Tablets, TV and Changing Behaviours

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Key to designing great digital products is understanding how users engage with them and why. For example, the increasing use of tablets to watch video throws up a lot of potential ways in which people can watch video on demand services. Designing to suit all possible activities can result in products becoming too complex and bogged down with features. To avoid this, it is essential to take a ground-up approach, prioritising the most popular scenarios.

New technologies open up new possibilities for the consumption and experience of media. Key use cases emerge as users adopt them into their everyday life. The late 1990s saw the rise of ‘bedroom culture’, as media technologies became more individualised and were increasingly dispersed around the home, allowing for a more personalised forms consumption.

The increasing use of tablets for watching long-form VoD is one of the major trends we’ve seen in the past year. Meanwhile PC and laptop use has been steadily decreasing, demonstrated in Ofcom’s annual Communications Market Report. This trend has also been seen in the devices used to watch BBC iPlayer.

Ofcom/3Reasons LLP Long form VoD share Aug 2014

Source: 3Reasons LLP CF. Ofcom, August 2014

Tablets vs computer on iPlayer May 2014

Source: BBC iStats, May 2014

As UX specialists we need to understand how and why tablets are being used to watch online video.

The adoption of tablets has opened up a range of potential new viewing experiences. Through engaging with their lightweight, wireless and intuitive design, users’ will develop a set of expectations for a VoD service on that platform.

The adoption of these devices may see a shift in patterns of viewing behaviour, as they become a part of everyday life. Research from Ericsson (2013) suggests that viewing patterns in general will become more sustained throughout the day and less centred on an evening peak, due in part to the range of devices now available.

Ericson Consumerlab viewing graph 2013

Source: Ericsson Consumerlab, 2013

The portability of these devices has meant that increasingly the content is able to move with the user. We are seeing tablets being used to watch content in bed at night, around the house whilst doing chores and by passengers on the morning commute.

As technologies develop, the products we design need to be flexible enough to support a multitude of potential scenarios, while at the same time not overloading the user with different options and features. Because of this, it is important to start with ground-up approach, designing for the most common uses first.

By focusing our designs on how new technologies are actually used in everyday life, we can develop products which meet the actual needs of the user, rather than designing for the capabilities of the technology.

So what are the implications for the future of TV? From what we’re seeing of increasing tablet use, viewers desire comfort and convenience when they watch content. To paraphrase economist Theodore Levitt, people don’t want to watch catch-up TV on a tablet, they want TV to fit in with their lives.

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