Since Google TV is now all the rage and on everyone's mind I thought it might be interesting to take a look at how you as publishers and advertisers can get your products and content into the mix in an optimized way. Many believe that Google TV might push screen convergence beyond its current limits and that means your content could soon be staring back at viewers from their large HD TVs and you need to make the most of that opportunity.
Already places like VEVO, HBO, NetFlix, blip.tv and the DISH Network are making announcements for Google TV specific user experiences.
VEVO announced that it has built an enhanced user-experience for the Google TV platform. A customized catalog of music programming from VEVO will now be available on-demand or via autoplay though any Google TV device, providing fans the freedom to check out their favorite music videos on the TV screen.
The big question is how to make sure you too are ready for Google TV.
Prioritize to Optimize For Google TV
You need to first make sure that your site and content are ready for the big screen. Well not the really big screen, but the big screen in the home. We all know that you've got great content, but will it still look great when it goes from a 25 inch monitor to a 46 inch HD TV? That's one of the major questions you need to be looking at right now. The Logitech Revue is capable of pushing out 1080p so if you want your content to look its best you need to make sure that it can step up to an HD resolution and still look good.
But there's more to it than that. You also have to make sure that users can get to the content they want in as few steps as possible. Sure the Logitech Revue will have a keyboard and Logitech is wisely selling the keyboard itself as a separate item that will be compatible with other Google TV devices, but do you really think people will want to tediously type all the time on that large of a screen?
Google suggest you make choices easy for the users and make the actions obvious. Any text you will display will need to be readable at a distance and most TV screens are wider and often display colors differently. It's also entirely possible that you'll be dealing with a much larger variation in screen size which will need to be taken into account. Most computer users have monitors 19-24 inches while televisions range from 19 to over 50 inches.
They also suggest that you group content to make it more easily discoverable. Controls should also be located together in one area and keep it all to one form of visual navigation. You want the users to almost be able to navigate your content without having to think about it.
The main interface will probably be a four-direction pad. That means you need to limit the majority of your navigation controls to up down, left and right. Yes some people will use the QWERTY keyboard and some a mouse. But the lowest common denominator is going to be that direction pad which people will use while watching content, lying on the couch, maybe with limited lighting.
Optimizing Resolution - Bigger Could Be Better
Since the TV screens are bigger and you want to have an easy-to-use interface, it means less elements on it. Google states you should design for 1280x720 and 1920x1080 resolutions. With such massive resolutions how will you ever fill all the space? Simple, make the actionable items a bit larger and give them a bit more space around them. This will not only help fill the screen but also help the user navigate and read the items.
Of course those are the full resolutions of TVs but there's a smaller, TV safe area:
- 1280x720 resolution. Recommended 1152x648.
- 1920x1080 resolution. Recommended 1728x972.
Flash Can Take Center Stage With Google TV
Also, Google TV is able to display Flash in HD resolutions (Version 10.1 is supported). But you need to do a little prep work to make sure those videos look good. Google suggests that you encode in h.264 and not use h.263 or VP6. Don't loop videos and don't use Flash banners or sidebar ads. If they must be there they suggest you stop them or unload them when the video is watched in full screen. This will certainly help increase performance. Remember, these machines aren't going to be powerhouses like you're used to having show your online content. They will be far less powerful than many PCs and will have limited resources available, be sure to remember that. Don't use parallel streams in your media players as this will also kill performance and could make the videos choppy or jittery. Also remember the Memory limitation on the devices that will be displaying your Flash content and be sure to utilize it as wisely and frugally as you can.
What To Consider When Optimizing Video & Animations
You might think everything is performing fine when you do your tests, but remember, the viewers need to think so as well. Be sure that if something is animated it plays smoothly, etc. Google offers this list of questions for you to consider when creating or optimizing your content for Google TV:
- Are animations smooth or choppy?
- Does video content look smooth or choppy?
- Do audioclips play continuously, or do they pause and resume?
- Does the window flicker or turn blank during long operations?
- When you type, does the text input keep up or lag behind?
- If you click, does something happen immediately, or is there a delay?
- Do other applications respond poorly when the application is running?
Google TV Examples
I managed to nab a couple images I thought might help you figure out how best to optimize your content and display for Google TV. I hope they prove helpful. I've contacted Google TV about getting some further developer guidelines in respect to online video and how the system will handle it. Hopefully, that information will be useful in writing some articles on how best to get your video looking its best on Google TV devices.
VEVO on Google TV
Notice the very horizontal layout which makes it easy for the viewers to navigate the content while still allowing for large enough text and images to be easily readable from across the room. Below you can see that the VEVO interface is using a predictive algorithm to help users find content more quickly and with a minimal amount of typing. It also shows some content grouping by video and artist.
Blip.tv on Google TV
blip.tv takes a slightly different approach by having both a category bar at the top of their interface and a paginated list of results. But still they take full advantage of the 16:9 format of the display. Again, a mostly horizontal layout and navigation.
TNT on Google TV
TNT opted for a more mixed interface with a decidedly vertical look. They grouped the controls to the left side of the interface which allows for a large content display area on the right. Even then, they don't overwhelm the viewer with choices offering at most eight to ten elements on the screen.
CNN on Google TV
Finally, CNN who also took a very vertical approach to the navigation. They offer, in the far left column, very broad categories like Video, TV Shows, etc. These then drill down into a visual, vertical sub-menu showing the content and the selected content then is given the majority of the screen to ensure that it is easily seen and the text is allowed enough space to be easily readable even at a distance (something which might be a problem in the TNT interface above).
Video Content - Google Video Sitemaps
Both for Google TV, but also for your own SEO purposes, it is recommended that you create and submit Google video sitemaps so that your video content will be available within Google Videos and other Google search products - including Google TV... In fact, we interviewed Matt Cutts from Google back in June where he talks about the release of Google TV and the desire on the part of Google to promote video sitemaps in order to obtain a more robust index of video content for Google TV. You can learn more about Google Video sitemaps here and here.