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Checklist for Developing a Mobile-First OTT Streaming Application

Alexis Pigeon

Engineering Director

June 27, 2024


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Mobile accounted for nearly 60% of global web traffic as of January 2024, as consumers increasingly prefer using handheld devices for media consumption due to their convenience and portability. This trend is also reflected in our knowledge of consumer habits when it comes to video streaming services. Accedo’s own consumer research study finds that while Smart TVs still dominate globally in video consumption at 76%, smartphones follow closely with 71% of respondents using them to frequently access streaming services. Looking only at the Asian region, smartphones are even more popular, with 88% of users favoring them for watching video content. Gen Z, as a mobile-first generation, is a also growing force with 92% commonly streaming video on these devices.

The figures all point to the importance of further investment in mobile app design and development. And for businesses that are to launch their OTT services, considering a mobile-first approach may prove highly beneficial.

In this blog post, we highlight the key points and considerations for developing a mobile streaming application. We will walk through the most important things to pay attention to as well as provide a downloadable checklist that details every step of the development process so that you don’t miss any crucial items when building your mobile app strategy. 

1. Understand and prioritize user experience

UX is of utmost importance when designing a mobile streaming application, even more so than when building for other devices or platforms. This is due to the unique characteristics and usage patterns of mobile users. Hand-held devices are used on the go, requiring quick, intuitive interactions that fit into users' fast-paced lifestyles. The smaller screen size demands a more thoughtful and streamlined design to ensure clarity and ease of navigation. The expectation for immediate, responsive performance is also higher on mobile devices - any lag or complexity quickly leads to frustration and app abandonment.

Conduct thorough market research: 

Identify your target users and find out what their mobile preferences, behaviors, and usage patterns are. Monitoring emerging trends, such as the rise in audio-only content, helps you stay ahead of the curve. The typical device specifications in your target market are not to be overlooked, particularly in emerging markets where lower-spec devices are more common. The knowledge and insights gained from properly done market research will pay off in the long run.

Identify the content that best fits: 

Analyze your content catalog to determine which types of content best suit a mobile viewing experience. Our advice is to focus on optimizing your most popular and engaging content for mobile users, possibly with a focus on shorter, easily digestible formats that cater to on-the-go consumption. 

Define and design responsive, intuitive and user-friendly interfaces: 

User interfaces need to be responsive and easy to navigate, tailored to touch interactions. A highly effective feature is to incorporate UI animations to make navigation between screens smooth and essential elements stand out. Curating content thumbnails in portrait mode will provide an optimal viewing experience on mobile devices, ensuring users can easily browse and select content.

2. Leverage optimized tech for mobile

Choose the appropriate development approach:

To make the right choice, take your resources, timeline, and specific app needs into consideration. A quick refresher: native development uses Swift for iOS and Kotlin for Android, offering top performance and features but is resource-intensive. Hybrid development with frameworks like React Native or Flutter creates one codebase for both platforms, balancing performance and efficiency. Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) are cost-effective web-based apps that behave like native apps but may lack some native features. 

Optimize data usage to manage efficiently: 

This is highly beneficial, especially in markets where users are on limited data plans. One way to do it is to implement adaptive streaming techniques like HLS or DASH to adjust video quality based on network conditions. You could also use modern video codecs like HEVC to compress data, reducing file sizes without losing quality, and ensuring users can enjoy content without high data consumption.

Optimize the app’s impact on the device’s battery life: 

Video streaming apps can drain mobile devices quickly. To mitigate that, you should manage background processes, reduce unnecessary activity, and use hardware acceleration for video playback to save battery life. Implementing a dark mode can also conserve battery on OLED screens. 

3. Enhance engagement and monetization

Integrate unobtrusive ads: 

Mobile users are often overwhelmed by ads, so minimizing their presence and ensuring they do not disrupt the viewing experience will help boost engagement. Consider using native ads that blend seamlessly with content or reward-based formats where users can choose to watch ads in exchange for benefits like extra content or features.

Offer the option to download and watch content offline:

This feature allows users to download videos over Wi-Fi and watch them later, reducing the need for constant data usage. This not only helps to maximize bandwidth usage so users can make efficient use of their data plans, but also encourages them to consume more content by making it accessible anytime, anywhere.

The option to watch content offline is appreciated by users who frequently encounter poor or absent network connections. With this feature in place, users can download their favorite shows and movies when they have a stable connection and watch them without interruptions. 

4. Maintain and improve performance and quality 

While we focus solely on the mobile-specific optimizations in this blog post and checklist, there are of course more exercises that are relevant across all devices and platforms. 

Implementing tools for A/B testing and making dynamic changes to the interface helps continuously test and evolve your applications, ensuring that they meet ever-evolving user needs and preferences. Robust security and privacy measures are also crucial, such as using encryption to protect user data and secure authentication methods like two-factor authentication, along with Digital Rights Management (DRM) to prevent unauthorized access and piracy. It's also important to regularly collect user feedback through surveys and in-app forms, and to offer in-app customer support options like live chat and comprehensive FAQs. By fostering a user community for shared experiences and suggestions, you can greatly enhance user satisfaction. 

Download the checklist now to access all recommended items.

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