Google TV is nearly upon us and with it comes the “promise” of enhanced, interactive television.
The convergence of TV and the world wide web will create rich, new media experiences for a variety of users. It also demands a new design aesthetic for making the web work in concert with the television. Having spent more than 10 years building over a dozen different types of Internet/TV convergence products, I’ve probably seen more failed attempts at convergence than the sum total of all industry successes. In order to help prevent as much future fail, and to help Google TV developers deliver engaging content in beautiful ways, here are the Top Ten Tips For Making a Great Google TV “Site” (which shouldn’t be the way it works to begin with, but we’ll talk more about that some other time).
10 Avoid Input Fields
Asking users to input text or other information in designated fields makes sense for traditional or mobile websites. Inputting information through a QWERTY device does not translate well to a living room environment (despite Google insisting on a keyboard). Although Google TV will include the ability to enter text via a keyboard, the average user doesn’t want to sit in her living room and feel like she is using a computer with a giant TV for a monitor. Accordingly, only display fields when utterly necessary for input, use buttons and controls whenever possible.
9 Incorporate Animated/Moving Backgrounds
We don’t think much about static backgrounds on the web, but they will look cold and alien when displayed on your television. When was the last time your TV stopped moving (hint: never)? Bingo – consumers’ eyes are inherently expecting motion on their TV – all the time. Google TV developers should incorporate motion as much as possible in their designs. The animated backgrounds of TiVo and the XBOX 360 should serve as examples of what to do correctly here.
8 No Tiny Fonts
Trying to read 10 point Garamond from fourteen feet away seems like a recipe for disaster. Keep the text large, clear and legible. Tip: Google’s specs are pretty good here, pls follow.
7 Use The Entire Screen
Websites and smart phones give us grids and galleries of granular information. Televisions use the entire viewing area. Photos, videos and other GTV content should be big and bold. Information and content needs to fill the entire screen as much as possible.
6 Site Navigation Should Be Via Remote
I’ve seen a few Google TV (and other TV Apps) that have on-screen “Next” or other buttons which imply the user clicks on them to proceed – instead the user should simply click the “right arrow” on their remote (as an example). For a more detailed example, if you are making a photo-viewing app, the click of a right arrow on the remote should scroll through photos on Google TV. Developers should not make users click on tiny on screen buttons or NEXT icons with a mouse or pointer. If the site navigation is difficult or unintuitive, users will abandon the site, no matter how rich the content. Users will be seeking out the apps that “feel” most natural in their TV environment.
5 Google TV CANNOT Be Your Website Only Way Bigger
Just because it’s a 50″ screen doesn’t mean people are sitting a foot away from it. Furthermore, websites are meant for a specific type of “lean forward” interaction, and even a keyboard + Google TV in the living room doesn’t change that.
4 Performance is Critical
TV is instant. It is on demand. It is media made to order right now. Users will have little patience for loading screens or lagging content. Keeping content delivery fast will keep couch potatoes happy.
The use of color is critical when designing for television. Google makes some smart recommendations for Google TV Developers below:
TV screens have higher contrast and saturation levels than computer monitors. Follow these guidelines when working with solid colors:
- Use pure white (#FFFFFF) sparingly. Pure whites cause vibrancy or image ghosting in TV displays. Instead use #F1F1F1 or 240/240/240 (RGB).
- Bright whites, reds, and oranges cause particularly bad distortion.
- Be conscious of various display modes that TVs may have. These include Standard, Vivid, Cinema/Theater, Game, etc. Be sure to test your webpages in all these modes.
- Be conscious of using large spanning gradients, it may result in banding if not properly tested.
- Test your website on lower quality displays which may have poor gamma and color settings.
2 Assume the User Has a Computer
And a laptop and an iPhone and a netbook and an android and an iPad. With them. At all times. Users will incorporate Google TV into their media consumption habits and make the service coexist with other devices and habits they have developed. GTV is not meant to replace computers and smart phones, it is meant to compliment them. The best apps will incorporate off-screen interactions via other environments. Think about how to embrace and extend, not replace, as you’ll likely just make a worse experience that was unnecessary to begin with.
1 KISS: Keep it Social, Stupid
In North America, watching television is typically a communal activity with many different people watching the same screen. Whether it is the big game or family movie night, the living room attracts different ages and genders to the same space. Google TV usage models should be geared for groups gathered around the interactive screen. Apps that don’t consider a multi-user experience will be surpassed by those who figure this out.
As many of our readers know, I’m very bearish on Google TV 1.0 (but they will probably do well enough by 3.0, right Microsoft?). But the thing that’ll truly sink the ship is a series of terrible, PC-like experiences blown up onto plasmas in the living rooms. Techies might enjoy, but the masses will reject, and go to simpler solutions. Google TV users want to engage interactive content in new ways but have the experience still feel like the television they know and love. The challenge for Google TV developers is to present a new media experience to the masses and have it feel as familiar as the barcalounger.