Feeds

Why do Smart TV UIs suck?

Inconsistent, inconvenient and in my *!#!!?* telly

Build a business case: developing custom apps

Feature Years ago, TVs were simple. My grandparents’ set, for example, had a single channel-change button which clunked through to the next VHF preset each time you pushed it. My own family's TV had two standards, enabling us to “Switch to U for BBC 2” in time for Play Away.

Inevitably, matters have became much more complicated than that as the number of channels has mushroomed. The Electronic Programme Guide (EPG) has helped by providing a timeline based list of what's on and what's coming up. But most people have managed pretty well pressing numeric buttons for channel numbers, and using a ‘source’ button to access their VCR or Sky box.

Yamaha's stunning UI

This is a sophisticated, modern UI. Apparently...

In recent years, though, the complexity of home entertainment has suddenly grown exponentially. We’ve added Blu-ray players, games consoles, DVRs, media streamers and AV Receivers to help compensate for the poor sound of ultra-thin tellies. Better internet connectivity has brought us catch-up services like BBC iPlayer, and online rental services like Netflix and Acetrax. Modern TV can make video calls, show the weather and let you Tweet your commentary on the latest instalment of Strictly.

And have the finest minds of the consumer electronics and technology industries worked hard to make all this as simple and straightforward as using a TV used to be?

Have they heck.

No, driven by marketing tick lists and a seeming disregard for how ordinary people will use their products, manufacturers have simply chucked more and more features into their sets until existing user interfaces have creaked at the seams with it all.

BBC iPlayer via the Red Button

BBC iPlayer the easy way: two button presses on a Freeview HD-compliant box

Even new UIs, designed from the ground up - you'd have thought - to deal with the vast array of content accessible through a smart TV would have improved matters. But no, vendors have instead been content with flinging smartphone-style UIs at big screens in the hope that the buzz surrounding 'apps' will stick.

Not so smart

Here's a simple example: if you’re marketing a new set-top box or TV in the UK, and you want to call it ‘smart’, then it’s a given that it should feature BBC iPlayer. So, you build your TV to the latest Freeview HD specs, get it certified by the BBC, and your users will be able to access iPlayer through the Red button. Users press Red, followed by OK, and they’re in.

That's how it should be. But in a recent batch of smart TVs I tested, not one of them launched iPlayer like that. Instead, they all presented it as an app within their own portals. Every set had it filed away in a different place.

LG Smart menu

LG's 'Premium' section doesn't contains such valuable offerings as Dixons' Knowhow channel

With all the various video-on-demand services that the companies now try to cram in, you start to find arbitrary categories being created. LG’s ‘Premium’ section might suggest that it’s for paid services, like Netflix and Lovefilm, but it includes free ones too, iPlayer among them.

So for ‘Premium’ we can read ‘not full of junk’.

Pop into Toshiba’s ‘Places’ and iPlayer is included – in fact, it’s the only thing – in the ‘EPG and Catch-up TV’ section. Yes, that’s right: there’s no EPG in there, effectively giving iPlayer a section of its own - there’s a separate ‘Video on demand’ section for other choices.

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
Assange™: Hey world, I'M STILL HERE, ignore that Snowden guy
Press conference: ME ME ME ME ME ME ME (cont'd pg 94)
Premier League wants to PURGE ALL FOOTIE GIFs from social media
Not paying Murdoch? You're gonna get a right LEGALLING - thanks to automated software
Online tat bazaar eBay coughs to YET ANOTHER outage
Web-based flea market struck dumb by size and scale of fail
Amazon takes swipe at PayPal, Square with card reader for mobes
Etailer plans to undercut rivals with low transaction fee offer
US regulators OK sale of IBM's x86 server biz to Lenovo
Now all that remains is for gov't offices to ban the boxes
XBOX One will learn to play media from USB and DLNA sources
Hang on? Aren't those file formats you hardly ever see outside torrents?
Class war! Wikipedia's workers revolt again
Bourgeois paper-shufflers have 'suspended democracy', sniff unpaid proles
'Aaaah FFS, 'amazeballs' has made it into the OXFORD DICTIONARY'
Plus: 'EE, how shocking, ANOTHER problem I face with your service'
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Solving today's distributed Big Data backup challenges
Enable IT efficiency and allow a firm to access and reuse corporate information for competitive advantage, ultimately changing business outcomes.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.