Winter Guard International (WGI) is the world’s premier organization producing indoor color guard, percussion, and wind ensemble competitions. Each winter they host regional competitions in the United States, Canada and around the world. The finalists from these competitions attend the World Championships in Dayton, Ohio over two weeks in April.
WGI and our friends at John Flower Productions approached us in 2015 because the service they had used for pay-per-view video was being dismantled. They had an immediate need to build a new platform to sell and host the live stream of the 2016 World Championships. The opportunity was modernizing the platform with better design, user experience, branding, and overall customer satisfaction.
We knew we had a huge opportunity with this project. The brief was fairly simple, but the opportunity to have impact on their business and their user’s satisfaction was huge. People expect to view videos on a range of devices, from small smartphones all the way to huge televisions. We couldn’t just replicate last year’s functionality, we had to devise a new way to purchase and view on every device imaginable and clearly communicate the options and benefits.
The team did a commendable job, organizing brand assets into something that visually communicates the excitement of the events that WGI produces. We helped organize the plans and payment options into an easily digestible format, and then designed that and the live stream into a device-agnostic format for all our audiences.
Early analytics proved most traffic would come through mobile (roughly 65%). So we designed accordingly, pitching 2 completely different designs to the client that both accomplished the goals and expectations of the project.
One thing we aimed to capture from a creative standpoint was the drama of being at an actual live event. The compelling feeling of being in the middle of it all – that added element of spontaneity and intensity. We came up with a few elements that we wanted to hone in on and re-create visually within the user experience; The bright lights and the playful effect that they have with their environment, and personal engagement with performers, among others. One way we went above and beyond to capture the feel and look that we wanted, is we set up a smoke machine and a drop cloth in our actual office and captured pictures of the smoke clouds that we then transformed into a texture that would add a subtle, yet dynamic element to the site.
Tools of the Trade
The development team went to work on the best tools to support the webcasts. We knew we’d have tens of thousands of visitors for each of the world championships. This project could not have been done without the open source tools and community, combined with world-class hosting. We utilized WordPress and the MemberPress plugin for the back-end, with a ton of custom development around those two tools to make it work the way that WGI needed. And then we hosted it with the super-stable, super-scalable Pantheon.io.
John Flower Productions was our partner on the project, and they worked tirelessly to test out many streaming services that have the quality and infrastructure needed. They landed on the Livestream.com platform, and we worked with them for months to make sure that it integrated with our solution in a live environment.
Unlike most other web projects, wgiwebcast.com is tied to live events – WGI’s regional and World Championships. And that means it absolutely, positively has to work on those weekends. This means a lot of intensive QA time, but it also means live support!
We provided a live customer and development support for their two regionals weekends in March and their massive Color Guard, Percussion and Winds World Championships weekends in April. We provided email, phone and live chat customer support and emergency dev support from 9AM to midnight most days with a team of on-site and remote representatives. We used Slack for internal and client communication, Zopim for live chat and Google for phone and email.
The result of all this strategy, design, and development was a hugely successful series of events, from March to April 2016, and a platform that we can build on and support for years to come. This unprecedented level of coverage resulted in greater than expected ROI for WGI, and many thousands of people who couldn’t attend the events in sunny Dayton, Ohio were able to easily pay for and view all of the action.
There are many features and extensions of the system that we built for John Flower and WGI, and we look forward to the 2017 World Championships for a happier user and more features!