Tackling Big Design Challenges

User Stories
NBC Universal is one of the most recognizable names in media and has over 35 different brands (NBC Sports, Bravo, E!, and Peacock, just to name a few) and multiple streaming platforms. The company requires a lot of design and UX expertise to ensure viewers are engaged with the content and continually pleased with the overall experience. As a media corporation, NBC Universal has no shortage of design challenges for the team to overcome.
The Director of UX & Design for NBC Universal, Coburn Hawk, has over 20 years of design and UX experience. Not only does Coburn spearhead NBC’s design team, but prior to the 2020 election, he also helped design the LA County voting app — a massive app with over 10 million users. Corey Davis, Strategic Account Manager at Zeplin, sat down with Coburn during Harmony, our user summit, to discuss Coburn’s vast experience and how he deals with big design challenges.
Coburn shared his insights on dealing with the massive design requirements of both LA County and NBC Universal on tight deadlines with intense UX requirements.

Overcoming design challenges on tight deadlines with enhanced communication

One of the first things Coburn discussed was his work on the LA County voting app. As a key part of LA’s voting system this past election cycle, the design needed to not only be incredibly user-friendly, but it also had to be finished by its deadline — no negotiations or pushing back the app rollout. “Here was a launch date that wasn't movable because it was the election date,” says Coburn, “So it was kind of an all or nothing sort of proposition.” The LA County voting app needed to be easy to use, simple, and effective. The diverse range of voters in LA County would be using Coburn’s design to exercise their right to vote, making quality UX completely essential. 🤯 In order to deliver the highest quality UX by the deadline, Coburn and the small team creating the voting app needed to stay aligned on the finalized designs to ensure they were on track to meet their deadline.
When leading the delivery of the voting app for 10 million users, Coburn and the rest of his team needed the right design delivery tool to ensure they could meet the abrupt deadline of election day. By using Flows and Annotations in Zeplin, the designers were able to clearly communicate design intention and facilitate a seamless handoff to development. This easy handoff ensured that everyone on the project was able to stay on the same page through transparency into the design process and intention. With enhanced collaboration via Zeplin, the app was designed, developed, and delivered right on time to all registered voters of LA County prior to election day.

Delivering UX as a service rather than a perk

Throughout the discussion, it was obvious Coburn’s clear passion for UX design stems from his belief that UX isn’t just a perk for software, but a service to the users. “Empathy is one of the most important skills needed as a designer,” says Coburn. “For example, how can I make it easy for the people now homeschooling their kids because of changing circumstances?”
When presented with design challenges, Coburn considers his audience and their needs. Each audience has different needs: LA County voters are seeking a simple solution, while NBC viewers are seeking entertainment. “It's really being a service. The product is one app, and it's everything,” says Coburn, “It's nbc.com. It's the app that you would have on a Smart TV. It was the app you would have on your phone, iPhone, Android, and Xbox.”
From designing the way fans view sports, like the Olympics and the NFL, to creating the streaming apps Peacock viewers use, Coburn and the design team at NBC Universal see seamless, effective UX as a service. Whether the audience is looking for straightforward news or an entertaining TV show, Coburn wants that experience to be as enjoyable as possible. 😎
Leveraging Zeplin’s design delivery platform helps designers ensure a strong user experience. Designers and developers can easily communicate and comment on individual design elements to ensure clarity — aligning the team and delivering well-executed UX in the process.

Design challenges are made easier with an aligned team

While the team at NBC Universal is clearly balancing a wide range of design challenges among their brands, from the reality TV of Bravo to the financial news of MSNBC, Coburn emphasized how much easier these challenges are with an aligned team. He introduced Zeplin and the design tools the team needed in the daily workflow. With Zeplin, the team remains aligned to create innovative, effective UX that NBC Universal consumers love.
When asked about how he implemented Zeplin into the design team’s workflow, Coburn said, “They're [the team members] all so insanely talented and they're all so professional, that all I had to do was really just set up the structure and let them know that, look, I'm here to stay and we're going in this direction and it's going to be worth it.”
We can’t wait to see what new user experiences Coburn and his team at NBC Universal put out in the years to come — all with the help of Zeplin.
Interested in how Zeplin can help your team align and overcome design challenges? Get in touch with us and see it for yourself!