A VIRTUAL EVENTS PLATFORM
Inferno is a customizable virtual events platform that allows companies and event organizers to host a variety of event types to audiences across the globe. Because Covid-19 changed the live events landscape, a virtual solution was needed quickly to make it into market before the competition. Inferno came about because NextechAR acquired a video streaming platform used for corporate e-training. The idea was to take this video streaming platform and build it into a customizable live events platform.
Virtual Events Platform for Desktop
End to End UX
Research & Strategy
IA & Wireframing
The live events space was highly impacted by Covid-19. Events were cancelled and there were few virtual options in the market in July of 2020. The market wasn't saturated with event platforms, so there was a lucrative push to design a live events platform and get it in market as quickly as possible. The goal of this project was to create a scalable events platform within the Jolokia framework that could be customizable enough to host multiple event types like; trade shows, product launches, career fairs etc. in record time. My personal goal was to create a virtual events platform that was exciting, fun, easy to use, and visually elevated from the competition.
WHAT WAS JOLOKIA?
My first steps were to understand the technical limitations that existed within the Jolokia platform. I had a brief onboarding meeting with the Jolokia team to learn more. The takeaways were, this platform had 3 core capabilities and functions; professional quality live or pre-recorded video streaming, surveys and landing pages. There were no bells and whistles, so turning this into a fully functional virtual events platform was going to be an exciting challenge.
LEARNING ABOUT THE PROBLEM SPACE
Because time and resources were too limited to organize interviews, I relied on conversations with colleagues, friends and family to discuss live events. I was able to leverage my personal experience as an attendee and as a vendor at trade shows, to empathize with our clients and users.
I explored websites of popular shows, like The Home Show, AutoShow, and One Of a Kind Show. I collected printed material from a trade show I attended right before the pandemic which helped me visualize the architecture and core features for the platform.
I found there were very few platforms dedicated to virtual events when my research began. The prominent platforms that existed were VFairs, Intrado, and Event Mobi. I gained access to an Intrado Event. Immediately I noticed accessibility issues, and was overwhelmed by visuals. This was a common theme in many of the virtual events platforms I explored. What these platforms did offer was valuable content, features and architecture. I also recognized the difficulty in bringing the excitement of a live event to a virtual space, but was motivated to create a highly intuitive, accessible and visually compelling virtual events platform.
I relied on figuring out who our target demographic was by connecting with our president, sales team, and my own assumptions based on the research I gathered. The two main personas I focused on were the clients, who we would be making lucrative deals with, and the participants, who would be attending the events. I focused on corporate clients hosting large events with high budgets because the implementation of these events would be costly due to customization and development costs. The event participants were a broader demographic and could range from students to retirees depending on the event. It was still important to define a participant persona for the success of this platform.
EPICS & STORIES
I made a list of pages, sections and features that would be most important for the success of a virtual event based on the research I collected. I then created a list of requirements/user stories for each section page. I did this to create a clear path forward and list out what was most important to design first for the MVP. Here is a small selection of epics and stories:
Lobby / Welcome Page
As a participant I want to see an overview of what I can explore at this event. (A visual dashboard page with links to core parent pages. This acts as a home base and allows users to explore high level content.)
As a Participant I want to explore the exhibition hall and access vendor booths. (This page required visually branded links to all exhibitor booths, featured booths & sponsors)
Auditorium / Stage
As a participant I want to watch Keynote speakers and demonstrations and ask questions.
(The auditorium required live streamed or pre-recorded video, a Q&A, polls and a chat option to increase engagement.)
As a participant I need to see time and dates for presentations, networking sessions, workshops etc. (The schedule required an interactive agenda where the user could see the schedule and bookmark presentations they are interested in.
THE MOCK EVENT
Creating a mock event would be the best route forward for a few reasons; I wanted to be able to quickly validate designs, exhibit how a virtual event could function, position areas for the sale of AR experiences, and create a tool the sales team could use to help clients envision their events and ultimately close deals.
I typically start designing low fidelity wireframes, but because we needed to get the product in the market quickly, I started with high fidelity. I began by searching for UI inspiration to help me visualize the look and feel. I was focused on creating a scalable framework and architecture first and then filling it in with relatable content. I focused on designing an event template that would enable clients and the delivery team to produce events quickly and easily, simply by adapting copy, images and colours within selected pages.
I based the mock event on an Augmented Reality Conference and geared the visual design and creative direction towards a bold, readable, high tech look and feel that would appeal to curious and excited clients. Nextech is an innovative AR company, clients come to us for something different. I wanted to highlight this to potential clients and try to wow them with something they'd never seen before.
Describe your image
Describe your image
FULL SPEED AHEAD
I my vision for the branding and identity was clear and I was ready to start designing. I wanted the event to encompass a highly visual experience by using big and bold images to create excitement and give room for branding and visual identity for potential clients. I began a brief visual exploration of the lobby/dashboard because that was the first page users would see after logging in, and it would dictate how the rest of the pages would be designed. Once I felt settled on the framework and visual direction, I moved on to design the Log In, Leaderboard, Booth Page, Agenda, Presenters, Sponsors etc.
THE HIFI DASHBOARD
After completing the brief the visual explorations, I settled on this framework. I made improvements to the side navigation to increase accessibility and improve the look and functionality. I created daily schedule dropdown which would live on most pages so participants could access upcoming sessions and quickly join them. Presentations, workshops, or networking sessions are one of the main reasons participants go to events, so for ease of use I wanted them to be prominent and visible.
I also included areas where we could place AR Experiences (QR codes) because that is one of the things that sets Inferno apart from other platforms and another lucrative revenue stream we could take advantage of. Our innovation team also created an AR tool called ScreenAR which turns your computer into a 3D AR Experience.
When presenting this design to the Tech Lead, President and Dev, I learned there were significant limitations on the side and top menus so I had to revert them back to the original, but this layout and design was received extremely well from the president and approved. I quickly moved forward with the rest of the platform design.
REVIEWS AND IMPROVEMENTS
I continued designing layouts for the pages keeping with a consistent pattern. I used the hero section of each page for titles and imagery to keep participants oriented within the platform. As I continued to quickly design each section, I researched many other websites to seek patterns and get ideas on features, layout and functions.
Twice a week I met with the Tech Lead, President and Dev to go over the designs and make changes based on technical restrictions and feedback. There were several technical limitations within this platform due to how it was engineered. The design for the navigation menu, Q&A, drop downs, and user feedback could not be changed without a significant and lengthy tech lift. I was frustrated with this but continued making as many UX improvements as I could.
As I continued researching and designing the pages I found areas of opportunity for increased revenue with sponsorships. When I would go to trade shows, stages or presentations were often sponsored. I thought we could apply this to Inferno so I started to included sponsorship areas within the platform that could increase revenue.
I continued designing, building, and receiving feedback from our president who was a direct line to our clients. He had valuable feedback regarding client needs, which increased the scope but certainly gave the product significantly more value. He demonstrated ARC to the head of Alexa at Amazon, who said this was the best looking events platform he had seen in the market and proceeded to make a deal with us. That was extremely validating and exciting. To view the ARC design prototype in its entirety click the button below.
WATCH THE VIDEO
THE FIRST CLIENT EVENT
As the MVP for the ARC design and development was implemented, the sales team began to rapidly increase our sales. I was please to be able to create the ARC template design in about a month and a half. I knew it wasn't perfect and I would have loved to conduct user testing, but it was functional and in the market. The next step was putting the template to the test by designing an event for the Government of Canada.
The president included me, in client meetings to discuss an event for the deputy minister of agriculture. The concept was to design an event for the Lobster Council of Canada. The event's main purpose was to generate leads for fisheries and other canadian companies from foreign buyers. Key sections to focus on were, networking, exhibit booths, and product demos.
I was extremely excited to design this event because I was not only ready to test my work, but my family is from the east coast and I was confident I could design a really fantastic lobster themed event. Below are a few screens and the link to the prototype. I completed the entire design for this event in 1 week.
As the success of Inferno continued to grow, so did our team at Nextech. When I was hired at Nextech I was one of 17 employees, by december of 2020 we grew to 250. The ARC template was completed by the end of August, and passed over to the graphic designers on our delivery team. The template helped enable them to execute beautiful client events at warp speed, which played a massive part in our company growth.
INFERNO IN THE NUMBERS
Million + Viewers
I was asked by the president and head of sales to design events and mockups for our biggest leads and clients. As I listened to clients and sales, I found several opportunities to iterate on the template and propose new features.
Some of our biggest clients were TedX, Amazon, UNESCO, SunLife Financial, LVHM, Manulife, Bell, Dell, and Restaurants Canada to name a few. The scalability of the ARC template design proved to be highly successful for Nextech and helped our clients host exciting virtual events. Below is a sample of event mockups and prototypes I created using the ARC Template.
MONTREAL AUTO SHOW
Thanks for taking the time to read about my journey and process for the design, implementation and growth of the Inferno live events platform.