Next Generation Customer Experience

GRD collaborated with DIRECTV to redesign the customer experience for satellite television. We conducted in-home observational research to create an elegant Onscreen Guide, a new remote control, and user instructions to better support customer viewing tasks.


DIRECTV’s product churn rate was threatening their position in the marketplace. To combat the heightened churn, we performed a root cause analysis to determine customers’ motivations for returning DIRECTV units. We observed 22 individuals in 12 households to understand their basic interactions and frustrations with the product. To better understand the relationship between customers and the product, we created the following user personas: Typical, Proficient, Demanding, Expert, and Overwhelmed.

By observing user behavior, recognizing user tendencies, and identifying user difficulties, we were able to identify DIRECTV’s key usability problems. Simply stated, it took far too long for users to find programs.

“You can get into situations that you cannot get out of.”

- John (in-home study participant)


User Behavior

To uncover why users were struggling to find programs in the Guide, we gathered data surrounding the frequency of use of core product features. This survey tool — “Behavior at a Glance” — pointed to a critical usability problem with Guide Filters.

We learned that 0 of the 12 households used the Guide Filters to quickly find and access content. After observing and interviewing participants to understand why they weren’t using the feature, we learned that the Guide interface was implemented so poorly that users simply gave up because it was too difficult to use.

In the redesign effort, we focused intently on providing a new structure and flow for Guide Filters to match the user’s mental model for searching, finding, and scanning information.


After analyzing the in-home field research and the DIRECTV’s business needs, we developed a framework for our recommended design strategies and enhancements.

Ultimately, we were able to keep the design simple, limit complexity, and clarify user goals + needs. We eliminated unnecessary navigation, improved the usability of filters + categories, used color/layout/dimension to enhance the guide’s visual appeal, and designed a task-oriented manual.

Unique to this project was our integration of hardware + software. We designed a new button layout (below) using an information arc to simplify clutter on the remote control. With aid from DIRECTV’s industrial design team, we were able to pair user interface workflow and industrial design layout to create a seamless button configuration and 1:1 relationship between the UI and hardware.

“I don’t think we use 1/2 of the capabilities of the remote.”

- Randy (in-home study participant)



Independent usability research showed that the new Onscreen Guide achieved the Usability Benchmarks established early in the project:

  • Find a specific show to watch now — 60 seconds

  • Find a specific network to watch now — 60 seconds

  • Scan for and find an unspecified but interesting program or network to watch now — 60 seconds