tvOS Design: Use Case Considerations

Zack Simon

4 min read

Jul 18, 2016

tvOS Design: Use Case Considerations

What do people do in their living rooms? What devices are present? What time of day are people in their living rooms?

Designing meaningful products for Apple TV requires taking into account many more additional factors than when designing for a mobile device. To prepare for this, here are some things to keep in mind when designing your app for tvOS.

It’s Nothing Personal

Think of how people use something like the Apple TV. Most likely in the morning or evening, the average user generally lands on the couch, a place of comfort, then grabs the Siri remote and turns on the TV to access content. In this scenario, the user’s comfort is very important to them. Unlike with personal devices, the primary user may (and probably will) be accompanied by other users. They are spectators, but may become the primary user at any time.

tvOS Use Setting

This setting and input method introduces a couple of usability hurdles to consider: text entry and security.

The user is often forced to use the device’s remote to search for new content or enter a password, which can be no small task. As of tvOS 10, there are myriad ways to input text on the device, but it is still a device primarily for interacting with content rather than inputting queries. And while the Apple TV does support Bluetooth keyboards, many users probably won’t search around the living room for a keyboard to sync.

Remedy this by making your content come first, and then nudge the user to input usernames and passwords to mitigate the hassle of text entry. They’ll be more willing to do so once they realize that logging will provide value to them.

If you’re creating a pay-TV video channel that is a part of a satellite or cable subscription, consider using Single Sign-On so that your users can be automatically logged into your app when they enter their subscription credentials. This was announced at WWDC 2016, so users will soon expect this functionality.

The Apple TV exists in the living room so, while it is private, it is not personal. It is very likely that users will be using the TV in the presence of others, unlike most other products, and they may not want to reveal passwords.

Make sure that the user has to take explicit action before passwords and viewing history are shown to the room. Though Siri will type your dictated passwords, keep in mind that most users will feel uncomfortable announcing a password when others are around.

Users and Other Devices

While some of your users will be familiar with iOS, you should expect that many will not have any experience with iOS devices at all.

Those users who are familiar with the ecosystem will likely use apps on tvOS that they also use on their personal iOS devices if the functionality makes sense in the context of the living room. These users will expect that the tvOS app will achieve something unique and complementary to the app they use on iOS.

And of course, many Android users or users with no experience with Apple’s ecosystem are going to be using this device, so you should make the experience compelling for them. It’s important to make sure that the experience you’re creating for the Apple TV is an excellent standalone experience while still making it appropriate for the use setting. Cross-device functionality can be really cool when users have other devices in the ecosystem, but the experience shouldn’t rely heavily on the user having other iOS devices.

Content is Key

Be sure that your app’s functionality on tvOS differs from functionality on mobile devices in a way that emphasizes the Apple TV’s unique setting. You’ll often find that the majority of popular tvOS video apps, also known as TV channels, are a core part of the Apple TV experience.

Even though video is the reason for the television’s success, it now isn’t the only reason why people gather around the TV. Gaming, browsing and listening are all experiences that people now expect to be able to do from their couches, and the considerations you make in designing and developing your app should cater to these expectations.

QVC for Apple TV

QVC is an excellent example of a tvOS app that offers content and functionality that’s contextually appropriate to the living room. The app takes advantage of what users expect to be able to do on their TV (i.e., watch QVC) but also adds the benefits of being able to browse products and make purchases.

Stay tuned for more posts on design and tvOS. If you’re looking for some intense design learning, check out our design courses and workshops! They’re short, sweet, inspiring and tiring.

Zack Simon

Author Big Nerd Ranch

Zack is an Experience Director on the Big Nerd Ranch design team and has worked on products for companies ranging from startups to Fortune 100s. Zack is passionate about customer experience strategy, helping designers grow in their career, and sharpening consulting and delivery practices.

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