It’s a fact: more and more people are watching Video on Demand (or VoD) and Thinkbox reports that 40% of the UK claims to watch TV programmes (either streamed or downloaded) via broadcaster catch-up services, such as lTV Player or Sky Go. VoD is also predominately a “lean-in” format as opposed to “lean back”, meaning that it’s more appealing to advertisers who want to engage an audience in a more impactful way when compared with linear TV.
Channel 4 recently announced that it would be launching “All 4” in 2015, a “new online destination with a new brand identity which will present all of Channel 4’s linear channels, digital content and services in one place, for the first time”.
The All 4 brand identity brings together all the components of Channel 4’s family of services in one place. Reflecting Channel 4’s history of having been born out of a single channel, the new All 4 logo is derived from the iconic Lambie-Nairn Channel 4 logo.
So will All 4 be a success? Here’s a brief look at 4 aspects from each VoD provider, ranging from look and feel to the functionality of any associated apps. Which one is best and what should Channel 4’s new service take into consideration for its launch?
Landing Page Functionality: intuitive and places links to all important features directly in front of the user. You are just one click away from live streams of all BBC channels, the search facility, recently watches videos and a TV guide.
Look, Feel and Tone: the dark colour scheme of the site means that programming and videos stand out and other distractions are minimised. The site on the whole is uncluttered and minimalistic, yet unmistakeably BBC iPlayer on every page. Content is central to every aspect of the site and navigation is largely image-based, which makes the experience pleasing on the eye and easy to use.
Content Search: the search is intuitive and results are grouped by episodes and series. All 5 attempted searches of programmes produced the desired results, as well as suggesting extra relevant content. Programme length and availability is clear from the search results page.
App: mirrors the full desktop site almost perfectly in terms of both functionality and appearance. Impressively, the programme search is equally as impressive in the app as on the desktop site.
Landing Page Functionality: the player places everything you need on one page, including 20+ recommendations for programming. It can be a lot to take in on first glance and perhaps too much information on one page, but serves its intended purpose.
Look, Feel and Tone: the site is dark and again places content at the centre of the user experience, yet feels one step behind BBC iPlayer in terms of usability and overall uniformity.
Content Search: the search function is easy to use and produced the correct results from 5 attempted programme searches. Programmes are listed in a clear manner with links to related episodes and recommended programmes.
App: the app falls shorts when it comes to design in comparison with the desktop version. Functionality is somewhat limited and links to content are not necessarily designed in a way that many users will find intuitive. An option to remove adverts is also offered at £3.99 per month – a steep price but one which may be appealing to certain heavy users.
Landing Page Functionality: the landing page places featured content at the heart of the design and doesn’t visually distinguish its various categories of content from each other. Signposting of content seems to be an afterthought on Demand 5 and the consequence of this is that the landing page feels dated and overwhelming on first look.
Look, Feel and Tone: purple is the dominant colour and the dominant theme is to throw all content at the user in one go in the hope that the video they’ll be looking for can be accessed. Take this page for example – is listing all available shows in an A-Z format with thumbnails truly the best way to display vast amounts content?
Content Search: the search facility is good, yet throws up for results for content other than VoD. For example, a search for the popular soap Neighbours generates this page as a suggestion. Would a user searching for an episode of Neighbours really want to read a page detailing the awards it received 4 years ago?
App: the app version of Demand 5 is a stripped down version of the desktop site which in this instance works to its advantage. The app still looks basic and visually bland, yet finding content is easier.
Landing Page Functionality: there’s no way around it – the Sky Go landing page is dreadful. The first problem is that the Sky Go logo and colour scheme is nowhere to be seen and that means its hard to know if you’re even on the correct landing page to begin with. Secondly, finding the content you want from this page is hard and frustrating. The page chooses to adopt a cluttered and messy scrolling interface, resulting in a confusing user experience.
Look, Feel and Tone: browsing through Sky Go makes you wonder if Sky wants to to view its content. It adopts the policy of throwing all available content at you, regardless of the purpose of your visit to the VoD provider. The deluge of content often hinders the UX instead of aiding it as your time on the site is spent sifting through content you don’t want in order to find the content you do.
Content Search: the search function does not work as it should. Content that is advertised as being available on the Sky Go landing page often fails to be displayed in search results and finding a specific episode isn’t always as easy of a task as you’d hope.
App: Sky Go’s app is an improvement on the full desktop version, yet still falls short. The main area of improvement is the way the app doesn’t overwhelm the user with content and provides easier access to live channels.