Apply design rules of the Internet to interactive TV

In this age of mass media we must ensure that the progression of technology does not diminish the value of good design. From television to mobile phone screens, design is being subjected to an increasing range of limitations.

In this age of mass media we must ensure that the progression of technology does not diminish the value of good design.

From television to mobile phone screens, design is being subjected to an increasing range of limitations. These limitations are often driven by the screen and memory size as well as navigation requirements. Visually stimulating design needn’t be lost.

The birth of the Internet spawned a new type of creative, a ‘designer’ of sorts; accepted as such because he has the knowledge to put together websites using HTML and JavaScript.

What’s more, the Web had a gestation period with regards to design, allowing these new ‘designers’ some room to play. Its inception was spun from technology and communication; good design only followed later.

We are now moving fast into an age of interactive TV and at present its development has similarities to that of the history of the Internet; only it has virtually no gestation period.

The Web was spawned from a self-contained community of techies and has only recently been embraced by a design- savvy community of users.

Interactive TV is brought to us through a medium that we already know and love. This means certain design conventions and expectations must be met immediately.

The majority of iTV applications I have seen in development over the past three years are of the cheap bevel-and-drop-shadow variety. Why is it that whenever we produce an on-screen interface it has to look like a plastic console with pushable buttons and a Star Trekkie-esque-moulded surround? Do we still believe on- screen interactivity is a thing of the future and that the future holds little more in store for us than rounded white plastic stuff?

While it’s extremely important that iTV on-screen interfaces are intuitive, it must also be assumed that they should be stimulating and exciting to interact with. After all, this is a mainstream consumer product from the outset and we should respect the fact that the average westerner is more design and fashion conscious than ever before.

Web design may, in some instances, influence our design of iTV, but we cannot assume that we can merely apply it to what is a very different medium. The challenge for today’s designers of interactive content on TV is to ‘more than satisfy’ the expectation of present TV users. It should be to wow them with slick TV-centric design that both fits the medium and the interaction process.

Digital TV allows the viewer (or ‘viewser’) to gain a stronger relationship with the channel through interaction. For new channels to be successful, this relationship between the viewer and channel must exist.

Content is, therefore, no longer king, but stylised, branded and focused content is. Broadcast design will be as vital an ingredient to the success of digital channels as the content of that package.

Noah Harris

senior designer

Static

p.borge@rushapplebee.co.uk

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