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Building Natively For Immersive Roku UI

Mrugesh Desai
 December 2016

Mrugesh Desai, Head of Sales Engineering, Accedo

Roku has grown into a giant in the streaming video device market: it has shipped more than 20 million units to date, and its popularity is growing in North America and abroad. In the last year, Roku’s total streaming hours increased 73.5%, from 3.2 billion hours to 5.5 billion hours and as of the first half of 2016, over 4 billion hours have already been streamed. Roku is also expanding its foothold in the Smart TV market and intends to partner with at least 60 Smart TV models by the end of 2016 (Tech Crunch, 2016).

Finding a skilled app development and video experience partner is key to creating Roku channels that offer a unique and effective user experience. The right partner will leverage the full power of Roku and its powerful tools and resources, to bring new audiences to a channel and keep viewers coming back for more content. A knowledgeable video experience team should work closely with the content provider to determine the best strategy to address their audience with engaging design and app development.

Capture new audiences with custom SceneGraph UI

Roku introduced its latest SDK 2 toolkit on October 6 2015, giving developers the ability to further customize Roku channels with a full range of new development tools meant to engage viewers.  With the new SceneGraph UI, developers can integrate personal, custom branding into Roku channels, provide greater navigation control to improve the user experience, and add more tailored UI components. These new tools offer more adaptable, object-oriented development options for Roku channels, and allow them to be built specifically for the 10-foot experience.

Important things to factor in

Before committing to a design and implementation strategy, content providers should consider a range of important factors that can impact the chosen development approach. These factors include the desired time to market and budget, complexity in UI design, brand alignment and the overall feature scope of the channel.

Meet your match: What to look for in a video experience partner

It’s crucial to work with a video experience partner that can accurately assess the complexity of UI design that the provider requires, and help define the feature set that would appeal to their end customers. A skilled and responsible partner will recommend whether to use Roku’s out-of-box UI components – which offer simple, quick channel development – or whether custom UI components are required to properly address the feature scope, application hierarchy and navigation, channel branding and competitor differentiation.

The best video experience partner will also be adept at creating true native Roku channels that harness the power of Roku’s BrightScript programming language to ensure an optimal channel performance, superior user experience and support across all generations of Roku devices.

The anatomy of a superior design and development strategy:

  1. Find a partner with extensive experience building natively coded Roku channels using BrightScript. The partner should be skilled at building both out-of-box and custom-designed channels using SceneGraph.
  2. Ensure your development partner is aware of all the standard UI components available through SceneGraph. This will provide you with an inventory of low-cost components that require minimal time and effort to implement for your Roku channel.
  3. Break down your desired user experience and features into the following categories: must-have user experiences requiring custom design and development, nice-to-have user experiences requiring custom design and development, and features that require little to no customization in addition to what is provided out-of-box with the Roku platform. An experienced and responsible development partner will be able to provide insights and recommendations on using the right mix of out-of-box UI components and custom experiences to deliver the best channel for your audience, within the constraints of your desired time to market, budget and monetization strategies.
  4. Discuss how your proposed UI will affect the memory and performance of your Roku channel. Roku supports a wide range of devices. Your channel’s compatibility with devices that have limited performance and memory specifications is important, therefore they should be benchmarked and tested before you proceed with channel certification. Your video experience partner will also ensure your channel is adaptable for both high-definition and standard-definition viewing modes – support for both display formats is required for certification purposes and will help ensure your channel reaches a larger market.

Once you’ve finalized your vision with your development partner, they will build out the Roku channel using one of three approaches: a fully custom design, a minimally customized design built upon out of box UI components, or a hybrid of both, which is typically the most common approach. The complexity of the UX and range of features will determine which of the three approaches is best suited to you.

Pick the right approach

A basic design template approach is best suited to providers that may require a basic feature set centered on a simple, grid-based VOD content layout, and with few third-party service integrations. This approach allows for a fast time to market with minimal custom branding.

A hybrid approach with some custom design would be the right approach to integrate a small number of unique features requiring a custom design.  This approach typically serves the needs of mid-to-large providers that require more than one viewing format (e.g. live streaming and VOD content). These channels include minimal custom components overall, and leverage the provider’s own integrated services to serve up video, image, and metadata.

Moving up the complexity ladder is a hybrid approach that requires several features with more complex design, but with an aggressive time-to-market.  This approach would have your partner recommend trade-offs that prioritize the most important features for custom design and implementation, but execute a more standard UX, with out-of-box components for lower priority features. These channels appear fairly unique from most video apps on the market, but typically include a number of features that reflect a more standard Roku user experience.

Finally, a fully custom design is often the chosen approach for large, established content providers that want the look and feel of their Roku channels to align with their experiences on other platforms. Fully custom channels include tailored features and user experiences, with a host of third-party service integrations to match. As a result, these channels stand out with a look entirely different from other existing video apps and a strong emphasis on brand identity.

To stand out from the crowd, content providers should partner with a knowledgeable video experience team to create engaging Roku channels that leverage true native code. The right partner can guide the provider toward the best design and development approach, and focus on tailoring important features to ensure users get a top-quality viewing experience. Native Roku channels built using Roku’s BrightScript programming language and SceneGraph UI offer the most robust viewing experiences.

Contact us to find out how to create your Roku video experience with Accedo. 

Accedo has created 60+ Roku apps world-wide


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