Over the summer of 2018, I was an intern on the Design Team for Spectrum (a.k.a. Charter Communications).  There, I spent half of my time working with the Design Systems team on Kite, Spectrum's DS. I spent the other half of my time working with my fellow interns to "Beat the Best," a challenge put forth by the Design Team to bring a fresh perspective to  the cable industry. 

context + goals

Originally, "Beat the Best" was a call to help make Spectrum #1 in the cable industry. However, this evolved into more of a question on "How can we be better?" Our task was to gain a thorough understanding of the cable industry over the span of 10 weeks through desk research, customer surveys, and Subject Matter Expert (SME) interviews, and then propose an innovative solution to "Beat the Best." 


role - UI Design Intern

length - May 2018 / August 2018

type - internship

process + development

Before we could come up with a specific solution, we had to understand what the problem space was. This was a considerably large undertaking for three interns who had no previous experience within the cable industry. 

First, we sent out an experience survey to over 200 cable and internet subscribers to understand their pain points. One of the key questions we asked participants was to describe the cable industry in three words — the word cloud we produced is shown to the right. While expensive was the most common word, a lot of the negative terms used to describe cable are about industry perception rather than cable experience. Further investigation revealed there was also a big satisfaction disparity between people in rural and urban locations. Those in rural locations identified internet speeds, choice, and price as their biggest pain points, while those in urban location were generally happy with their cable and internet experience. 

"While cable coverage is great, there is limited internet packages in our area. I called... I was informed that I have the highest internet speed available in my area. With two kids always on phones, Netflix and video games our internet wifi gets bogged down" (survey participant)  

In parallel with our customer research, we also looked internally to see what experts in the industry believed the cable's biggest problems were. The SME's we interviewed included Senior Directors, Vice Presidents, and even an Executive Vice President. These conversations helped us develop our understanding of the cable industry, the breadth in problem spaces that we could look into, and a general idea of Spectrum's future strategies. 

end result

Using our research and a lot of card sorts, we came up with several personas who represented our target customers: passed homes in rural areas within Spectrum's network. These are homes that live within Spectrum's footprint, but cannot access Spectrum products because of the high upfront cost connecting the homes would require. This is colloquially known as cable's last mile problem. Our solution focuses on using 5G technology, or Fixed Wireless Access, to connect passed homes at a fraction of the cost so that they can receive the same high quality services that are available to the rest of Spectrum's network. This is a technology that Spectrum and its competitors are already developing, and it has the potential to be over four times cheaper than coaxial cable and seven times cheaper than fiber to implement to unconnected homes. However, by focusing distribution in typically overlooked regions, Spectrum can also improve its image as a cable company. 

Our complete slide deck can be accessed below: 

1.  Illustration of a 5G neighbourhood // 2. Word cloud results from customer survey // 3. One of the personas used for our research // 4. Card sort on internal mindset problems within the cable industry // 5. Card sort on people's perception of the cable industry // 6. Card sort on advantages we have over competition within the realm of 5G technology // 7. Full illustration of a 5G neighbourhood // 8. Map of Spectrum's early 5G roll-outs // 9. Potential applications of 5G technology

Elizabeth Austin - Beat the Best-page-01