Hassle maps “catalog every frustration, time-wasting complication, and source of uncertainty” for consumers in their daily lives, and more particularly, when they consume certain products. A standard procedure in many extremely successful companies such as Apple, Netflix, and Google, it is clear that hassle maps can give a business a crucial edge over their competitors. While it could be argued that ‘hassle map’ is only a fancy term for “listen, really listen to your consumers and put yourself in their shoes,” the concept is of central importance in many fields, transmedia entertainment included.
Whether you call it a hassle map or not, here are a few aspects that can easily bother transmedia consumers, so make sure you consider them carefully.
1. Accessability/physical availability: Once you’ve roped your audience in, don’t wait too long to release the next installment of your narrative. Waiting for something can improve the ultimate experience, but too much waiting causes frustration and anger also. This goes for both domestic and international audiences.
2. Paying: The easier the better. The fewer times your consumers have to type in their PayPal or credit card details, the better. Keeping consumers in control of their money is important, of course, but so is keeping it simple to pay. The same goes, without saying, for personal accounts to access your content. One account and one set of log-in details are enough.
3. Orientation: It is great that your content now spans many different media, but consumers need to know where to start and where to continue, so tell them. Offer them a ‘roadmap’, an overview of your narrative including both time and space/geography, and where they can access the different stories within your content world. Help consumers find their way around.
4. Referencing/overview: Besides a map for general orientation, help your consumers quick-reference your content. What’s behind this or that character, and where can I find her story? Often, fans create such references themselves – the origins of Wookiepedia, Buffypedia, Star Trek Wiki, etc., but there is no reason why you as the producer/creator shouldn’t offer your fans this knowledge and guidance.
5. Taking action: Many transmedia projects promote charities or good causes. If this is the case for your project, make sure your audience knows what to do next. Ideally you will leave them with a feeling of “I want to do something for/against that,” and then it is up to you to tell your audience the best way to take action.
Those are only a few of transmedia hassles, and as Slywotzky rightfully points out, hassle maps vary from consumer to consumer, and from product to product (or project to project in the case of transmedia). As usual, this is an important consideration in transmedia also: Who is the content for, and how do they want to consume it? For example, mainstream audiences might be troubled by piecing together the ‘bigger picture’ of your narrative, while devoted fans wish for more detail. Ultimately, however, the best hassle map eliminates hassles for both consumer and producer:
… quantify the economics for both consumer and provider–what will best improve customer experience at an acceptable cost to you? What will save money for both? … Often, what makes a simple, seamless product or service for the consumer results in more efficient processes on the business side, reducing producer costs. (Slywotzky )
So, be sure to listen and put yourself in your audience’s shoes. Finding their hassles might just eliminate yours as well.