Live Stream Mania

How does a fitness event company survive a pandemic?

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.

COMPANY:
SCW Fitness Education

ROLE:
Lead Product Designer (end to end: UX, Visual Design, & Front-end development)

TEAM:
1 Creative Director/PM
1 Branding & Visual Designer
1 Marketing Designer
1 Video Designer

YEAR:
2020

Progress:

The Challenge

Designing Live Stream Mania posed a number of unique challenges:

  • Timeline: it was a race against the clock to keep the doors open and avoid layoffs.
  • Resources: the timeline and budget confined the product team to working within our existing frameworks rather than designing the ideal experience from scratch; there was a heavy focus on rolling out an MVP as quickly as possible.
  • User profile: SCW's attendees are all fitness professionals, and the notable majority are women in the 40-60 age range who return to the live events year after year. They prefer hands-on learning and human connection, and are typically not tech savvy. Due to gym closures in the pandemic, the vast majority were also out of work.

So, how do we create a seamless virtual event experience for a loyal audience on a limited budget that consistently chooses in-person events?

Research

Research Goals

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:

1

Who is looking to fulfill their CEC requirements virtually?

2

What elements of Mania conventions are must-haves for Live Stream Mania?

3

Where and how will users be attending the virtual convention?

4

How have attendees' topics of interest evolved in the pandemic?

Methods & Insights

To stay in budget and focus on speed of MVP to market, we implemented a lean UX research process.

Site Analytics

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.

Product Sales Data

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.

Free Webinar Series

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.

Live Feedback

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.

UX Design Process

Task Flows

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.

Login Flow:
Registration Flow:
Login Flow (1/2)
Registration Flow (2/2)
User TESTING WIREFRAMES

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.

HYPOTHESIS
Organizing sessions by room, echoing  in-person Mania events, would be more intuitive to first-time Live Stream Mania attendees.

RESULT
All participants preferred a schedule-based organization over room-based.

Rejected wireframe: room-based organization
Accepted wireframe: schedule-based organization
Iterating the UX

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.

Schedule Page

May Event

  • Tab layout implemented to reduce scrolling, but the interface was buggy
  • The mobile experience was confusing
  • While we hypothesized that removing past sessions would reduce confusion, attendees actually wanted to refer back to the sessions they completed afterwards
  • All sessions organized by time regardless of topic

July Onward

  • Simplified page with stacked, scrollable content
  • Great experience on all devices
  • Past sessions remain viewable with clear indications that the session has ended and easy CTA to jump to the current sessions
  • Business-related sessions highlighted in their own parent category to reflect the evolving needs and interest of the attendees
May schedule layout (ultimately rejected)
Iterated schedule layout (used July onward)
Landing Page

May Event

  • Relied on an on-boarding video that many attendees either ignored or struggled to play
  • We opted for a minimal distraction interface, hiding the main site navigation in favor of in-event navigation, but this ended up causing confusion
  • Key functions hard to find

July Onward

  • One-stop shop landing page with all necessary attendee items clearly accessible in a grid
  • Main site nav remains visible with the addition of attendee login status bar and quick access links to avoid confusion
May landing page (ultimately rejected)
Iterated landing page (used July onward)

Visual Design

Responsive Home Screens

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).

Marketing Considerations
Differentiating Events

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.

Experience Tour
Final Site Build
  • Fully customized, responsive, web-based online event platform, built in WordPress using SCW's existing frameworks
  • Minimal copy with big, explicit CTAs for older users
  • Detailed on-boarding for attendees new to virtual events

Results

636 Average Attendees

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.

Moving Business Forward

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.

Testimonials
"Love Live Stream Mania! I plan to do it yearly if offered. As a widowed mom, I cannot travel or attend out of home workshops so this is GENIUS!"

Lisa, attendee

"Going to miss this! Have LOVED the live stream weekend! So much information and so well done. Thank you ALL of you guys for making this happen."

Danielle, attendee

"I'm new at this, but having so much fun, will definitely sign up for future certifications!"

Juanita, attendee

"Live Stream Mania is amazing!!! Very impressive and well done."

Tamara, attendee

Problem Solving

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.

Crisis #1: The Crash

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.

Resolution:

  • Immediately deployed an email and SMS to all attendees with alternate access directly to the Zoom sessions
  • Deployed a backup of the site to a brand new hosting plan off the SCW server
  • Implemented a simple Javascript form that we checked against our database for attendee verification, reducing the time it took to launch the backup

My Involvement:

  • Suggested the backup system ahead of time, knowing we had never experienced this level of simultaneous site traffic
  • Launched the backup within an hour of the crash

Crisis #2: Live Chat Overwhelmed

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.

Resolution:

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%.

My Involvement:

  • Compiled most common question data
  • Suggested and built chat bot
Key Takeaways

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.