically, any way of screen sharing video wasn’t great, so I needed something that allowed me to kind of press start and stop for everyone at the same time. Circles here that have the ticks on them (on the Mural board), these are actually requirements that were met by the software that I used for the watch party which I’ll come onto in a bit. There were some ‘should have’ things so access to closed caption customization so being able to change the font size and the position of the closed captions is really important. Having access to reaction tools like smiling and clapping and thumbs up and being able to move aspects of the interface so if the chat box was really distracting to me while the video is on, I could minimize it I could also choose which things I kind of wanted ‘on’ tool-wise or ‘off’. The thing we didn’t have was support for mobile devices that the tool we ended up using really didn’t work great on mobile devices.

Thinking about ‘ViewX’ or the Exerience of Viewing

So, while I was kind of going through this process, I also thought about defining what formats were possible with a watch party. Funnily enough I’ve sort of nicknamed this process ViewX so like UX but ViewX like the experience of viewing um I think there is something about this that’s just been utterly fascinating to me like how does the environment of viewing affect how you view? So, the first approach I had was named after Nick Knowles who’s a DIY expert on TV and this one was about using your own video footage but then chunking it into key concepts. The next method I thought about was based on Elvira the Mistress of the Dark who always would play, this is kind of a 1980s thing, but she would play like really rubbish B movies and she would intersperse her own commentary with that. So, it’s a little bit like Mystery Science Theater um, but it was more like segments that interspersed with the video. Because it might be that video requires that kind of contextualization in order for it to make sense but there is also um some value which I’ll come on to in perhaps not always presenting one way of interpreting video and in fact leaving it more vague and open to audience interpretation. That’s where that can really help to stimulate your discursive elements during the watch party. So, what I came up with was what I’ve now since labelled the Michael Moore approach which is sort of a video essay type approach where I actually captured sections of YouTube videos and represented them as a mashup, so each section of the watch party was sort of a video mashup where I’d placed really short clips from a range of videos together. With the Michael Moore approach as I’m calling it you can present these video clips smashed together with or without video commentary so you could have a sort of voiceover that presented some context which is similar to the Elvira approach, or you can just present the videos together with no context which is almost more interesting. I think it depends on what you’re aiming for. So, I think that because there was no commentary from me the videos were just presented as they are, but as snippets, people had to decide well “why did Fiona pick that snippet and why did that how does that relate to the next slip snippet or how does that relate to the one that came before”?  

Slide showing the TV presenter, Nick Knowles, to represent a DIY approach to watch party

The ‘Nick Knowles’, using your own content. A chaptered Panopto video is shown as an example on the right of the slide image

Elvira mistress of the dark on the left in an open-topped car and a video of Fiona providing video commentary on a video of Michael Caine from the 1980s

The ‘Elvira’ format or approach. Video commentary alongside a video of Michael Caine is shown as a visual example on the image of the slide

Michael Moore on the left and a series of embedded YouTube videos on the right within the context of a Virtual Learning Environment

The director Michael Moore is pictured to represent an approach of curating preexisting content from YouTube or other video services. An example of a series of clipped and embedded YouTube videos is shown as an example

Defining a format or schedule for the event

So, this brought me to kind of defining the format for the event itself. It was a three-part watch party over two hours. So, we had a sort of conceptually based video collection, as I say, mashed together short clips, kind of one after the other. Then we had some discussion and then we had our second video collection. That was followed by some more discussion and a break. Then we came back and played a game. An online game which was not related to any of the content it was literally just kind of providing social levity if you will, and then we had a third video which we were planning to watch and we didn’t watch it because I basically lost my nerve a bit and felt like we were too close to the end and that we should just wrap up.  

Selecting the tools - leading into the Develop phase (second diamond)

So, this leads me to the tool. So, based on all of these kind of aspects in the discovery and definition phase I decided that the best choice was a tool called backyard.co which had all of those reactions, chat tools, and this thing called YouTube watch party as one of its kind of interactive games that it offered. So, I like the fact that we could use the YouTube watch party game or tool and then switch to another game in the same platform so it would feel very integrated. It wouldn’t be a case of us switching between completely different tools in a session which I have since found that you kind of have a maximum of two tools in a session, otherwise you do start to lose people.  

I used H5P (interactive learning tool) to create the video bingo because I wanted something that was quick to build, it allowed interaction on a variety of different devices, and it also gave automatic feedback so people kind of got a confirmation that they had got the bingo right and that they had filled all of the squares in, and then I asked them as part of the onboarding to let me know when they had filled in all the squares. So, that I could kind of celebrate the person who managed to identify all the bingo phrases that were said in the videos first before anyone else!


Brame, C. J. (2016) ‘Effective educational videos: Principles and guidelines for maximizing student learning from video content’, CBE—Life Sciences Education, 15(4). doi: 10.1187/cbe.16-03-0125

Design Council (2015) ‘What is the framework for innovation? Design Council’s evolved Double Diamond’, Design Council. Available at: https://www.designcouncil.org.uk/news-opinion/what-framework-innovation-design-councils-evolved-double-diamond (Accessed: 13 March 2021).

Guo, P. J., Kim, J. and Rubin, R. (2014) ‘How video production affects student engagement’, in Proceedings of the first ACM conference on Learning @ scale. ACM, pp.41–50. doi: 10.1145/2556325.2566239

Hotchkiss, G. (2010) ‘The psychology of entertainment: Why we love watching in crowds’, Out of My Gord, 20 February. Available at: https://outofmygord.com/2010/02/20/the-psychology-of-entertainment-why-we-love-watching-in-crowds/ (Accessed: 4 July 2021).

Mastead, T. (2005) ‘The social dimension of emotion’, The Psychologist, 18(8), pp.484-487. Available at: https://thepsychologist.bps.org.uk/volume-18/edition-8/social-dimension-emotion (Accessed: 4 July 2021).

UCL (2020) ‘Why watching a movie could improve wellbeing’, UCL Brain Sciences, 20 January. Available at: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/brain-sciences/news/2020/jan/why-watching-movie-could-improve-wellbeing (Accessed: 4 July 2021).

von Zimmerman, J. and Richardson, D. C. (2018) ‘Synchrony and the art of signalling’, The Psychologist, 31, pp.32-36. Available at: https://thepsychologist.bps.org.uk/volume-31/june-2018/synchrony-and-art-signalling (Accessed: 4 July 2021).

Fiona MacNeill
Fiona MacNeill
Learning Consultant &
UX Researcher

Passionate about creating inclusive and accessible experiences, tools, and services for learning and doing.