Video on Demand: Playing Catch Up?

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1 Video on Demand: Playing Catch Up? An independent usability study of VoD websites user experience research design training

2 Contents Introduction... 3 Methodology... 4 Results... 5 Executive summary Clear route to VoD landing page from main site homepage Clear explanation on proposition provided Easy to search for a specific programme Easy to browse for programmes to watch Easy to play selected programme Intuitive player control buttons provided Flexible viewing options provided Engaging audiences with additional features Easy to find help information Easy to find and apply parental control options...21 Conclusion...23 References...23 Appendix: Full results...24 About Webcredible

3 Introduction The opportunity As the Video on Demand (VoD) market continues to develop its business models and technology, the VOD market is only set for growth. Video on Demand (VoD) in the UK will generate 200m a year in revenue and another 100m in advertising by 2013, according to Enders Analysis via paid Content (Oct 2009) 1. Various platforms have sprung up, fuelled by Internet growth on mobile handsets and increase in broadband capacity to the household. About this report In August 2010, Webcredible investigated the usability of 6 VoD websites provided by major broadcasting companies (aggregator sites weren t included within this study). The usability criteria chosen were a mixture of essential usability criteria that apply to any website (e.g. relating to navigation and orientation) and criteria that are relevant to the key activities site visitors engage in on a VoD website (e.g. browsing for programmes). Increasing the usability of any website offering VoD will increase the success users have in finding and consuming the information for which they re looking. The main goals of many users visiting sites offering VoD are likely to be to: Search for a video programme to watch Play a selected video programme Enjoy the experience during and after watching a video programme Who is this report for? The report is aimed at anyone involved with media websites, including communication managers and web developers. The report assumes no prior usability or technical knowledge

4 Methodology Webcredible analysed 6 Video on Demand (VoD) websites of major UK broadcasting companies in August Each website was evaluated against 10 best practice guidelines and assigned a score of 0 to 5 for each guideline, with 5 being the maximum. With 10 guidelines in total, each website was assigned a total Usability Index rating out of 50, which was then converted into a percentage. The guidelines against which we benchmarked the 6 websites were: Site & homepage priorities 1. Clear route to VoD landing page from main site homepage 2. Clear explanation on proposition provided Site supports key user tasks 3. Easy to search for a specific programme 4. Easy to browse for programmes to watch 5. Easy to play selected programme 6. Intuitive player control buttons provided Engagement 7. Flexible viewing options provided 8. Engaging audiences with additional features Help & support 9. Easy to find help information 10. Easy to find and apply parental control options

5 Results Executive summary The 6 websites received the following scores: Application Company VoD website Total BBC iplayer BBC 88 STV Player STV 76 Demand Five Channel oD Channel ITV Player ITV 60 Sky Player Sky 55 Average score 69.7 Overall, most websites fulfilled the basic criteria required for a VoD player website. For example, the average score for searching for a specific programme and browsing for programmes was 4.0. This indicates that most VoD player website providers understood the importance of being able to find programmes. However, most of the websites lost marks for presenting key user tasks in less intuitive and straightforward manners. Also, as VoD players are fairly new and still in the process of gaining popularity, criteria geared towards increasing site visitors engagement with the VoD websites (e.g. providing flexible viewing options and engaging audiences with additional features) had the lowest average scores with each scoring 3.0 and 2.2 points respectively. In addition, the VoD player websites have slightly different business propositions, making it harder for site visitors to understand the differences on each website. For example: BBC iplayer and STV Player both performed well because they have a fairly straightforward business proposition where site visitors can watch all programmes for free

6 Demand Five scored fairly well despite having different options (e.g. free programmes, programmes for rent, and programmes that need to be purchased) by providing clear information on their business proposition Sky Player lost marks by not having a clear explanation on the differences between its subscription packages and the programmes that fall under these different packages, making it harder for site visitors to find a programme to watch Please consult the Appendix on p24 for a full breakdown of scores

7 1. Clear route to VoD landing page from main site homepage Average score: 3.3 (out of 5) For site visitors who wish to browse from the main website homepage, it s essential that they can easily navigate to the starting point for VoD content i.e. the VoD homepage. Additionally, the navigation system should also make it clear where the VoD content sits within other main site content. The main navigation on the BBC homepage has a clear link to BBC iplayer, providing a clear route for site visitors who wish to navigate to that part of the website. The BBC also scored full marks for keeping the main navigation on the BBC iplayer homepage, making it clear to site visitors where the iplayer content sits within the BBC site. ITV Player lost marks for losing its main navigation as soon as site visitors navigate to the ITV Player homepage. Overall, the websites performed averagely for this guideline. 5 out of the 6 websites had a link on the main navigation from the homepage to the VoD homepage. However, 4 out of the 6 websites didn t retain the main navigation on the VoD homepage, making it harder for site visitors to know where they are within the website

8 2. Clear explanation on proposition provided Average score: 3.0 (out of 5) The VoD homepage should contain information on the product (i.e. VoD content proposition) and how site visitors can play video content. This includes: Explaining to site visitors how they can play video content Providing a clear explanation on whether the videos are free Explaining any membership or registration options if applicable Not every site visitor is familiar with playing VoD content online and VoD providers should always keep this in mind. Clear and comprehensible explanations should be provided on their VoD homepage. STV Player scored full marks for having a clear section on its homepage which explains to site visitors what STV Player is and how to use it. Demand Five scored high marks for having a how it works section on the main navigation, making it easy for site visitors to find out more about the product proposition. Most websites performed reasonably well for this guideline, with a few losing marks by making it harder to find product proposition information, and only one website scoring 0 for not providing any such information. Given its importance, all sites can improve on this guideline by making it easier for site visitors to find information about their VoD content proposition

9 3. Easy to search for a specific programme Average score: 4.0 (out of 5) As the proposition of VoD websites is to allow site visitors to watch programmes on demand, one of the key user tasks on a VoD website is to find a specific programme to watch. This includes helping site visitors catch-up on a programme or find programmes by: Date TV listings and channels Episodes and series Programme names a c b d 4oD scored full marks by having: (a) Search box on VoD homepage; (b) Full TV listing by time, date and channels; (c) List of all programmes and A-Z search; and (d) List of all the episodes of a series on the selected video programme page

10 Sky Player has a search box on the VoD homepage but it lost marks for having less transparent search options. For example, the search by day option was presented in a hover-over list which disappears the moment site visitors stop hovering-over the On demand option. The poor colour contrast between the hover-over list and main content page further reduces the noticeability of the options on the list. Overall, with an average score of 4.0, VoD sites definitely realised the importance of this guideline. To easily search for a specific programme to watch is of course one of the key user tasks

11 4. Easy to browse for programmes to watch Average score: 4.0 (out of 5) Apart from finding a specific programme to catch-up on or to watch, another key user task for site visitors on a VoD website is to browse for programmes to watch. A few ways to help site visitors browse for programmes are: Suggest the most popular programmes Categorise programme by genre (e.g. drama, comedy, action, documentary, etc.) Provide sufficient programme information (e.g. synopsis and programme duration) before having to select a specific programme Indicate whether a programme is free for all site visitors or is available only to members a b d c BBC iplayer scored full marks by having good browsing options on the iplayer homepage including: (a) Featured programmes; (b) Most popular programmes; (c) Categories by programme genre; and (d) Programme synopsis upon hoverover

12 Demand Five has good browsing options including new, popular, recommended, free, and also a browse by genre option. However, it lost marks by presenting these options under a different watch now page instead of on the homepage. The call to action for browse what s on Demand Five is displayed amongst the many different banners and images. This makes it harder for site visitors to figure out what they should do next upon landing on the VoD homepage. Again, with an average score of 4.0, all the sites performed well on this guideline with none scoring below 3. However, sites can still improve by increasing the prominence of browsing options on the homepage to make it easier for site visitors to browse for programmes

13 5. Easy to play selected programme Average score: 3.8 (out of 5) After deciding on a programme to watch, the most important thing is to be able to play the programme. A good VoD website should have a clear link which brings site visitors to the video content page of a specific programme. Also, if the installation of specific software or additional plug-ins are required in order to watch the programmes, clear call to actions and comprehensible instructions should be provided prominently on relevant pages. BBC iplayer scored full marks for having a big clear play button when site visitors hover over a specific programme s content area. By clicking on the play button, site visitors are then directed straight to the actual video content page. Another clear click to play call to action presented in the middle of the video screen makes it easy for site visitors to proceed with watching the video, without having to hunt around for the play button

14 Sky Player lost marks for having a less obvious call to action to play video content on its site. The poor colour contrast and lack of conventional play button makes the invitation to play a programme less obvious. However, Sky Player did well by providing a clear call to action to, and information on, how site visitors can install Sky Player software if they want to download programmes from the website. Overall, the websites scored well for this guideline, with some losing points by having less obvious and straightforward options to play a programme

15 6. Intuitive player control buttons provided Average score: 3.8 (out of 5) In the same way that televisions come equipped with a remote control, it s essential that a VoD player provides intuitive control buttons. It s also important to explain what the buttons do in order to support key user tasks while playing a video such as: Pause a video Rewind and/or forward a programme Increase or decrease the volume Watch video in a pop-out box or on full-screen Keep track of programme status from progress bar A message is provided at the top of the screen stating when a selected programme will start. This clarifies to site visitor that they need to wait for the advert to finish before they can watch the programme. Demand Five scores full marks for having clear explanations on what each button means when site visitors hover over a control button. It also gained marks for having an intuitive progress bar. For example, an inactive state and not-actionable state (using faded colours with no hover over invitations) make it clear that site visitors can t perform any actions on the progress bar while adverts are being played. Most sites scored well on this very basic guideline with only one site scoring less than 3. Sites could improve by explaining the functionality of their different control buttons and having more intuitive progress bars. Providing explicit information while advertising is playing can also reduce frustration experienced by site visitors should they try to perform actions that aren t supported by the VoD player (such as fast forwarding through adverts)

16 7. Flexible viewing options provided Average score: 3.0 (out of 5) One of the unique selling points of VoD websites is providing site visitors control and flexibility in choosing and watching programmes. As such, it s important that a VoD website is designed to support this. Some of the basic criteria for this include: Being able to view programme information (e.g. programme synopsis) without interrupting a playing video Ability to pause a programme and resume watching from the paused point Ability to navigate to the specific programme page (e.g. Doctor Who site) without interrupting a playing video 4oD lost marks for opening up a specific programme page in the current window without keeping the currently played video. Site visitors lose their video if they click on Find out more above the VoD player. Although this problem can be mitigated by playing the video in a pop-out window, site visitors might not discover that unless they go through a trial and error process

17 Site visitors can also easily navigate to the specific programme page in the current window without losing the video that they re watching. BBC iplayer supports this by allowing them to resume playing their video from the point where the programme was disrupted when the specific programme page loads in the current window. BBC iplayer scored full marks for putting effort into providing site visitors with more flexibility while watching videos. Site visitors are able to view more programme information or less programme information without disrupting the progress of their video. Overall, the sites performed averagely on this guideline with only one site scoring full marks and other sites scoring 2 or 3 points out of 5. There s definitely much room for improvement in terms of providing site visitors with more flexibility while choosing and watching programmes, to improve the overall experience of using a VoD website

18 8. Engaging audiences with additional features Average score: 2.2 (out of 5) Introducing additional features on VoD websites could make some websites more attractive than others. Although the current VoD websites tend to provide similar functionality, providing distinct features could engage site visitors more while using VoD websites. BBC iplayer has options such as getting recommendations from and sharing recommendations with friends on popular social network sites including Facebook and Twitter. Programmes can also be easily added to TV Favourites by clicking on a star icon on the individual programme windows. The favourites are then stored in an easily accessible section on the BBC iplayer homepage

19 Demand Five has options where registered members can sign-in to monitor their downloaded programmes if renting or buying from the website. All sites scored well on this guideline, with an average of 3.6. However none received top marks, indicating a larger focus is needed on the delivery of mobile content. Similarly, options such as sharing programmes with friends via or social networking sites such as Facebook as well as recommending programmes to people on sites such as StumbleUpon are additional features provided by Demand Five. Overall, most of the sites performed below average on this guideline. However, more and more VoD providers are starting to come up with additional features to make their product stand out from others following the increasing popularity of VoD websites

20 9. Easy to find help information Average score: 3.8 (out of 5) Having prominent links to a help section from the homepage is one of the basic guidelines for a VoD website. Just like any other interactive product, providing help is crucial to ensure that site visitors are able to complete key user tasks. Site visitors are also accustomed to reading the frequently asked questions (FAQs) section on websites especially if the website contains features that they re unfamiliar with. Both STV Player and Demand Five scored top marks for acknowledging the importance of a help section by providing a prominent link to it within their main navigation. ITV Player lost marks for making it hard to find help information on their website by embedding it under the useful links section at the bottom of the ITV Player homepage. A high average score of 3.8 indicates that the sites reviewed understand the importance of having help and support information on their websites. However, there s still some room for improvement to make this information more prominent so that site visitors are able to find it easily

21 10. Easy to find and apply parental control options Average score: 3.7 (out of 5) Apart from the basic usability guidelines that apply to VoD websites, another important consideration especially for parents is having parental control options on these VoD websites. There are several ways to do this including having clear rating information on every video as well as setting up a PIN access for videos with restricted content. 4oD scored top marks for having prominent links and parental control information on its homepage. This makes it easier for parents to find this information and also acts as a reminder to parents who might not have thought about setting parental control over programmes on these VoD websites

22 4oD also makes the setup of parental control options easier by providing users with all the options in a pop-up box when restricted content is being played for the first time. BBC iplayer marks videos with restricted content with a red strip across the top of the progress bar, making it stand out from other regular video programmes. Also, a message appears when site visitors hover over an icon of a padlock, inviting parents to set parental guidance lock preferences if they wish to do so. With an average score of 3.7, it s clear that VoD providers understand the need for parental control options on their websites. Although all of the reviewed sites provide some sort of option, some sites can still improve by making the link to such information more prominent on their homepage

23 Conclusion With BBC iplayer ahead in terms of a total usability score, some of the lower scoring sites clearly have some way to go to catch up. The iplayer does lead the way in terms of usability although the BBC does of course have the advantage of not having to charge for its content. One of the main surprises within the study was about the lack of audience engagement with additional features. The functionality offered by many of the VoD sites is very similar so offering something unique and getting that engagement is going to be key moving forward. Adding some basic features to these websites (e.g. sharing with friends on social media sites) could easily achieve this. This lack of audience engagement is particularly important if the broadcaster VoD sites are to make any kind of challenge to YouTube s market domination, as well as fend off any newer market players such as SeeSaw. The usability guidelines presented in this report represent just the start to achieving excellent usability and an outstanding user experience. The use of usability guidelines is essential, but they should always be used in conjunction with usability testing on a regular basis. Usability testing involves analysing typical site visitors completing typical tasks on your digital proposition (see for more). For more information on other general usability guidelines that should be conformed to, visit or book a place on a Webcredible usability course at References 1. Technology Adoption Statistics Compendium, Econsultancy, May

24 Appendix: Full results The full list of websites audited and the score they achieved for each guideline is as follows: Website Guideline number TOTAL TOTAL % BBC iplayer STV Player Demand Five OnDemand ITV Player Sky Player TOTAL Average score

25 About Webcredible Webcredible is a user experience consultancy, offering a range of usability, accessibility, design & training services based around your specific requirements: User-centered design Information architecture Interaction design User research Usability testing Interviews & focus groups Persona creation Accessibility Accessible CSS web design Accessibility testing Training courses Usability & accessibility courses Online copywriting courses Web development courses Webcredible is widely regarded as one of the most innovative and respected user experience consultancies in the UK. Our 200+ research articles and reports have been republished on 100s of websites and we receive 250,000 visitors to our website each month. We believe in taking a proactive approach with clients, whilst maintaining a regular open line of communication. We believe that we are being paid for our expertise and as such always take the initiative and offer our recommendations for any course of action. We are: Focused on client needs Our aims are to optimise conversion rates for companies and ensure public sector organisations effectively disseminate information. Passionate The team here at Webcredible loves what they do and we only recruit staff passionate about usability and accessibility. Approachable We re friendly and jargon-free. Consultants, despite being highly educated and experienced, only communicate in a user-friendly manner. Clients include Airmiles, Asda, BBC, ebay, EDF Energy, Laura Ashley, Lloyds TSB, More Th>n, Sony, St John Ambulance, T-Mobile, VisitBritain and World Health Organization

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