SCW Fitness Education, one of the leading providers of continuing education credits (CECs) and training for fitness professionals, has been thriving for 35 years on their cornerstone offering: a series of annual conventions (called "Mania") held in numerous locations throughout the US. When the 2020 pandemic forced conventions to shut down indefinitely, SCW was faced with the enormous challenge of pivoting business to keep the doors open. My team and I developed a web-based platform for Live Stream Mania, allowing SCW to hold Mania events virtually while staying faithful to the well-loved typical Mania programming.
SCW Fitness Education
Lead Product Designer (end to end: UX, Visual Design, & Front-end development)
1 Creative Director/PM
1 Branding & Visual Designer
1 Marketing Designer
1 Video Designer
Designing Live Stream Mania posed a number of unique challenges:
We were fortunate to start with a very clear picture of our user demographics, thanks to years of event registration and exit survey data. Building on that, we sought to answer the following questions:
To stay in budget and focus on speed of MVP to market, we implemented a lean UX research process.
Viewing the analytics on SCW's numerous websites and email campaigns gave us quantitative data on user devices, behavior, and location.
INSIGHTS: Users prefer laptop computers for video-based coursework; live session start times must be optimized to consider multiple time zones.
A past attempt to create a "Virtual Mania" product—in the form of a pre-made bundle of video courses filmed live at Mania events—sold very poorly: only 32 sales and $5429 in revenue across the entire category in the previous year (compare to top 2 sellers: SCW On Demand at $26,336, and the Personal Training Online Certification at $11,964 for a single product in the larger category of online certifications).
INSIGHTS: We hypothesized that the majority of users who typically choose in-person Mania events value both interaction with the course presenters and the freedom to choose their own session schedule from a wide selection.
SCW began holding bi-weekly free webinars on a variety of topics, using attendance data to determine the most popular topics and the specific roles of fitness professionals seeking out virtual education.
INSIGHTS: A heavy shift of interest from workout programming to business strategy and technology-related advice, such as how to continue virtually training your clients.
Tremendous focus on human customer support before and throughout the Live Stream Mania events—including implementing a live chat for the first time—allowed the customer service team to gather ample user feedback on the live product, which the product team then used to make real-time tweaks and also improve subsequent events.
INSIGHTS: Many adjustments needed to be made to the existing frameworks to support the UX of a virtual event.
Fitting a virtual event platform into SCW's existing eCommerce framework, which was not designed with events in mind, required customizing certain task flows for Live Stream Mania attendees.
With the help of in-house team members who fit our typical user demographic, we used low-fidelity wireframes to test two possibilities for entering virtual sessions.
Organizing sessions by room, echoing in-person Mania events, would be more intuitive to first-time Live Stream Mania attendees.
All participants preferred a schedule-based organization over room-based.
Live user feedback from Live Stream Mania May resulted in changes to two big aspects of the user experience by Live Stream Mania July: the schedule and landing pages.
In collaboration with another team designer, who worked on the branding, style guide, and home page sketches, I developed and implemented the visual design across all pages for each 2020 event (pictured: November 2020 event).
While typical Mania events rely on location-specific marketing lists, all advertising for Live Stream Mania events was national.
We implemented a color story for each event, keeping the overarching branding consistent, to create a visual cue for potential attendees, who may have seen countless marketing emails, to distinguish between events.
Attendance over 4 Live Stream Mania events in 2020 was comparable to the average (651) attendees over 9 regular Mania conferences in 2019, a tremendous success considering the significantly lower overhead of a virtual event.
SCW Fitness Education not only not only kept its doors open and avoided layoffs in 2020 thanks in part to Live Stream Mania, but also gained a reputation as an authority in virtual fitness instruction.
Like most new product launches, Live Stream Mania was not smooth sailing at first. In addition to the design problems we iterated, we experienced two real-time crises that tested our problem solving under pressure.
Within a minute of the first session of the first Live Stream Mania event opening, SCW's entire server crashed, cutting off access to the event's entry point.
SCW's older demographic is quick to call/chat to ask any question rather than attempt to find an answer themselves. This tendency combined with growth between events led to more chat volume than the customer support team could handle, a recipe for angry and impatient customers.
A chat bot designed to answer the most common questions via simple user interactions reduced chat volume between the July and August events by almost 60%.
Creating a successful product is always about finding the right balance between user experience and business goals, and never in my career has that been more apparent than in the Live Stream Mania project. In addition to owning the entire product cycle, having the opportunity to work closely with the CEO and sponsorship team on such a high stakes project gave me tremendous insight into how my design decisions directly impact not only user needs but also revenue, the company's position in the industry, and its relationship with its sponsors and partners. It was also humbling and rewarding to facilitate the launching of a product that had such an immediate impact, both on my coworkers who worked so hard to make it happen, and also on our attendees, many of whom were able to use what they learned in our conferences to find virtual solutions to their businesses as well.