Android TV is a completely new exciting arena when it comes to the Google OS platform. While you encounter the same Android as you experience on phones, tablets, or Android wears, there is a completely new strategical approach required in designing Android apps for an Android TV.
The most basic thing differentiating the approaches is the screen size, massive in the case of a TV, as compared to a mid-sized tablet, or a small sized smartphone. Although there are too many points to discuss, we just featured a few of them which we consider extremely important when designing apps for an Android TV.
#1. ‘Interactive’ content is must
Remember, you are designing apps for a TV, and not for some phone or tablet. Interactivity is always the key when designing for televisions. Ensure that your content is the central figure representing your apps, rather than design taking things all over. When we say content, it does not mean core text. Herein, we are referring content to the media elements, like animations, videos, images, or sounds.
Let users consume these media components, instead of reading out multiple lines of text. Users want to move quickly from one frame to another, especially when it comes to a television. Core text slows down the process, making things boring for the users. Since users want easy transition, moving from one media to another, should not require more than a click.
#2. Deliver experience ‘cinematic’ style
The first thing that comes to the mind of viewers whenever they see a television is a cinematic style experience. What they expect is a sound that is amazingly engaging, and an imagery that is a visual treat to watch. Do not forget to integrate both these elements to the best advantage within your app.
The best way to do so is by incorporating a minimal user interface, filled with rich media, and accommodating only essential textual content, relevant to the context. Combine aesthetic appeal with top quality sound, to deliver something that users are eagerly waiting for.
#3. Keep the ‘simplicity’ intact
As we have repeated several times, “Simplicity is the key to success, in the case of apps.” This goes very true in the case of apps specifically designed for a television. A user should be allowed to take minimal steps possible in order to reach the actual screen. People prefer to watch more than spending time changing actions on a television. There are a few tips to keep things minimal as possible:
- Action controls responsible for activating interactions should be kept as low as possible. Remove all the unnecessary navigational steps, and things acting as interferences in user interaction with the TV. Users should experience a smooth, seamless flow, without any obstacles.
- Simplify elements or components, within the UI, reducing it as much as possible. Let decision-making made simpler, with fewer relevant options.
- Keeping textual content less will result in less distraction while the user is navigating and browsing through the app screens. It is much easier to access the visual information than scanning extremely large blocks of text.
Users take help from a 5-way “D-pad” controller, in order to access the content present on TV screen. This includes a central button for selection, and four directional buttons namely up, down, left, and right. The other two most basic buttons “Home” & “Back” are already present on the remote control. Sometimes these controls restrict users to navigate, due to complex app coding, making it very difficult for users to navigate across the app.
Since Android TV supports focus based navigation, you can have your apps get the focus shifted with the movement of users across content within the app. This makes it easier for users to locate where they currently are, what is the next step to move on, and what is the previous step from where they came. Do this in four different ways:
- A Focused item should have a larger scale sized appearance.
- Increase the brightness of the focus, to enhance the visibility.
- Change the overall opacity, blurring the transparency of unselected items, and activating the transparency of the selected item.
- Introduce animation to show users, which element they are currently interacting with.
Remember, there always has to be one component in selected mode, for aiding navigation using a D-pad controller. With different types of controllers available in the market, your app should support relevant key codes, to deal with even a non-standard input controller.
#5. Supporting the ‘game’ controllers
Android TV even provides support for game-pad controllers, letting users open to several more controls than you can possibly imagine. If your app requires a game controller, ensure that it should facilitate navigation through a standard controller, just like a D-pad.
#6. Taking ‘inputs’ from users
There should be flexible methods, allowing users to go for data inputs in a variety of ways. Among all, important ones are a touch screen TV keyboard, and voice inputs. Imagine, how convenient things can become, using these methods, instead of using a traditional D-pad controller, letting users go through a tiresome process of navigating the screens. Voice input, or for that matter even touch screens, can reduce or possibly eliminate the friction caused by the controllers.
You can even have mobile devices delegated with user inputs. This helps users to input textual information on TV, just by using their smartphones. This can be done when your app detects the nearby TV device, through WiFi, and asking users to enter their inputs, on their smartphone.
#7. Allowing ‘dynamic’ content to show up
The only way to boost engagement in your application is to grab user attention for a while. This requires you to fit in dynamic features within your app, changing every time when users open your app. If the content is dynamic in nature, a user will get to see something new every time, when visits your app. Contradictorily, users will be bored to see the same old thing, if they open your app, and get the “déjà vu” feeling when they see your app.
Feeding new content every time will let users feel excited every time as they open up your app. They will be eager to know, what the app has new to offer. As an example, consider a media application, like a newspaper, wherein news updates change rapidly in an app, whenever you open every time. Your app should opt for presenting new content, instead of recycling the same old content.
“Pagination” is a useful strategy, helping apps achieve the dynamic capabilities. With grids and lists in place, most recent content shown at the top, and old content present downwards, which can be accessed, only when scrolled. This lets users consume as much content possible, keeping them engaged for longer, and striving for retrieving new information, every time when they open your app.
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