Lessons learnt

The key results of the Spanish pilot multi-camera application pilot can be condensed in the following conclusions:

  • Multi-camera content can be attractive for audiences under certain usability conditions and for certain programs. Nevertheless, there are constraints from a user-centric point of view that may limit its generalization if not properly addressed byHbbTV application designers.
  • Early on during the user evaluation activities, it was found that traditional remote controls offer very poor usability for users accustomed to more agile handheld device navigations. Several approaches to replace or complement the traditional remote control have been successfully implemented, such as speech and gesture recognition controls. In the TV-RING project multi-camera pilot, a Second Screen solution was tested on field trials. The results obtained give weight to the hypothesis that a Second Screen solution can overcome the app navigation limitations posed by conventional remote controls. However, there are some challenges to the uptake of such solutions, as the less technically-savvy users (which usually coincide with older cohorts) are held back by the lack of compatible handhelds in some households and the need to link the devices. Easing the Second Screen TV linking process, for example with QR codes and visual step-by-step instructions, is paramount to accelerate uptake.
  • A number of general usability recommendations for the design of HbbTV applications emerge from the prototype refinement and live piloting phases. These include offering very agile navigations, ensuring consistency in commands by using color codes (i.e. red means go back, green means go forward), making explicit to the user the function of every button (forward, back to main screen, exit app), limiting clutter in the screen with minimalistic designs so that content is always the center of attention, and displaying a machine reaction for every user action.
  • A significant finding is that hardware performance problems have a serious impact on the user experience. Users may display some patience with waiting while loading content and slight degradations in video quality, but are not so understanding with instances in which they feel their TVs take an excessive amount of time to process their requests. More specifically, hardware delays above the 5-6 second threshold were found to produce frustration in most test users. This frustration increases progressively as delays become longer, quickly deteriorating the user experience. Delays above the 8-10 second mark were considered not acceptable by all test users. Performance problems attributable to hardware are very difficult to address by app developers. Nevertheless, it has been found that their negative impact on the user experience can be minimized by the simple expedient of adding any indication of “task in progress” for the user (i.e. a completion bar, a “wait…” sign), and this reassures the user and may compel her to “stay tuned”.
  • Content selection is critical for the success of a multi-camera HbbTV application. Programs in which the relevant action may happen simultaneously in several locations are the best picks for multi-camera content. Sports such as football, basketball or tennis, and racing events like the Formula One or MotoGP competitions have been identified as particularly suitable content for multi-camera. Other kinds of content such as special informative events (i.e. demonstrations, election days) and song contests were piloted during the course of the TV-RING project. The audience’s reaction to these programs was fairly positive as well. Nevertheless, a lesser level of interest was detected, as many users did not see the value of multi-camera services for those kinds of programs vis-à-vis the broadcast content produced by an experienced audiovisual producer.