A 10-foot UI is unlike other user interfaces that people use on a regular basis such as phones and computers.
Interaction is normally done in a relaxed or distracted mind set and with a limited input device, the remote control.
So building a 10-foot UI and dealing with platform diversity can be a challenge.
What Is A 10-Foot UI?
A 10-foot UI is a graphical user interface which has been specially designed for televisions.
It gets its name from the fact that the television is typically 10 feet away from the user and the interface has to account for this distance.
The UI for a computer or mobile phone is designed and built in a different way as the distance between it and the user is rarely more than 2 feet.
These smaller user interfaces also have different methods of navigation and selection than a 10-foot UI.
As a result of its size the font on a 10-foot UI is much larger than a computer or phone would need.
The smallest font size for a television user interface would be 24 points and goes up to approximately 94 points. This makes it easier to read from a distance of 10 feet.
The main method of interaction between the user and the interface is via a standard remote control or a games controller, both of which have limited functionality unlike a keyboard or touch screen.
Designing A 10-Foot UI
The difference in distance between a 10-foot UI and a 2-foot user interface has a big impact on the design of both.
There are considerations to be taken into account about the size of the font used and the space available on the television screen.
For this reason the navigation is simplified and reduced to the least number of clicks.
The remote control for a TV is simple and its primary means of navigation is via a directional pad. This limits how the items on screen can be arranged to still allow ease of selection.
There is also the need to highlight items on the screen to show what is currently selected. If the user looks away from the screen it should be apparent when they look back which item is selected.
A 10-foot UI is different to a computer screen or phone screen in that users are typically in a relaxed and passive state when interacting with a television screen.
When using a phone or computer they are more likely to be actively engaged in what they are doing.
As stated a user interacting with a 10-foot UI is more likely to be in a passive state and with relaxed intent.
For this reason, the UI should be easy to navigate, as well as clear and visually simple.
The elements of the UI should be large enough to see clearly with an unambiguous set of options for each screen level.
Getting into and out of different screen levels should be obvious and easy.
How the content and options are presented on the user interface should follow a logical pattern of use.
The most important options or actions should appear first, followed by subordinate choices. All content should be easily navigable and visually distinct.
Good UI design should focus on making the accomplishment of goals by the user efficient and almost without being overtly aware of how they are achieved.
However, the functionality should not be compromised in the effort to simplify the interaction.
Smart TVs can now be navigated with voice-based input via some remote controls or smart speakers and should serve to enhance the user experience.
Selection & Focus
The most important part of designing and building a 10-foot UI is to give the user clear and accurate navigation options.
Its reason for being is to make moving around the screens easier and efficient with the minimum number of clicks or commands.
An interface that is ambiguous will make navigation difficult and leave the user confused and unsure. Selection and focus as part of the navigation is done with very basic controls and so should be fairly intuitive.
The directional pad of most TV remote controls will only allow basic navigation to move, return or select a choice on screen so all the navigation functions must be clear.
Within the application the user should be able to see exactly where they are and which element is currently selected.
The component should be highlighted to bring it into focus for the user. How the current location is highlighted will vary but should be consistent throughout the UI.
So even if distracted, the user can still see what is selected when they return their attention to the TV and be able to see their on-screen location.
Challenges Of Building A 10-Foot UI
One of the challenges of building a 10-foot user interface is the basic controls that are used to navigate through the content on screen.
The distance between the TV and the user means that fonts and visual elements need to be large in order to be clearly seen.
This restricts the amount of content that can be displayed at any one time therefore requiring simplicity and clarity of instruction.
With a remote control’s limited directional pad users need to be able to navigate, and select options with minimal input to achieve their objectives.
Balancing the visual elements of the UI with its technical functionality also presents challenges.
It needs to be able to fulfill its operation effectively but without being overly complicated for the user.
The system should also be adaptable to the changing needs of the user rather than introducing new ways of navigating that the user then has to learn.
Simplicity and efficiency are the keywords in 10-foot user interface design and build.
A 10-foot UI is designed and built to give users access to content in a clear and easy to navigate manner. It should enhance the user experience and be centered around their needs.
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