UI success depends upon simplicity of usage

Jörn Krieger | 07-11-2012

Three-quarters (73%) of consumers see intuitive usage of media services as the most important factor for user interfaces, according to a recent survey by German consultancy goetzpartners.

This was one of the key statements discussed at a panel organised by technology company NDS at the recent media conference Medientage München 2012 in Munich.

The session explored the challenges around new TV user interfaces to build a compelling user experience. Moderated by Dr Jörn Krieger, editor of Rapid TV News Germany, four TV experts from Sky Deutschland, Loewe, goetzpartners and NDS exchanged their views on the future role of UIs for the navigation of content and services on different devices.

Asked what the perfect user interface looks like, Euan Smith, executive vice president product & operations at Sky Deutschland, summed it up: "The perfect UI needs to be sexy and frustration free". Smith also revealed that "thanks to a cool product, which fits into peoples' lives, well over 40% of all Sky purchases are now made on the basis of recommendations from friends."

goetzpartners also underlined the importance of recommendations, measured by the "net promoter score" to explain why an advanced UI pays off in a commercial sense: "Cable operators especially can improve their net promoter score by 10% in a very short time once they enhance their UI. So there is a relation between the UI, churn and additional revenues," said Dr Alexander Henschel, managing director of goetzpartners.

Roland Bohl, vice president research and development at Loewe Opta, wants to maintain the brand values of Loewe as a premium consumer electronics manufacturer in a world where software-based UIs is becoming increasingly important. Bohl stressed the need for meaningful innovation together with minimalistic design and individuality. While OTT and Internet connectivity will bring about the challenge to integrate some lean forward features into new devices and their UIs, Bohl highlighted the relevance of the prevailing lean back mood when consuming entertainment content: "It all depends on the situation and context. The consumer just needs to be able to enjoy the feature - without having to think about how it works or what technology makes it happen."

Olivier Lacour, vice president, studio design at Cisco subsidiary NDS, is also convinced that "good design is good business - no doubt". Lacour, who is spearheading the NDS Snowflake navigation concept from NDS with deployments at ZON, SFR and most recently UPC, linked the need for an easy-to-use UI to the need for next generation end-to-end systems, embracing the software client and the delivery mechanism - a path that NDS has taken together with Cisco, "ensuring that simplicity is not only reached on prototypes but can be actually met in delivery," said Lacour.

He also revealed numbers from ZON as the first operator having selected NDS Snowflake in 2010 in Portugal: "On average ZON's Snowflake-based service increases ARPU by more than €10, the best anti-churn ever - and its latest customer survey scores with 90% emotional satisfaction."

Apple, Google and Amazon were also included in the discussion: all panellists expect to see more moves from these players in the TV market, but given how Apple has struggled with Apple TV, the panellists still see TV operators in the strongest position - licensing and owning the content - as long as they upgrade their level of user interface and user experience before the music and Internet giants decide to invest their money and benefit from their established, mostly vertical or monopolistic market approaches.

Looking ahead, all panellists agreed on the further development of UIs becoming increasingly intuitive and simpler - ultimately more or less invisible. Lacour's vision aims to "make the distance between the user and the content as short as possible, with the ambition to come to natural UIs". Euan Smith said: "Gesture or voice control and 'seamless' navigation will be a reality. It's a gradual process but the direction is clear, as is delivering increasing amounts of functionality from the 'cloud'. "Roland Bohl expects "the future UI to be the same in all households and on every device with the technology running on a gateway".

Moderator Dr Jörn Krieger summarised the discussion which linked technology, content and consumers: "What consumers are looking for is a compelling media experience making their lives easier. Only what's easy to use is fun to use - and that's the simple secret of success."