The 10-foot user interface gets its name from the average distance a user is from the screen when interacting with a TV interface. Designing user-friendly TV apps for this 10-foot experience means creating an interface that can communicate from ten feet away to users who are more relaxed and distracted than when they interact with other devices.
Although TV interfaces have been around for a while and have seen several evolutions with the advancements in technology, some applications still use screens overloaded with content and without means to navigate efficiently. At Solid Digital, we believe that in any 10-foot environment, simplifying navigation enhances the browsing and discovery experience.
Input devices that are used to interact with TVs are one of the hurdles in this design process. Even with voice interface now helping to streamline this interaction, we still need to account for users with accessibility issues and must design for the input devices at hand — mainly, the remote control and the gamepad. As opposed to a mouse or touchscreen interaction, these rely on limited directional input (up, down, left, right). Due to these limitations, it is inherently difficult to navigate across a large area of an interface and inputting text can be exceptionally tedious.
While designing for the method of input creating visual focus is critical to keeping users oriented in the interface. With no mouse or touch gesture to do this a visual cue communicates that the user’s focal point is over a specific object or area and tells them that they can interact with or navigate away from an area. Since TV users are more likely to be distracted, the focused area must be immediately recognizable at first glance.
Interaction is one part of creating a good content browsing experience. While some users will sit down with something specific in mind, the rest will only have a general sense of what they want. For the user who is browsing, we must find ways to facilitate a discovery. We can help them by providing curated categories, genres, and personalized recommendations. The design challenge then becomes how to make these pathways easy to uncover and to eliminate dead ends.
We know that the more options a user has to analyze the less likely they are to make a decision. By reducing the amount of cover art per screen, we can reduce the likelihood of analysis paralysis. By reducing the amount of cover art per screen, we reduce the amount of mental effort required to digest it. This reduction is a big step towards streamlining the experience of browsing and discovering content.
Another way we have enhanced browsing is by eliminating unnecessary clicks for navigating. Click exhaustion results from not optimizing how users can move through a TV interface. We use design tactics such as fixing the focus to an area and pulling the content to it, instead of requiring a user to push it around the screen. By doing things like this, we allow a user to see more content with fewer clicks.
By utilizing these tactics, we create environments that make a user feel grounded and are less likely to feel overwhelmed when browsing. Forward-thinking navigational methods that are new and not as familiar can be a scary proposition for stakeholders. We think that although a little unfamiliar at first by simplifying the browsing experience can help drive transactions and encourage repeat use.
An interface that is merely presenting content is only a minimum viable product. As always, our goal is to elevate a product to something that will delight users. Our approach is to facilitate discovery via a better exploration experience.
A new and innovative approach is not the safe option but 10-foot experience design is still a relatively new frontier, and we want to be leaders in establishing new best practices for this environment. We believe users appreciate innovation and will adopt new methods if it means a better experience.
Our recommendation is to follow the best practices that improve the experience and to discard the trends that hinder it.