Category Archives: design

Quizmaster – multiplatform quiz publishing with accessibility

It’s been a while since I did a blog post. I thought I would write about one of my favourite projects of the last few months.

Quizmaster is a new content management system for the BBC which is specifically focused on multichoice quizzes. Using it, content producers at the BBC can quickly develop and deploy a quiz. The quizmaster platform publishes to facebook, flash, ajax and mobile (Ajax and J2ME) platforms, and is fully accessible.

The project started in March 2009, with a small (but perfectly formed?) company called Kite.

[you can also read their take on the quizmaster platform.]

Back in March we were asked by BBC Radio 2 to develop a multiplatform quiz for the Ken Bruce show, an online version of his ‘Popmaster’ quiz.


As the BBCs Lead Information Architect on this project, and part of the ‘External Projects and Integration Consultancy’ team, it was my job to shepherd the project through to launch. It’s quite a simple looking quiz, but arriving at the final result was a long, and surprisingly convoluted journey.

I can’t take much of the credit for it really (most of that goes to Kite!) but there are bits I’m particularly pleased about.

1. It is fully accessible.

We tested the different versions of the quiz with a wide variety of audience. This included testing with blind and partially sighted users (result: we increased the default amount of time you get to make an answer, and increased the vertical distance between the hot spots for answer buttons in the design). Kite also rebuilt the flash version to be more accessible using tab/enter keys).
The vertical distance between answers increased as a result of user testing.

popmaster multichoice question page
We also did testing with autistic users (result: Some of the comments the presenter makes were made less negative, since autistic users we tested had difficulty recognising them as humour and got upset by them. This is something that I was surprised about at the time, although with hindsight it seems obvious – it’s one of those results that makes me love user testing!

Other interesting bits – the options screen, accessed from the quiz home page, and its impact on the quiz (again trying to keep it accessible).

[But not everything can be made accessible]

The last point about accessibility is the timer. We could have taken the timer out for some parts of the audience (for example if you have difficulty reading the answers within the time limit). However, it wouldn’t be the same game.

Taking it out would fundamentally change the offer to the audience, and the core principal of the BBC when it comes to accessibility is to offer as many people as possible the same experience.

Hopefully, with this project, we achieved that. I hope that the audience with accessibility needs enjoy the resulting experience. If not, let me know, and I’ll try and get quizmaster adjusted.

2. The design is flexible, the technology is reusable.

The same technology platform has now produced many different ‘multichoice quizzes’ for different parts of the BBC, all of them pretty quick and easy to produce, and fully accessible from the start. It would be easy to build a one-off product that delivers a small amount of functionality to I’m pleased that we designed and built a product which has been reused many times across the BBC.

Here are some examples of quizmaster in use:

Popmaster – the original, flash version.
Popmaster – the ajax version (more accessible for screen readers)
Popmaster mobile versions (j2me and ajax)
Popmaster on facebook

glastonbury mobile iphone quiz
Glastonbury 40th Anniversary Quiz – Flash version here
Radio 3 Proms Quiz- Flash version here
And an interesting extension of the original version – the 5live world cup shootout quiz (with a tournement/football match structure).
This version of the game was playable on iPhone and Android mobile phones.

promsmaster question screen
An example question screen from Radio 3’s Proms quiz
The Evolution of the Quizmaster

You’ll notice some subtle changes through the different versions, as we try to refine the experience. For example, the proms and glastonbury versions score points for each tenth of a second that is left on the clock when the player answers correctly. In popmaster we scored for each second. This resulted in a large number of players having the same score (not good). The 10th of a second scoring gives much more variations in scores.

3. Social integration

My favourite way to play these quizzes is on facebook, because it’s really easy to invite your friends, and I think its when comparing scores with friends that it becomes truly fun! [even if like me, you’re rubbish, so score really badly!]

My favourite user journey is ‘Send to a friend’ from the home screen (after you’ve decided to play with sound or not), or as I called it, the ‘I forgot to send this quiz to my mate, but I like it and I don’t want to play the whole game before being able to tell my mate about it’. That button (and rather wordy journey) is one I’ll take credit for ;-). I think its actually quite important in improving the chance that the quiz can ‘go viral’ amongst internet users.

Let me know what you think.