VGTV rebuilds in 6 months during pandemic

By Kristoffer Iversen

VGTV

Oslo, Norway

VG is Norway’s most visited news site with a huge market dominance on mobile devices. Across our channels, VG reaches more than 2.4 million readers every day. VGTV has become an increasingly important and integrated part of VG, with more than 500,000 daily viewers, generating 350 million click-to-play video starts a year.

The old version of our video portal was launched more than six years ago and received minimal development love in the following years. With an outdated user interface and poor performance, it was time for a rebuild to make all our content shine and more accessible.

The new design adopted by VGTV showcases the company’s depth of offerings.
The new design adopted by VGTV showcases the company’s depth of offerings.

One of our main challenges in redeveloping the site was highlighting the breadth and depth of our content offerings. VGTV has a library of more than 400 documentaries, original entertainment shows, 24/7 breaking news coverage, and live sports.

The new VGTV.no launched in August 2020. It is a completely new platform, which we built from the ground up in only six months.

High ambitions with limited resources

Our ambition was to create something modern and familiar — not to reinvent what a video portal should look and feel like. We took a best practices approach, cherry-picking ideas and approaches from international streaming services. But, of course, we had to add the VG touch to it.

This was key in coming up with a concept within the given timeframe. Starting in late February, the goal was to have something in production by the end of August in time to launch the new season’s entertainment shows.

User experience experts Hans Christian Berge and Sverre Norberg-Schulz Hagen strategised on how to structure the content.
User experience experts Hans Christian Berge and Sverre Norberg-Schulz Hagen strategised on how to structure the content.

Starting with the first ideas in late February, we only finished a few sketches and drawings before COVID-19 struck Norway. Already working mostly remotely, we were able to keep up the pace with our two-man strong UX team based in Oslo and two developers located in Krakow.

Performance is key

With all the knowledge and insight from a project in 2019 called VGTV Instant Video (VIVI), we learned that performance and time to first frame (TTFF) are key for a smooth video experience.

The analysis was clear: The drop off between clicking on a teaser and video playback was way too high on the old VGTV site.

The ambition for the VIVI project was to eliminate the perceived load time from when users clicked on a video teaser to when the video started. We managed to bump the conversion from 50% to 82% — an increase of 66%.

We built upon what we learned from that project and used it as a fundamental part of the approach to the new VGTV.no. As a result of the optimisation efforts, we have seen a reduction in TTFF of 30%, compared to the old site.

Users love it

User feedback in the days following the launch was really positive. In a site survey, we received a four out of five ranking when we asked our users: What do you think of the new VGTV.no?

Among our entertainment show viewers, we have seen a significant bump in average watched videos per user. This reached an all-time high in the days following the launch.

Luckily we had very few issues along the way, and we managed to meet the ambitious timeframe with very limited resources. This was doable due to a clear focus of what the mission was, what to improve, the pragmatic best-practice approach, and a highly professional and experienced team.

About Kristoffer Iversen

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