ott cross-platform design and ux across mobile, web, and tv

What is cross-platform design and how does it relate to UX? In this article, we break down the importance of interusable UX for OTT apps.

What is cross-platform design for OTT apps?

Cross-platform apps development (as it concerns the OTT world) means creating OTT apps for many different platforms, but utilizing native programming languages to do so.

Because today’s users interact with your OTT app across multiple devices, one of the most significant factors as it relates to the interconnectedness of devices may be the creation of a seamless, consistent, cohesive user interface (UI) that delivers the best user experience (UX) no matter where viewers access your content.

Why’s that so important? We’re glad you asked.

UI and UX are the biggest drivers of your OTT app’s success

Many factors go into whether a user will take to a particular app or delete it five minutes after the download finishes. An article in Marketing Land perhaps said it best, “In OTT video, features are as important as content.”

And the two driving forces behind adoption and continued use of your app are UI and UX.

User interface refers to the user’s physical interaction with your app. It covers everything from your app’s buttons and menus to the layout, sounds, colors, video previews, etc.

User experience defines how the UI works in the hands of your customers to deliver their overall viewing experience.

UX can intuitively predict a subscriber’s interest (like discovering something new to watch) and reward them (with relevant recommendations and lag-free streaming, for example).

These two are intrinsically tied:

If your users don’t like the way your OTT app works, they’ll stop using it. But if it’s intuitive to use and provides what they need, they’ll have a pleasant user experience that increases engagement (which will help you generate revenue).

But you also have to think about UX and UI across several devices or platforms.

Stats show that viewers typically get their OTT content from an average of three different devices, making the task of an OTT app development team much more challenging than that of a traditional app developer who really only has to consider the Apple and Android operating systems.

Related: Fighting OTT subscription fatigue with killer user experience

the goal? interusability

Interusability is the term for cross-platform experiences, and it means that viewers will have a consistent UX across all their devices/platforms. The aim is to make each OTT app feel similar, as if they’re part of the same family, even if it’s running on totally different devices/platforms (while still considering the inherent functionality of each device).

Users should also be able to start using your OTT app on one device and then pick up where they left off on another. Your UI design will be optimized for the greatest UX on each device, yet they’ll all share a similar functionality in cross-platform design.

considerations for ux in cross-platform design

According to research, there are three key concepts for achieving cross-platform UX:

1. composition

Composition refers to the way designers create a product strategy around a system. In this sense, developers are considering UX across an entire ecosystem of products and how functionality can be distributed across the ecosystem based on what makes the most sense in one platform or another.

When building OTT apps natively, good UX design involves a full understanding of the strengths of each platform but also the contexts of use.

Here’s some examples of OTT composition considerations on multiple devices:

  • Mobile: These users are always on-the-go and are subject to data plans and bandwidth limitations. Therefore developers need to compose an OTT experience for mobile that, for example, allows users to download content to watch offline. Another consideration for these mobile users is a recommendation engine that is more inclined to recommend shorter content (ex. Mini-series or sitcoms) as opposed to movies or long-form content.
  • TV: Composition considerations for users at home take into account unlimited bandwidth, huge screens, and the notion that consumption of content is less intentional. In this instance, developers would consider that a Roku app would be focused on 4K video, that there is ample opportunity to recommend full-length programs (like movies), and that there should be a bigger effort in functionality (compared to mobile) that helps users discover new content in different ways. At the same time, the TV app user does not need an offline mode, so developers would not spend time implementing that (and because they are aware that Roku devices have no local storage).

With multi-channel OTT apps, good composition requires an understanding of each device/platform’s features, and how users will use them/expect them to work within the app.

2. consistency

Consistency refers to how visually similar and consistent your OTT app is across each and every device/platform as respective to visual brand guidelines. Examples of visual design principles that impact UX include:

  1. Scale
  2. Visual hierarchy
  3. Balance
  4. Contrast
  5. Gestalt

However, OTT cross platform design consistency must respect the fact that apps on mobile and TV, for example, should behave in a very smart and intentional way that is inherent to the device it is being played on (as mentioned above).

3. continuity

Continuity means users can access your OTT content between platforms without any lags in performance, functionality, picture quality, etc.

Your aim should be to create a seamless, synchronized, always-available experience for viewers.

You never want your users to feel as if they’re interacting with a bunch of separate apps; you want them to feel like they’re engaging with your app through their various devices even though each app may have different functionality.

Cross-platform OTT app design takes all three of these components into account to develop digital experiences that adapt to your audience’s screen/device/platform of choice.

No matter where they’re watching, the results should be virtually the same (and awesome!).

4 benefits of cross-platform design

These benefits of cross-platform design prove it’s worth the investment:

consistent, high-quality customer interactions

Cross-platform UI optimizes your OTT app so your content looks fantastic no matter if it’s on a small screen with sluggish WiFi or on a giant smart TV with unlimited bandwidth. This ensures every customer interaction you have is optimized for the best quality and experience.

boost brand recognition and trust

When all your OTT apps have the same branded colors, fonts, actions, etc., they’ll be easy for customers to identify and interact with. This type of instant brand recognition goes a long way for establishing trust in the OTT app marketplace.

Plus, an easy, efficient UI inspires brand loyalty and compels consumers to subscribe directly from you versus choosing your app from a third-party platform (ex. Downloading the Starz app direct-to-consumer vs from Amazon Prime).

Related: Direct-to-consumer tv apps vs. streaming service aggregators: how to compete… against yourself?

broaden your availability

Since you can’t predict whether your audience will be watching content on their smart TV at home or on their tablet on the road, cross-platform app development gives you the ability to be present everywhere.

And since your UI/UX is designed with each platform in mind, users will have no hesitation switching platforms or devices when necessary. Users will no longer be threatened by the hurdle of learning and adopting yet another new app when all your OTT apps share an overall cohesiveness.

This widens your audience reach rather than pigeonholing them into one place for your OTT content. They’ll feel comfortable downloading your apps on each of their devices and sharing their enthusiasm with their friends (who may also use different devices).

enhanced data collection

Collecting and analyzing usage data helps your business make smarter decisions. Cross-platform app development gives your brand multiple channels for data collection.

When subscribers set up user profiles, and you’ll be able to learn about their locations, interests, viewing and searching behavior, and individual content preferences.

Smart brands can use this data to discover how users interact with their apps and then work alongside their development team to create more personalized experiences. Another benefit to data collection is marketing. Data can be used to improve UX but can also, for example, allow your marketing team to send out tailor-made in-app and push notifications that convert more often than not.

build better with zemoga

Cross-platform design for OTT apps should offer viewers a clean, intuitive, consistent UI/UX no matter which device/platform they choose to stream your content. This builds engagement and creates loyalty you can monetize.

That’s why UI/UX is becoming increasingly important and competitive for OTT brands hoping to differentiate themselves in the market.

Ready for your OTT apps to cut through the noise?

Our creative UI/UX designers know what it takes for your app to get the attention it deserves. We develop and build better digital experiences that drive business and engagement to new heights.

We support all major Connected TV and mobile platforms from Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Android TV, Samsung Tizen, iOS, and Android TV/mobile, and more.

At Zemoga we help our clients build better.