Jan 26, 2009

Collaborating with Cisco on the Eos Platform

Josh Williams's picture
Josh Williams
Director, Product Strategy

Everyone goes to sites like YouTube, MySpace, Hulu and Facebook when they want to check out what's new and hot in entertainment. And there are plenty of other similar community sites where people can go to find and talk about the latest in TV, movies, and music. But if you're in the business of creating music or videos, publishing your content of those sites doesn't necessarily make the most business sense.

While those third-party sites might offer wide audience reach, they also control the experience, the data and, ultimately, the purse strings. If you're a big entertainment or media company, and you've just spent a bucket of money producing the next big artist's new album, you certainly want to see as much return on your investment as possible. But when content is published to those big third-party social platforms, the content creator is lucky to see returns of pennies to the dollar. This inequity has gotten to the point that entertainment and media companies are reconsidering altogether their involvement with third-party sites.

At this year's CES, Cisco unveiled Cisco Eos as a solution to the problem. Cisco Eos is a new platform that enables entertainment and media companies to launch community sites around their content. It provides better insight into how content is being consumed, and it will provide new ways for entertainment and media companies to monetize their content.

Last year, several of Hot's user experience and visual designers collaborated with the Cisco Media Solutions Group (CMSG) team on designing several aspects of the Eos platform, including the deep and complex administrative interface.

Collaboration, Brainstorming, and Sketching

Every project I've worked on has been constrained by either time or resources, and in the case of Eos we were challenged by both. The development effort was fully underway when we started, and to ensure our designs would be finished on time and within the Eos technical framework, we collaborated very closely with the CMSG team.

The CMSG team was using an Agile development process. To quickly feed requirements to the developers, Hot's user experience designers would often meet with the Eos product team in a conference room and sketch ideas that engineers would provide feedback on. These collaborative meetings became a great way for us to quickly settle on the right set of elements and interactions for a given page in the Eos administration site. Later, when we began to produce wireframes and polished mockups of the pages, we went faster.

Easy Site Creation, and Site Customization

Creating a community site on most platforms involves a number of set-up steps and lots of configuration before the site's ready to look at. The goal for Eos was for site creation to be as simple and easy as possible—just name your site, pick a starter template (more of a site-in-a-box for you to visualize what you've selected) to start with and click "Done."

One of the biggest challenges of the project was figuring out how much control to provide Eos' customers. Ideally, the platform should allow an Eos customer to create any sort of experience he can envision. Supporting that degree of flexibility required designing an innovative approach that allows customers to download their entire site, complete with HTML, CSS, images and javascript, locally implement the look and feel, then upload back up to Eos the new code for deployment. By adopting this approach, Eos succeeded in allowing its customers to create any sort of experience they could imagine. This approach was a big hit with customers.

Product Strategy

Throughout our involvement with CMSG, our focus wasn't limited to designing the interfaces. The whole time we worked with them, we participated in conversations about the larger product strategy. That's where we really added value. Creating wireframes and pretty designs doesn't mean a product is going to work, so by participating in the shaping of product strategy, we were could ensure our designs paid attention to the right set of priorities. It also put us in a position to make recommendations or present new ideas.

Living proof

Warner Music Group signed on as the first Eos customer and launched the first two sites to be run on the platform—allseanpaul.com and lauraizibor.com (both by Huge, Inc. in NYC).