Bettina Streit
Published on under Apps, User Experience

TV-appropriate Content First!

The apps on display on a Smart-TV must be suitable for the medium of TV

Smart-TV now offers an impressive range of non-linear content. The presentation of apps on TV still has, however, potential for optimization.

I envision a new approach for using TV apps that is inspired by moving pictures.

The user should be intuitively guided to content that is exciting to them – and not over tiles with names of companies or brands that they do not know and under which they cannot imagine anything. Strictly speaking, the structure based on tiles is completely unsatisfactory.


TV app stores take no account of the TV viewer

On our mobile devices, the principle of the app store with its tile icons has established itself. We use the apps on display and usually know how to find them on the tablet or smartphone and then we download and try them out.

The app stores on TV also rely on this principle of mobile apps and transfer it to the TV screen, regardless of the manufacturer. However, access to TV apps is not quite as easy as on the mobile devices, because a TV cannot be operated by touch input. The hurdle that the user must overcome to access a TV app is thus significantly higher.

They are expected to do the same as they do on a mobile device to download an app. The displayed app tile, however, is generally not very meaningful. The user buys a cat in the sack and then must struggle with the installation before they even see what is behind the app. In addition, the presentation using the tile icons is not media-friendly. TV is a moving picture medium, and so offers should also be communicated as a moving picture.

Providers of TV apps have to worry about the presentation of their apps in app stores

TV app stores do not make it easy for the potential app user because they are not easy to handle – because users are used to TV. When someone turns on their TV they expect to get served moving images. For the user, it would be much easier if they are addressed via the moving image. The user wants to consume moving images and does not want to look into app stores to find them.

And here comes the next problem: There are more and more TV apps with relevant content, but the user does not know what to expect when they get an app tile shown to them. What do I imagine when I see an app with an AUDI logo? What do I get there? If you have no idea what is behind an offer, the hurdle of installing this app is even higher on the TV. A well-known brand such as AUDI may still arouse interest – I will probably get presented films about vehicles.

But there are enough providers and content, under which no one can imagine something specific. What do I expect, for example, in the app of the Deutsche Philharmoniker, of DJI, AMPYA or Neff? There is fantastic content hidden behind a non-meaningful logo. I do not know what kind of content I will get before I install the app. And that keeps many users away from dealing with TV apps.

Initial approaches to new methods are already here. For example, on all Smart TVs from 2015 onwards, Samsung is leading the way. When you open the Smart Hub, superimposed moving images appear. The user sees a number of preinstalled apps and when the user focuses on a specific app, moving images are displayed.

Samsung Smart Hub 2016

But here, too, there is some catching up. When you visit the app store, there are just seven apps. These are consistently major brands, such as maxdome or Netflix, who have paid for this position. A lesser known brand, which offers great content, will not appear in this area at all. They will not appear until the user explores the app store more deeply – and again, just as a tile without a moving picture. It is too bad that these providers can only present themselves so sparsely.

Basically, it should be the exact opposite: the attention for an app should be aroused by the content, and not an expressionless app logo.


Special challenges in the presentation of TV apps in app stores

The following applies to brands: they are not visible when they are placed under the “supremacy” of the tiles. Only the most prominent brands will be celebrated. And tiles do not say anything about the content.

Television viewers expect, of course, entertainment content, live television, video on demand, etc. – and they also expect to find this content in TV app stores. But they do not know that there are also other and, above all, free content offered. From sensational overflights of the drone manufacturer DJI from all over the world, to high-quality content from Mercedes or AUDI about their new vehicles, which, if it is found, people are watching even though it is pure advertising. I look at well-done content if it meets my interests. Studies show that viewers consume these offers with a dwell time of up to one hour.

But TV is a medium in which I must motivate myself to search for content. Because I actually would like to get content shown: Lean back, switch on and zap through the channels. Meanwhile, users have learned that their home cinema also offers content on demand. But it is not easy for them to access this content.

The ideal scenario looks like this: On the TV device, I get offered content from the most diverse sources that make the offer attractive for me. For instance, from AUDI, because I’m interested in cars, or concerts by the Deutsche Philhamoniker, or overflights from Tibet, which I would never see otherwise – lots of content that might interest me. Kitchen appliance manufacturer Neff offers, for example, an app through which I experience these devices in operation, enriched with professionally-made cooking shows. Content that is watched in linear TV by a large audience anyway and that I can specifically add.

Such content appeals to many users, but they must first find it. It is not presented to them. They are not encouraged to consume such content. A lot needs to change here.


Aspects and guidelines for TV apps in app stores

From the point of view of usability and user experience, the proven rules apply to TV apps: the easier it is to use an app and the faster you get to the content, the more likely it is to be used. If it just looks good and presents me the content appropriate for the medium, then the chance that I install it increases. The usability and UX methods we apply to all devices also apply to the TV.

But first and foremost, it is less about UI topics, but about UX. So it is about satisfying the needs of users and the most important need in TV is undisputedly “Content First”. Content plays the main role. I switch on my TV to consume content. And this content must be placed in the foreground. Not the company logo, but the content behind it. And indeed, as a moving picture, not as a still or a photo, but actually moving.

Samsung is testing yet another new way to provide the apps in its app store with a better communication path. On Samsung devices, the Brandworld tile always appears on the first screen when you open the app store.

There, the user finds a pre-installed selection of apps from renowned brands and interesting industries, including the media centers of various broadcasters, as well as other offers, such as AUDI, Mercedes, DJI or the documentary channel Tierwelt live.
Brands can buy themselves in to be presented there. When I put apps into my favorites, they are presented there with content too – but as still and text. This is not ideal for the medium of TV, but a first step on the way to a more appropriate presentation.


Samsung Brandworld Home

Samsung Brandworld MyTV

In order to fit the medium of TV, one must finally say goodbye to the concept of branded tiles. Playlists can be imagined that show me the offered content and inspire me to install the app. With the new generation of UHD TVs, this is no problem from a purely technical point of view.

coeno Playlists Example


Where the providers of TV App Stores are challenged

The manufacturers of TV sets think from the technology perspective. They implement what is technically feasible, but they still do not care too much about whether the user can use the application or whether they want to use it.

A good example is 3D technology for TV, which was pushed at full power into the market. 3D was cheered a few years ago at all trade fairs in the industry as a new key feature for TV sets. Consumers, however, did not buy in. It is just too annoying to sit with 3D glasses at home in front of the TV.

A technology advancement must, of course, also be communicated, so that providers dive into it and make content available. The path into the mass market is delayed and rather slow. The first Ultra HD devices (4K) were introduced in 2013. Now, customers are discovering the Ultra-HD TV, but there is hardly any content for it.

Not only are the manufacturers of TV sets challenged, but all providers, such as Vodafone, Kabel Deutschland, Unitiymedia & Co. They also provide TV App Stores. They also need to think about how they offer content, and they do not (yet) do so. They adopt a mobile concept and assume that users who know how mobile works, also want to use the app on the TV. That is a mistake!

In doing it this way, all market participants are missing out on a huge target group, as the proportion of mobile-fit TV users is still relatively small compared to the mass of television viewers. If apps and content were prepared for TV, the understanding that there are other than linear TV content would be more known, especially in the case of people who are not completely digitized, for example, older target groups.


User experience for TV is called moving picture

The basic expectation of the user is: “On the TV, I get moving picture shown”.

And this must be fulfilled.

It does not matter which source this content delivers, whether Live TV, VoD, something self-recorded or content from a Smart TV app – I just want to see this moving picture content. And it must be presented to me, I must be able to reach it. I do not want to have to search and find before I can watch something. I just want to watch a good movie, inform myself about a new car, see beautiful pictures with documentary characters about a country I want to travel to. Then the expectation, which I have of the TV device, is also fulfilled. And then also non-linear offers are used.


Three core requirements for a TV app suitable for an app store

  • Content First: Provide moving picture content that inspires the users and transitions them into the apps.
  • Facilitate the application: TV apps should be easy, intuitive and media-compatible (with remote control) and without cognitive effort – at any age level and from any human being.
  • Think more about the user: Not everything that is technically feasible is liked by the user.
This Post has been published in Apps, User Experience.
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