Here are a few tips for those who haven’t designed for TV before. In a television environment, you must:

  • Understand that content is king.
    • Get users to the content as quickly and easily as possible.
    • Don’t interrupt when users are watching TV. Instead, make the viewing experience better.
  • Respect the living room context.
    • Think about what users will and won’t want to do when viewing TV with their family and friends.
  • Remember that TV is social.
    • Consider how groups might use your website or application.
    • Offer ways for individuals to use your site or apps in social settings.
  • Learn the pros and cons of TV screens and audio.
    • TV screens are wider and colors look different.
    • Text must be readable from a distance.
    • Sound is now a viable interface element.
  • Make it easy.
    • Offer simple choices and make actions obvious and easy to select.
    • Provide navigation that is simple enough for a remote control

Simplicity above all

Successful TV interfaces are simple in both concept and design. Very simple. Here are some ways to achieve an interface that is easy to understand and to use:

  • Identify the vital parts of your interface before you start work.
    • Group your content, controls, and interactions by priority.
    • Throw out anything nonessential.
  • Stick with one visible mode of navigation or one information hierarchy.
    • Help users create a mental model that works for all your screens.
    • When appropriate, take advantage of habits that people have learned on the web.
  • Make the primary action reachable in one click.
    • Make other onscreen actions few and prominent. Don’t hide key features in a menu.
    • Always display an easy way for users to return to their previous location. Don’t rely on the back button.
  • Preselect the user’s next action when you can.
    • For instance, move the insertion point into the next text box, or select the first item in a list.
  • Avoid the temptation to use abstract icons.
    • Use short, clear labels and test them with users.
  • Limit vertical scrolling.
    • Think about how your content will scale when it increases in size. What if a list becomes ten times longer?
    • If you must scroll, make sure a portion of the lowest section is always visible on the screen.

Navigation is critical

Getting the navigation right is essential for success. Users will quickly abandon a screen whose navigation frustrates them.

Remote controls, arrow keys, and directional pads

All input devices for Google TV will have QWERTY keyboards, but users will often navigate using a directional pad. Like remote controls, these limit the navigation model to up, down, left, right, and enter.

Users need interactions that are fast and easy to do – at a distance, with one hand, in the dark. When designing a navigation scheme:

  • Set arrow keys to navigate all visible, actionable items on the screen.
  • If the down arrow key scrolls down a list, make sure the elements in the list are selectable and the selected item scrolls.

Mouse navigation

On a TV screen, the mouse moves a pointer that is small and far away from the user. Mouse control is difficult.

To assist your users:

  • Make each click target (link, button, and the like) large with ample padding for an expanded target area.
  • Add a hover state to links and buttons to highlight when the pointer has hit its target.