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Forces TV - a Drupal force to be reckoned with

Myles Davidson's picture

There are a plethora of news channels that exist today, that on the whole are pretty similar, so it was both a surprise and intrigue when Services Sound & Vision Corporation (SSVC) approached us to discuss a new online news channel. It got even better when they revealed it was ‘free to air’, called Forces TV and, they wanted iKOS to build the site that would support the new channel.

During the initial engagement we quickly established the key goal was to design and develop a modern commercial news site to support a fresh TV news channel whose audience comprises active and retired members of the British armed forces (Army, Navy, RAF) as well as family members and the wider British public.

Something new and unusual with a tricky brief - we loved it and engaged with them straight away.

The research phase helped to qualify Drupal as the best technical fit, after various demonstrations and tailored workshops to ensure all stakeholders were fully informed and bought-in to the proposed solution.
Forces TV coming to Sky

Project Challenges

With any iKOS project understanding the users and audience of a site is paramount to delivering a user experience that is appropriate and meets the clients requirements. We started the discovery and definition phase with a series of workshops to identify the main users of the site - both as visitors, contributors and editors - which helped to identify and prioritise a backlog of features that would achieve the core goals.

During the discovery workshops, a talented young designer, who worked for British Forces Broadcasting Service (part of the wider organisation) came to light. With collaborative and agile methods being a core iKOS value we invited the designer to join the definition phase to work alongside our own user experience (UX) team to help create interactive wire frames prototypes and the graphic elements.

Refined

Using a value-based approach to requirements gathering and weighted prioritisation, iKOS helped the product owner select the core epics (main features) from a wealth of user stories. These developed around 6 core must-haves:

  1. Destination for popular content - the main content type for site visitors, being a news site, was the creation of a flexible articles which might include photography, video, text, and or audio sources.
     
  2. Responsive design - the initial remit was for one breakpoint - creating a designed experience for mobile and desktop and whilst this was the 'must have' we were also able, thanks to one of the many 'base themes' available to Drupal to also deliver the 'nice to have' by creating a more adaptive theme which delivered an equally great experience for tablets.
     
  3. Discover related content - Using Drupal's core taxonomy enables the site editors to effectively curate articles; collecting them as stories related to their respective force (e.g. army) and topic of the day. This in turn allows the visitor to discover related articles, videos and podcasts encouraging longer visits through relevant content.
     
  4. Ease of use for editors - being a news site supporting a 'live' television channel that has field reporters around the world, required a robust backend to support quick changes, deletions, as well as to temporarily unpublish or modify articles, tag and then flag them for approval, change the article type as well as to schedule articles for future release as well as auto retire old ones.
     
  5. Commercial / Marketing - to support the commercial aspects of the site we helped to create a means for creating 'advertorials' using the same editor experience (backend CMS) whilst ensuring the front end view clearly marks this article as sponsored. In addition to this iKOS researched the best solution to deliver 3rd party adverts and opted for an ad-server which we integrated with both analytics and Drupal taxonomy so that adverts can be targeted and measured.
     
  6. Editorial Workflow -  with an array of journalists, editors and final approvers/publishers, a slick editorial workflow with an approval queue was key to keeping the 'flow' of news fresh. iKOS were able to customise and fine tune the Drupal workbench module to facilitate this and in the process circumvented the trap many fall into by cleverly refining the approval process, ensuring that editors were not restricted when posting a breaking story.

A glimpse of the site



 

Project management approach

The project was managed with an agile approach and a fixed budget with a clearly defined scope being the interchangeable 'currency'. This agile management resulted in a well-honed flow of work packages - discovery, definition, backlog, estimation, sprint planning, regular checks and balances via real demonstrations, QA, guided UAT and training. These could be chunked into economical 'sprints' when resource and timings allowed.

The site was delivered  ahead of a tight schedule to ensure it was 100% ready for the launch of the new TV channel 

The initial timeframe for completion was 12 weeks including design and UX which is, by most measures very short - however it was regarded by all stakeholders as a shining example of agile at its best. The project flowed without pause primarily as the product team had strong leadership with direct and regular access to an experienced product owner who made swift, decisive decisions. 
http://www.forces.tv 
If you have any further questions please post them below and if you have a project whose requirements might be similar or are interested to learning if iKOS methods and Drupal CMS' can work for you please contact us today
 

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