In late 2010, Google developed their new smart TV platform entitled Google TV. The service is built on the Android operating system, and functions as a set-top box to allow users to watch on-demand video services, such as YouTube, Google Reader, and Google Chrome. This integration allows users to subscribe to your site and have regular updates pushed to their Google TV devices (similar to an RSS feed with an RSS aggregator). Mobile phones and tablet devices are changing the landscape of the web for organizations, and soon you may even ask “how does my site look on TV”? This is especially important since Google TV will soon be able to access the Android Market, according to recent news. Since Google TV lies somewhere between mobile devices and desktops/laptops in terms of functionality and user experience, here are a few helpful guidelines to make sure your site is ready for prime time on Google TV.
Design for the Big Screen
According to the Leichtman Research Group, as of 2010, 61% of US households own at least one HDTV, with 26% owning more than one. These high resolution displays mean that there is an increased distance between the user to the television, which means that elements on websites need to be large enough to be seen across the room at a glance. Larger elements also means increased white space between elements. Lets take a look at the New York Times on Google TV.
New York Times on Google TV
Along with this, websites need to make sure that the most important information is at the top of the page. Web designers call this property “above the fold”, meaning that you include information at the top of a page to prevent users from scrolling vertically to find more information. Since HDTVs will more than likely be widescreen displays (either 720p or 1080p), this means that organizations should rely on either horizontal or grid navigation to make it easier for users to go through your site.
Function over Form
Keep in mind that the processors for most Google TV devices will be somewhere between your mobile phone and your desktop or laptop in terms of processing power. Google has partnered with Intel, Sony, Logitech for current Google TV devices, and new partnerships with Samsung and Vizio ensure that new, faster devices will be coming to the market by the holiday season. Websites designed for Google TV will need to be able to load quickly without a lot of extra animations or Flash videos. Google TV can display Flash content, but it will not be at the same speed as a desktop or laptop, so keep that in mind. Let’s take a look at Al Jazeera on Google TV.
Al Jazeera on Google TV
Make Navigation Big and Simple
One thing the Al Jazeera site illustrates is that you should also look to use access keys for navigation, such as arrow keys or letters on the keyboard. The mouse pointer on Google TV is small and hard to see, so enabling navigation by keyboard to access a menu or a section of the website creates a great user experience. The key is to simplify user navigation as much as possible. Primary actions for the user should be available in one click; don’t hide key features for your site in menus. You should also provide a legend to explain your keyboard-based navigation system. Don’t make your users think too much about how to navigate your website on Google TV, or else they may change the channel.
Zoom, Zoom, Zoom
The Chrome Browser in Google TV supports the non-standard CSS property called zoom. What does this do, you ask? According to Sitepoint, this property controls the magnification level for the current element. This means that text, videos, and other elements on your page can be enlarged to allow for viewing across large distances or for visually impaired users. Because zoom is a non-standard property, you would probably have to test this on Google TV for troubleshooting purposes.
KQED on Google TV
Overall, these are just a few things developers can do to optimize news websites for Google TV. Other news organizations have already started developing for Google TV, including USA Today, Huffington Post, and KQED. Google has provided a full optimization guide, as well as a number of optimized templates. What news organizations have you seen on Google TV? Share your findings in the comments.