User Experience Design
Aug. 20, 2014

Hits and Misses in the New Media Battle Ground

“I think one of the major forefronts in User Experience is the future of television. It seems like the tech community as a whole is eager to see this evolution from the traditional broadcast model as it incorporates the heavy influence of digital consumption.” - Molly

What is the future of television, of film, or media in general? With the rise of Netflix, Amazon Prime and Google Chrome Cast it’s a question a lot of people have been asking. Recently, we sat down with Molly our Senior UX Architect to ask her about the trends she sees in the way people watch, and how these trends are being influenced (or not) by the online user experience.

On both the cable and digital side we see different platform trying to integrate themselves more and more into the way we watch television. “There is currently a power struggle going on that does not necessarily put users at the center, but may benefit users in the end.” Says Molly. “Cable is struggling to maintain its subscription model, and is having to ramp up their game to compensate.”

On the cable side there is now Xfinity’s X1: a new interactive, functional, platform is fully integrated with your DVR. On X1 you can search across shows you’ve recorded, shows on demand, and upcoming shows. On the digital side we are seeing a closer integration between digital native content and the actual devices. Some of the newer TVs have apps built in, so more and more we are seeing things like remotes with Netflix buttons on them in an attempt to integrate more into our lives. Beyond the sets, Google, Apple and Amazon are all competing to be the one who serves you content. They are each working to build the best proprietary devices like Google Chrome Cast, Apple TV and Amazon Instant Play.

With all of these new platforms for finding and viewing content we wanted to know what are these platforms getting right and where are they missing the mark in terms of UX? Molly had the answers we needed.

Let’s start with what they miss.

The biggest drawback to all of these new possibilities is how confusing it all can be. You have to manage multiple experiences in your head, and in your wallet. Digital native companies are coming up with their own content (OITNB, House of Cards) each with their own rules for searching, streaming and sharing.  Even Television networks are creating their own proprietary experience online. You can now watch Comedy Central, FX, and, of course, HBO shows on their respective native apps. Having to keep all of these players and their separate rules straight creates a very disjointed user experience.

And currently most of these platforms do not support each other. This might make sense at first. These companies are, after all, in competition with one another, so why would they want you to stream foreign content on their platform? However, what many of these companies have overlooked is that when a consumer is frustrated with an experience they are generally frustrated with the platform they are trying to stream with, not the platform where the content was purchased. So if a user has a Chrome Cast, but can’t take advantage of their Amazon Prime subscription, they are more likely to get frustrated with Google.

So what’s the solution? These platforms need to figure out what the cable companies already know, that when products come neatly bundled they create a nicely unified experience. These platforms should cooperate rather than compete and work together to create a cohesive user experience the works across platforms.

Despite these issues, there have also been some huge leaps in User Experience across digital platforms.

One of the most impressive changes has been in the realm of real world sharing. Digital content was once primarily shared via laptops and iPhone, but one of the big changes being made right now is a transition back into real world sharing. When a friend sits in front of your Chrome Cast enabled television, they can now share their content directly from their phone to your set. This means you don’t have to go through the hassle of learning someone elses interface.

This may seem like a small change, but remember the ability to share in real spaces is especially important for people in communal spaces, like students in Dorm rooms and young adults living together in apartments. The same demographic likely to shape the future of how media is consumed. 

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Molly Lee

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