Insights and Design Principles for AT&T Universal Search

Through Communications in Design so far this semester, we have been focusing on finding our voice and using it to be compelling storytellers. To exercise these skills we built a design brief around a problem with a conceptual client, and were then tasked with generating research insights and design principles.

The task given was distilled down to this –

how to deliver a universal search that distinguishes various content, responds quickly, and encourages exploration?

Getting to Insights

We had initially done the research and design brief individually, but to make sense of our various research the other AT&T focused members, Brittany and Leah, worked with me to synthesize our findings. Because this was not true contextual inquiry and a fictitious ask, we made utterances and statements about TV watching as we know to be true, or based them on the research we had done into over the top television and our competitive analysis.

We grouped them into themes and were able to generate some fun and provocative insights. One of my favorites was “TV let’s you in on the joke” – we got to this after realizing television has a community feeling to it, and it exists much past the hour or so it airs on TV. People take to twitter to live tweet reactions, others listen to podcasts to gain deeper knowledge about the plot, but all of them come back to the idea that people are interesting in having a conversation about the show as a way to connect to friends, family, and colleagues.

I came away with three main insights from this activity that would relate one-to-one to the design principles that followed.


1. No single approach to search can check all the boxes for all the users

We noticed a variety of reasons behind the “why” people watch TV. Many users have changed platforms simply to follow a favorite show, showing a loyalty and interest in a specific set of content. Other viewers seek OTT providers because of their rich catalog of new and exclusive content, showing an interest in  exploration and discovery.

2. The environment in which we watch dictates how users approach a search

By being present with users in various circumstances, we noticed that the content viewed is often directly related to the surrounding environment. People who watch during a commute or lunch break opt for shorter length content on their mobile device, while movies and sport events are enjoyed in the home in a larger format.

3. People will watch shows simply to be a part of the conversation

The connected world has moved the needle on why people choose to watch TV in the first place. We have seen that viewers want to be part of the conversation that follows an episode or series by joining fan clubs, taking to Twitter to live tweet reactions, and listening to podcasts to gain deeper knowledge to share with others. We believe FOMO is alive and well when it comes to staying current on TV.

Design Principles

The design principles are the pillars that will guide the final design concepts. They are not intended to be prescriptive, but do need to be actionable. Our professor in the class led me to this article which I found very helpful as a checklist to test my principles against. As I mentioned before, these principles relate to a the research insights one-to-one.

1. Let them pick their path

We should provide various paths to the users end goal. In doing so, the user will decide the most enjoyable route to get to their end destination, which may differ from day to day even for the same user.


Example: The AT&T search should prompt the user to select the journey they want to be taken on at that particular viewing session. If they would like to be taken to a recommended show based on their previous viewings, select Concierge. If they want their tried and true classics, select Companion. Or if they want to open up the search and discover what is trending at this point in time, select All the Rage.

2. Search should be aware

The search function should pick up on common signals. There are many factors that become patterns in user viewing habits, the search should provide the most relevant and curated content that fits the particular users situation.
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Example: Users watch differently when they are alone as compared to with a spouse or friends. They view different content on the bus than they do in their bedroom. The AT&T search should take the location signals from the user and begin to generate predictive habits.

In the bedroom + spouse within 15’ + after 6pm = The Simpsons

3. Keep trends in view

The search presentation should highlight popular content. Allow users to see popular and interesting material in a way that does not force them to partake,
but makes trending topics easily accessible to those who want to be included.




Example: The AT&T platform should allow users to connect a profile that enables their network of friends to see what they have recently or are currently watching. A “trend board” that aggregates what is trending among all viewers would also provide opportunities to discover new content that can be shared
with friends and colleagues.

Next steps

Our next task is to now use these design principles to create concepts for the final presentation, making sure that the principles laid out are the guides to the outcome.