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Project: Disney+ Offline Viewing • 2018 • Role: UX Lead, Human-centered designer

The Challenge

The ability to download and consume content offline (when not connected to the internet) is a feature of streaming services that many people value. Subscribers may not have access or want to use cellular data when they are away from home.  Offline viewing can be a poor experience on some streaming services because the usage rules and availability can be confusing and feel arbitrary.  Customers who pay a subscription expect unlimited access to their content whether streaming from the internet or playing back from a local file.

Our team saw offline viewing as a potential differentiator for Disney+ and wanted to understand user needs to help inform a better customer experience.

My Role

I conducted foundational research with customers to capture the behaviors and rituals of people who watched offline content. Our goal was to understand what was important to them and why. My interviews captured a wide range of experiences helping the team identify opportunities as well as pain points for this feature. Based on the insights gathered, I then collaborated with another designer to mockup wireframes and user flows for various offline scenarios such as content downloading and data management.

We created a prototype and demo script for our VP of video services to present to our CEO and engineering execs. This was an early round of discovery and prototyping that would ultimately inform the offline viewing experience for Disney+.

The Approach

I conducted foundational interviews with 12 people who were familiar with streaming services and offline viewing. These were semi-structured interviews where participants recalled specific experiences of downloading content to their phone. I then probed for details, process and reasons for their decision-making.

I conducted a second round of interviews to collect feedback on a wireframe prototype that included task flows for downloading and deleting content. The goal was to evaluate the effectiveness of our designs and if the animations, copy and iconography were clearly understood.

Journey Map:

Journey mapping helped me to convey the insights from the research because it set the context for key moments where users interact with the feature and how multiple touchpoints of the service might be impacted. I included a storyboard, a scenario with timeline and an empathy map. I later added the wireframes as they evolved. The scenario below is a common end-to-end use case of a city-dwelling commuter. Parents who download content for a child on long car rides and people planning for air travel were other common use-cases. One of the key insights — based on stories from our users — suggested that we pay close attention to data management. I learned that device storage is often an afterthought and that many people think about the capacity of their phones only when they run out of space. Many people solve for this when they upgrade their phone but in the meantime, finding and deleting large video files (and retaining others) is a pain point.

To document the research and convey the important moments of the customer experience, I created a journey map overlaid with an empathy map for each step. The scenario was based on real customer experiences and pull quotes.

Wireframes of the initial white-label streaming service with an emphasis on download flow.

Red route where the user can find content, initiate a download, view and see a mix of in-progress and completed downloads and watch downloaded content.

Empty state approach creates awareness of the downloadable content in a filtered view. This demo flow also showcases notification when downloads are ready.

The downloads view shows a mix of in-progress and completed items. This prototype also demonstrates various states of downloads: In progress, Pause/cancel;Error, Retry/cancel; Paused, Resume and delete content.

Sequence demonstrating download-related settings

Hand off and Implementation:

This discovery research and prototyping was eventually handed over to the product designers working on Disney+ several months later. Our work confirmed many of the assumptions the team had about the potential for this feature as a market differentiator. Disney+ currently has an industry-leading approach to offline viewing with unlimited downloads of shows and movies on up to 10 mobile or tablet devices, with no constraints on the number of times a title can be downloaded per year.

The study also identified a key insight about how people manage data on their mobile devices. We leveraged this information to update the flows and visual affordances to support an important but often neglected constraint — data storage. The design team continued to refine the iconography and animations and our researchers tested the final product flows to confirm usability and user satisfaction. 


This project was a case study in how up-front discovery work can streamline the design process when product design begins in earnest. This parallel track of work validated our strategy of a customer-centric approach to offline viewing.  We’ve seen through social media and the press that gestures of convenience and flexibility go a long way to creating satisfying customer experiences . It also helped us understand that areas including micro-copy,  visualization of system status and options for storage management presented even more opportunities to delight the customer.