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After months of hard work we’re very pleased to announce (drum roll please…) our brand new home page!

We wanted to make it much clearer how vzaar helps businesses make the most of their video content. Redesigning a home page is no easy task, so I thought I’d tell you a little about our approach to taking it on.

What was the process behind the new homepage?

Three words: User Centered Design (UCD).

This process puts user experience at the heart of the design. And it has 4 main stages: define the problem, ideate a solution, prototype and test the designs. We had a LOT of work ahead before we could even think about opening Photoshop or writing one line of code.

User Centred Design Process

1. Defining the Problem

Before we could even begin to develop any ideas we needed to be clear about what we were trying to achieve. We asked ourselves lots of questions:

  • What are our objectives?
  • What information needs to be on the page to support our objectives?
  • What information doesn’t need to be on the page?
  • What’s the hierarchy of information?
  • What metrics need to be benchmarked for us measure success?
  • What are our customers looking for?
  • What makes vzaar different?

And much, much more.

We spent hours (and hours and hours…) looking through our data trying to identify our customers needs and what problems we needed to solve. To do this we used five different techniques:

Customer Feedback

We collated all of our customer feedback – surveys, case study questions, support tickets – to try and identify common themes: what do our customers like about us? What don’t they like? And what do they tend to be confused about?

Interviews

Sales and support are at the very front lines of our business. They work with customers every day, listen to their feedback and find solutions for them. They are an absolutely invaluable source of data so we carried out interviews with the team.

Team Questionnaire

We then put together a questionnaire to send to the rest of the team. The aim was to identify our strengths, our weaknesses and also get a sense of the personality we wanted to communicate.

Google Analytics

We used in page analytics to find out where visitors click once they hit our home page. We wanted to discover the important areas we should emphasize. And we actually found something really quite interesting. The vast majority of visitors went to the pricing and features sections. In fact, less than 10% of our visitors were clicking on the other sections in our main navigation.

In Page Analytics

Card Sorting

“Home page redesign” is perhaps a reductive title. The home page doesn’t operate in isolation. All of the choices we make here have a huge impact on the rest of the site. For example, from our in page analytics we found that a lot of traffic went through to our features pages. This is a hugely important section of the site for us, so we decided to carry out some user experience testing.

cardsorting-web

One of the simplest – yet most effective – user experience techniques is Card Sorting. We wrote all of our features on cards and asked users to sort them into logical groups. Here, we were aiming to identify the best way to organise all of our different features, what to call each group, and which aspects were confusing – or even irrelevant.

Tips:

  • Identify your goals
  • Be open minded. Just observe and engage users. Your assumptions may be misconceptions and stereotypes. A lot of the most valuable data we got was qualitative: from the discussions and questions that came up during the task.
  • Implicate the team in the design from the beginning. Everybody has an interesting point of view and should be part of the process for getting the best results.
  • Look for patterns and ideas that emerge across interactions with users.

So what did all this tell us?

When we analysed our customer and team feedback it quickly became clear that our existing home page (and surrounding pages) didn’t communicate our most valuable features, values and character clearly enough.

We also needed to reorganise our navigation. The analytics data very much confirmed the idea that “less is more”, so one of our main goals was to clean up and improve the hierarchy of the content, workflow and structure.

Phew! Now, could I open up Photoshop?

Not quite…

Ideating Solutions

Now it was time to transform all of our discoveries into meaningful insights that we would then use as a structure for brainstorming and generating new ideas. We wanted to tell a story to describe who we are, what we do, and why we are a great service.

sketching design ideas

This stage was very fun and enlightening. It allowed us to highlight the concepts that we couldn’t miss, and identify additional pages that needed to sit behind the home page in order for us meet our objectives.

Tips:

  • Keep it visual. Capture the ideas in a board. Sketching ideas….
  • Go for quantity. At this stage we wanted to find as many ideas as possible. Don’t put pressure on yourself to find “the one” straight off. Sketch out any and all ideas that come to you – there’s nothing more intimidating than a blank white space.
  • Discuss and encourage wild ideas. Even if you think an idea is silly, there could be a spark of genius in there waiting to be teased out.

Prototyping and Testing

Now we needed to create something tangible. For me, it always helps to first sketch some ideas on paper. I find it’s a quick way to test out lots of ideas.

After many (many!) drafts we were close to our final version. We built a high quality prototype to share, test and discuss with the team.

Prototyping our design

Tips:

  • Manage your ego: as a designer it can sometimes be difficult to accept criticism. But keep in mind that it’s constructive. Everyone in the team wants the best outcome.
  • Don’t forget the context of the business: we all have budgets and time constraints to handle. Don’t forget your resources while you’re in pursuit of perfection.
  • Be passionate: there’s a reason you’ve made the design decisions that you have. Pay attention to the little details and be prepared to give reasons for your choices. The beauty of this approach is that it gives you plenty of data to justify your designs.

Next Steps…

Our website is constantly developing, there’s always things to test and fine tune. And fine tune we will.

We hope you like what you see! Please do leave feedback in the comments below :)

Categories vzaar updates, Wider World
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Your videos are valuable. It’s important that you protect them. Let’s say, for example, you’re an eLearning company sharing video lectures with course subscribers. What would happen if your valuable course content became freely available online?

You’d probably find that less people signed up to your course and you made less money from it. Bad times.

But what if there was a way you could keep your videos secure and charge people to access them? Well, people would have to sign up to the course to get their hands on your tasty video content. Plus, you’d make money from that extra demand. Good times.

Introducing vzaar Tinypass integration

That’s pretty much exactly what Tinypass does. Adding a Tinypass paywall to your video will mean only people who pay to watch it, can watch it.

Integrating your vzaar account with Tinypass is a great way for you to make more money from your video content. And it’s super easy to get started – no coding or lots of dev work required. A few mouse clicks and you’re pretty much done (check out the demo video here for more details).

We’re really excited to team up with Tinypass because it adds another tool to our video security kit. A lot of our features are designed to protect the video stream itself – so that people can’t download it and re-embed it elsewhere. Teamed with Tinypass, we’re now able to bring you end to end video security which will safeguard your assets (and make you more money!).

Here’s what we recommend:

Step 1: Add Tinypass Paywall to your videos

First and foremost you need to secure your video behind a paywall. This is where Tinypass comes in. Once you sync up your vzaar and Tinypass account you’ll be able to charge viewers to access and collect extra cash from your video views. Check out the video demo here.

Step 2: Prevent Unauthorized Downloads

Now that you’ve started collecting money from your videos it’s vital that you keep control of the content. The last thing you want is for students to start downloading them and making them freely available. RTMPe streaming is ideal here. It breaks your video stream down into encrypted chunks, so it’s much harder to download the entire video file. them you need to be sure that they won’t crop up elsewhere.

Step 3: Lock Your Video Embed Code

The last step is to make sure that your video only plays on the domains you want it to. Domain control locks your video embed code so that if somebody tries to embed your video on a domain which you haven’t okay-ed it won’t play.

Video security is vital for business – it’s only by keeping control of video content that you can make money from it. The vzaar Tinypass integration means you can now protect your videos from every angle, make more money and ultimately grow your business – what’s not to love!?

Want to give it a go? Check out the video demo and help document to get started.

Download How To Secure Video Content

Props to Incompetech for another batch of superb music clips: “Local Forecast – Elevator” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

“Volatile Reaction” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

vzaar Support Superstars: Lawrence

Hayley
article by:

Here at vzaar we’re incredibly proud of our support team. And we know you appreciate them too…

So, we thought we’d give you a glimpse into what makes them tick. We started out with Alasdair, and now it’s Lawrence’s turn.

If you’ve ever called the vzaar London HQ, chances are you’ve spoken with Lawrence. You may know the voice, you may even know the face (thanks to many a starring role in vzaar videos like the above…). Time to meet the nerd man.

All time favourite support question:

Hmm, well, nothing beats Alasdair’s “Are you a human?”….can I have that one too :)

Biggest claim to fame:

Dick van Dyke nearly prevented my birth in the 1960s. He was filming Chitty Chitty Bang Bang near the village where my mother grew up. Lots of hills and small country roads.

It hasn’t really changed much since then. The only difference is, 50 years ago, there were far fewer cars about. I forget the exact dates but the statistic goes something like this, “by 1976 the UK had as many cars per capita as the USA did in 1929”. The result was that, sometimes, seeing a car could be a little surprising in small villages.

So, there’s my mother (I think I’ve left this vague enough to conceal her age) riding her bicycle, and everyone’s favourite chimm-e-ney sweep comes driving along in the opposite direction. Unfortunately, the two had a rather near miss and she ended up in a ditch.

What I’ve taken away from this tale is the only logical conclusion. Dick van Dyke is the Terminator. Sent back in time to prevent my birth. It stands to reason, right?

Super power I wish I had:

Does turning water into wine count? I can see that being a real money saver. Plus it would go down great at parties.

I’m not so sure what restaurants would make of it.

Most frequently asked question:

“What are you doing later?” Hmmm… possibly not. You probably want something related to vzaar…Of course, we offer a lot of different functionality, so the questions are pretty varied.

A pretty common question is, “can I make the player do X, Y, or Z?” Sometimes I get to give the simple of answer “yes, absolutely”. Other times, the answer is “no, not by default but you could….” That’s where our JS API comes in, to extend the player’s functionality, and the solutions get pretty imaginative. Check out our JQuery Library for more.

Football or soccer?

Aren’t those the same thing? Anyway, Cricket. It’s good exercise. Lots of fairly static moments, interspersed with quick frenetic periods of running/hitting/catching.

I’m terrible at it. Luckily, it’s a great spectator sport. There’s nothing like sitting around with a picnic and watching the game slowly move along.

Mustard or Ketchup?

Mustard. However, Mayonnaise beats them both. I still haven’t found a food it can’t be applied to in some manner. Well, maybe soup…. that’s a test for later…

Jason Bourne or James Bond?

James Bond. Some of those Roger Moore films are just inappropriate enough to be very funny. Although Austin Powers did very well parodying them, often they were amusing enough already.

Tea or Coffee?

Tea. Always tea. Coffee is just tea for people who can’t handle regular life.

The perfect cup of tea is:

Just your standard Breakfast tea, with the tiniest amount of milk. Any more and it spoils the flavour.

The occasional cup of Ceylon is nice too. No milk. Just a nice slice of lemon.

3 facts about Lawrence:

      1. I once jumped off the side of a Polish train, after missing my stop. I later learned it was the wrong stop anyway.
      2. I have a Masters degree in Political Theory (Political Philosophy). Just occasionally it helps with customer support.
      3. I met one of my best friends when I was almost exactly 600 miles from home*. I was 17 and spending the Summer moving around Europe. One night I wound up on their doorstep, without anywhere else to stay. We remain best friends to this day.

*Google Maps estimates 600.8.

Want to know more?

For more musings from Lawrence check out the blog posts he wrote here. Lots of clever JS tricks, as well as the answers to a few of your FAQs. Or, catch him on live chat, email or – of course – on the telephone. All the contact details here.

Categories vzaar updates
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Ahhh Summer. Warm days, long nights, exotic destinations. If you packed up your bucket & spade and jetted off to some far off land you may have missed some of our updates. Worry not! Here’s the stuff you need to know…

1. Video Player Redesign

vzaar video player design update

The Summer started out with a video player redesign. And we spent a good chunk of our Summer rolling this out gradually to all of our clients. The new vzaar video player not only sports a cleaner, contemporary look it also works better than ever before too. It loads 20% faster and packs a ton more functionality into both the Flash and its HTML5 counterpart.

Read More >>

2. Animoto Integration

Animoto are a company after our own heart. In the spirit of “making video easy” we integrated our two platforms so now businesses can create videos in Animoto and then one click export to vzaar.

If you’re on a tight budget or need a video really quickly Animoto is an absolute life saver. Simply upload your images and video clips, add a soundtrack and some captions and that’s pretty much it! Of course there’s a load of advanced features too (we particularly like the in app video editor for instance) that help you to get your video just right.

Read more >>

3. Dr Najeeb Lectures Hit 11 Million Views

Fast forward to the end of June. Medical Sciences expert Dr Najeeb hit a company milestone – 11 million views of his video lectures. CEO Zeeshan shared the 7 foolproof steps the team took to achieve their success.

It is absolutely essential that we provide [our students] with quality lecture material. Our video lectures are how we make our money, and if they’re not up to scratch we risk losing all of our hard won students. It’s really, really important that we give our students a quality viewing experience.

It’s a great achievement and just goes to show the huge demand for video in eLearning courses.

Read more >>

4. A Trip To The eLearning Network

Hayley presents Video Production on A Budget

In July we headed over to join our friends at the eLearning Network to talk budget video. Over the past couple of years we’ve experimented with lots of different types of videos and we’ve learned a lot along the way. We shared some of those hard-earned lessons with the guys over at the ELN with a few tips on squeezing every ounce of performance out of a modest budget.

Watch the video >>

5. Video Rich Snippets MIA

MozCast_Feature_Graph

Oh. My. Google. July is notable for the removal of video thumbnails from the search results. All the evidence thus far suggests this is a cosmetic change only: pages with video on them are still ranking as highly as they ever did so it’s still very important to create and maintain your video sitemap. Try adding the word “video” into your meta titles and descriptions – searchers no longer have the visual cue to tell them that a video is there so you need to tell them in your copy instead.

Read More >>

6. World Cup Fever

During the World Cup we watched as online video viewing soared. Fans turned online in their droves to relive all the actions and moments of drama. In fact, there was 130% surge following the final match. Brands who successfully newsjack-ed this massive global event reaped the rewards… but there were a few key lessons for those looking to replicate these successes in the future.

Read More >>

7. Rails 4 Upgrade

How do you upgrade to Rails 4 without any downtime?

You get yourself some amazing devs. Luckily for us we already have ‘em.

Ruby on Rails is the application that handles video playback, and reliable video playback is pretty much our number 1 priority. The upgrade needed to happen without affecting playback in any way. No pressure then. But of course our stellar dev team were up to the challenge.

Read more >>

8. Everyone on Support

Did you know that when you put in a support ticket with vzaar you could be speaking with our CTO? Or Lead Developer? We introduced “everyone on support” a while back now, but it was in August that we took stock and reflected on whether it had been a good initiative. Turns out, it has!

Read More >>

9. It’s All Relative

Google were making waves again in August with the news that they are boosting rankings for HTTPS sites. As more and more companies implement HTTPS we made sure that their videos would still play by introducing Protocol Relative embeds. In a nutshell, the new embed codes work across all sites – whether they be HTTP or HTTPS.

Read More >>

10. Mail Catcher Arrives

Mail Catcher Screenshot

Annnnd finally, the Summer comes to a close with Mail Catcher. You can now add an email capture form to your videos and automatically send viewer information to MailChimp, Aweber and Google Drive. Say goodbye to the days when someone watched your video and you had no idea who they were – let alone how to stay in touch with them. Mail Catcher connects you to your ideal customers and helps you turn viewers into customers.

Read More >>

Phew! It’s been a pretty busy Summer for us and we’re looking forward to packing plenty more into the rest of the year – and beyond!

Login to your vzaar account or sign up to a 30 day free trial (don’t worry we won’t take your credit card details ’til you’re ready to give us ‘em!) and give some of these features a go.

Make sure you don’t miss a thing…subscribe to our newsletter for all the latest video tips, tricks & advice delivered straight to your inbox. See you next time :)

Categories vzaar updates
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If your aim is to drive LOTS of traffic to your lovely videos you should be making growing your mailing list a priority. In fact, sending your content out to an engaged email list can bring you up to 24 times as much traffic as pushing out through your social media channels (DIYthemes).

The best way to grow your mailing list? Umm, well… just ask your audience for their emails. Sending out your emails to an audience who’ve actually opted in (rather than buying a list, for example) will mean you can be sure the recipients have at least some kind of interest in who you are and what you do. And there’s no time like the present – you can start to collect your viewers email addresses today.

Good news, then, we’ve just launched our Mail Catcher feature which makes this process super easy. Add a mail capture form before, during or after your video and when a viewer enters their email address we’ll automatically sync this to your existing email list (MailChimp, Aweber or Google Drive).

Step 1: Integrate your email provider

First you’ll need to sync up your vzaar account with your email account, so we can input the emails onto the list for you (say goodbye to manual imports – hooray!). This is simple. So simple, in fact we can tell you how in about…ohhh ten seconds.

Step 2: Manage Mail Catcher settings

It’s then just a case of choosing which lists you want to use as default and whether you want to have your Mail Catcher form appear at the beginning, middle, or end of your video.

Next Steps

Over to you – give it a go! Login to your vzaar account, or sign up for 30 day free trial, to get started.

The help document here has more details, or of course you can always get in touch with any questions.

Happy Mail Catching :)