In 2007, long before everyone had a Facebook account, we were engaged to create a platform that was essentially sold as “Facebook for Seniors”. Despite attracting almost 10,000 members, the project failed commercially and was shut down.
However, a remaining aspect of the project that showed promise was an Internet radio station focused on Aged Care residents. We formed a business partnership with our client and funded the ongoing development to create what is now a thriving nice business that uses Internet technology to provide specialist TV services into Aged Care.
After trialing a range of technologies we discovered the best way to distribute audio into Aged Care providers was by hooking into their in-house TV networks. We had great audio, but because we were using TV as our distribution system we needed to display something on the screen.
We built a simplistic notice board platform and soon realised clients were using the notices extensively. In fact, our system’s capacity to replace paper-based notice boards became the primary value of the system.
Define & Visualise
Keeping It (embarrassingly) Simple
We faced a number of design challenges. Firstly, how could we provide a customised TV channel that was both information rich but could be managed in just 5 minutes per day (our users were very ‘time poor’).
We interviewed users and reviewed current notices in order to deeply understand user needs. Firstly, we created repeating content (e.g. menus on rotation). Next we added ‘network content’, where clients could opt in to a centrally produced mix of slides such as news and trivia. Finally, we gave families and friends external to the facility the ability to share photos and messages via our website and app.
All along, we knew our users were often technical novices and so we designed a series of extremely simple interfaces. Indeed, early feedback from competitors was that the system was too basic and too simple to be useful. Now with the largest industry footprint of any comparable service and near 100% client retention it seems our commitment to simplicity has paid off.
We Wish We’d Done More
The first version of Web2TV was built seven years ago, before we embraced active customer validation. We paid for this mistake early on by focusing on building our Internet radio functionality only to discover that clients preferred a choice of external radio station offerings.
With the product in active use by over 100 facilities we are now regularly deploying enhancements based on both our vision for the product and regular client feedback. Most recently, this has driven us to move from a purely slide based presentation to a full motion video library incorporating a broad spectrum of both general and specialist aged care content, as well as the capacity for facilities to produce and upload their own custom content.
Knowing One Mistake Can Put You Out of Business
Unlike a traditional cloud based application, Web2TV uses both a central cloud infrastructure and a custom media centre in every facility. These media centres are periodically updated to support new features and we live with the pressure of knowing that a bug could easily put them offline and require an onsite fix in 100+ locations around the country.
Such an outage would put significant pressure on the business and so we’ve made significant investment in automated testing and sought to architect our media centres to maximise the use of a central cloud infrastructure.
Maintain & Evolve
So Many Things to Do…
Whilst we’re pleased with the business’ performance, we see a myriad of opportunities to improve and with a full time developer now committed to the project we’re rolling out enhancements every one to two weeks.
Web2TV is now the most popular in house TV Platform for Aged Care by a wide margin serving over 100 facilities and 10,000 residents every day. With trials underway for a number of the industry’s largest players and a near perfect retention rate, we’re excited about the future.
In addition to formally partnering with the team at Alliance as co-owners in Web2TV, I’ve also contracted them to build a number of other sophisticated web applications. Ben and his team are easier to get along with than any other technical firm I’ve worked with; their strategic and usability input is excellent and their engineers are first class. It’s a pleasure to work with them and I’d heartily recommend them to anyone looking to build a complex web application.
Ben Hannemann – CEO & Founder, Web2TV.