Highest VoD enjoyment - on TV and mobile
Ex Libris offers its clients the popular Ex Libris Smart TV app - launched in 2014 for Samsung Smart TVs - now also on LG devices. The app provides Video-on-Demand plus a variety of attractive features:
- Purchase and rent films and series
- Browse new products and various genres
- Targeted search by category and by entering text
- Movie recommendations
- Watch list for favorites
- Convenient payment with Ex Libris account
- Parental controls
The app is preinstalled on all Samsung and LG devices (from 2012 onwards) and can be accessed via the Smart TV menu.
But also mobile users are not left out: With the Ex Libris Player app for iOS and Android, purchased or rented films can be conveniently viewed anywhere on a smartphone or tablet. By means of Chromecast or AirPlay the mobile app can also stream films to TV sets of all other manufacturers and thus play in home cinema size.
Challenges in interaction design
The design of the app challenged us in several ways, because TV apps work quite differently than smartphone, tablet or desktop apps.
Navigation, for example: even if modern TVs are now delivered with pointer remotes or touchpads, the majority of Smart TVs are still operated with 4 arrow keys. It is important to emphasize the focus (where am I?), to reduce the number of user interactions to a minimum and to keep all the distances between call-to-action elements short.
Since the physical distance between the user and TV device is usually relatively large, the UI elements and text in the app should be sufficiently large, easy to see and clearly arranged.
The biggest hurdle with Smart TVs is any text input. Fortunately this is limited to the login and the search for films in the Ex Libris Smart TV app, where the login has to be done only once and the search is supported by typeahead suggestions. This hurdle is further reduced by means of voice input.
Restrictions must also be considered regarding performance. Samsung and LG Smart TVs are based on web technology and the performance is rather weak. So, Smart TV app designers unfortunately have to do without expensive animations, although today these would be a good feature for improving the UX of apps.
But there are not the only adverse factors. In contrast to a mobile app, a Smart TV app, for example, can usually rely on a fast and stable Internet connection.
Special requirements in deployment
The deployment process of TV apps differs - especially with regard to effort - from that of iOS or Android and is also different depending on the provider platform: Along with the app, comprehensive documentation has to be submitted, which describe the user interaction in detail and in the form of a checklist to ensure that the developer has thought of everything.
Also, the actual deployment process is different depending on the platform. After successful submission, the TV manufacturers will test for one or two weeks and publish the app only if no (larger) issues occur.
Our conclusion: do not underestimate the effort involved in deploying a TV app!
Smart TV - an interesting app platform
Smart TV app platforms have been around since 2010. What started with a few simple apps has become an attractive platform in recent years. Game manufacturers especially have discovered Smart TV apps, but there are also a variety of different promotions and streaming apps.
The market leader in Smart TV apps is Samsung, not in the least thanks to its consistent investment in the platform and in marketing and promotional activities. But LG is also catching up. Toshiba has completely withdrawn - after initial first steps. And with the "Opera" platform various smaller manufacturers serve their customers.
As Smart TVs become smarter every year, with a lot of new functionalities and connectivity capabilities, especially combined with streaming, mobile and gaming, we strongly believe that Smart TVs as app platforms will gain in importance.
Please find more of our app references here.