Understanding how people engage with content to drive participation for the BBC

User Experience & Usability

The challenge

The BBC approached System Concepts to explore the many ways users participate with content available publicly online, as well as how they participate with the BBC’s content specifically.

When discussing participation this involves actions such as liking, sharing and commenting with content available to many people (the public) online.

BBC content on different devicesTo improve the BBC’s understanding of current participation behaviours and help them improve their participation services, the research objectives were to;

  • Understand how people currently participate online with all public content and distinguish characteristics by user types.
  • Explore how specific user types participate with the BBC’s content and understand how it can be improved for increased participation.

What we did

We took a two-phased approach to the research. The BBC team had some existing research and insight that we built upon through our collaborative approach and ‘research amnesty’ at the start of the project. This ensured we could gather new insight and add value, rather than repeating what they already knew.

Phase 1: Online ethnographic activities & user interviews

  • For the first phase of research, the aim was to understand a broad range of users’ participation habits generally. We would then be able to decipher a range of user types and specify why they participate, what methods they use and what their goals are when participating.
  • Online research platform dashboardIn order to gain this initial rich source of insight remotely, we onboarded 20 participants to an online research platform. We provided a welcome video of our researchers explaining the purpose of this research and what we would be asking of them.
  • Over the course of 7 days we asked participants to complete various tasks to help us understand their participation behaviours and preferences. To maintain engagement, the activities were varied and included mapping, rating and video creation tasks.
  • Afterwards, we conducted one-to one interviews with each participant to uncover more about their participation, based on the data they provided on the research platform.
  • Using data from both the online platform and user interviews we were able to analyse participation behaviours and identify 6 key user types for the BBC. This data was shared on MIRO throughout so we could collaborate with the client team and act on insight quickly.

Miro board used to analyse the data and share it with the client

Phase 2: Remote online focus groups

  • The second phase focused on participation with BBC content. For this, we conducted 4 remote focus groups and grouped participants based on their user type and participation behaviours.
  • These focus groups allowed the BBC to understand in depth the participation with their content, specifically by certain user types.
  • From the focus groups, we were then able to analyse the data and deliver a full report outlining the key insights and opportunities to drive and support participation with their content.


The research resulted in a wide range of insightful findings for the BBC. We were able to understand how specific user types participated with content and why. The findings would enable our client to identify opportunities and improve participation features based on specific users they wish to target. Deliverables from System Concepts included a detailed report for each phase of work, with clear opportunities and insights. This included 6 user type profiles (to help identify key insights and participation behaviours), and an online analysis board (MIRO) recording each participants responses to the ethnographic research.

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