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iTV Guidelines - : FINDING THE WAY, : SPECIFIC PROPOSALS, Text Guidelines, Graphics and Background Guidelines, Interactivity Guidelines, Technical Guidelines

bernardo web site avoided

Alcina Prata
Higher School of Management Sciences, Portugal

iTV GUIDELINES: FINDING THE WAY

In order to produce good iTV interfaces, namely, TV sites and interactive program applications, some specific guidelines need to be followed. However, iTV interface design is still in an embryonic phase (Bernardo, 2003) and, as it is a very recent phenomenon, no specific iTV guidelines have been defined and accepted worldwide. Since iTV uses Internet technology, designers decided to start by focusing their attention on the accepted worldwide Web-site guidelines. However, as the output devices to be used are completely different (the PC [personal computer] versus TV), these Web-site guidelines need to be greatly modified before being applied. Unfortunately, a considerable number of TV sites have already been designed by Web (or ex-Web) designers who were not capable of adapting the above-mentioned guidelines. The result has been poor and inadequate interfaces (Bernardo).

iTV GUIDELINES: SPECIFIC PROPOSALS

The study and comparison of the characteristics of the two devices (TV and the PC with Internet connection) briefly presented in the previous section, along with the adaptation of Web-site design guidelines to this new environment (iTV), has led to a wide range of specific iTV guidelines as proposed by several authors. Some of the most important guidelines to be considered when planning, developing, and evaluating iTV interfaces are presented below, separated by categories.

Text Guidelines

  • The text pitch used must be 18 minimum in order to be visible from three to five meters away, which is the distance between the viewer and the TV set. Usually, the recommended pitch is 20 for general text and 18 for the observation section(s) or subsection(s). As to the font style, Arial, Helvetica, and Verdana are recommended. Other font styles may be used, but only if embedded as images. However, this solution needs to be carefully considered since the result will be a much heavier file (Bernardo, 2003).
  • Small-pitch text embedded in images should be avoided since the browser frequently resizes these images automatically (Bernardo, 2003).
  • The text paragraphs must be short in order to not occupy several screens and thus impose the use of scrolling, which is a feature that is hard to handle in iTV (Bernardo, 2003).

Graphics and Background Guidelines

  • Rigorous graphics should be avoided since there is always a little toning down (Thin lines may result in some scintillation; Bernardo, 2003).
  • Animated graphics, that is to say, graphics with lots of movements, should be avoided (Bernardo, 2003).
  • The usage of image maps should be avoided since they are complex to handle on a TV set (Bernardo, 2003).
  • The use of very small frames must be avoided since this may result in many differences in the Web page as seen through the PC browser and when seen through the set-top-box browser (Bernardo, 2003).
  • It is preferable to use normal graphic buttons with simple words than very graphical buttons full of colours (Bernardo, 2003).
  • The TV object (video file embedded in the TV site) should be as large as possible, but the equilibrium between that object and the remaining information (normally textual information) must obviously be kept (Bernardo, 2003).
  • When designing a TV site, it is necessary to take into consideration a status bar with a height of 40 pixels. A margin of 16 pixels is recommended for the perimeter of the screen (Bernardo, 2003).
  • The background, instead of being an image, should be developed directly in the programming code in order to have less weight. However, if an image needs to be used, it should be simple so that it may be replicated all around the screen without becoming too heavy. Watermarks may also be used since the image only contains one colour (Bernardo, 2003).
  • Dark colours should be used as backgrounds. Highly saturated colours such as white should not be used (Bernardo, 2003).

Interactivity Guidelines

  • Interactivity may be available in two options: The TV object may be integrated in the Web page, or the contents may be displayed over the television signal (Bernardo, 2003).
  • It is essential to bear in mind that the program broadcast is of greatest importance. The rest is secondary and is used to improve the viewer’s television experience (Bernardo, 2003).
  • The interactive content is supposed to improve the program broadcast without disturbing the viewer’s entertainment experience (Bernardo, 2003; Prata et al., 2004).
  • The service must be pleasing to the viewer; otherwise, he or she will change the channel (Bernardo, 2003).
  • The interface must be easy to understand and allow for easy interaction. A bad design typically forces the viewer to click a large number of times in order to reach important information. It is important to keep in mind that a large number of clicks does not necessarily mean a very interactive service. Similarly, ease of interaction does not mean less interaction (Bernardo, 2003).

Technical Guidelines

The following information is descriptive only of the Microsoft TV Platform, which is well known worldwide.

  • This platform supports the use of the following programming languages: HTML 4.0 (hypertext markup language; full and with some extensions), cascading style sheets (CSS; a sub-group of CSS1 and the absolute positioning of CSS2 [CSS-P], Microsoft TV Jscript, Active X components, and DHTML (Dynamic HyperText Markup Language).
  • The platform also permits the integration of Flash 4.0 (or a lower version) animations but with some drawbacks since these animations are very heavy (Bernardo, 2003).
  • The platform supports the use of the following file formats: sound (AIFF, WAV, AV, ASF, MP3, and others), image (GIF, JPEG, PNG), video (ASF, ASX), and animation (Flash 4.0 or inferior file formats; Bernardo, 2003).

Other Guidelines

  • The dimensions of the TV object must maintain the format 4:3 in order to not distort the television image (Bernardo, 2003).
  • Each screen should not take more than three to five seconds to download. However, the ideal time is around two seconds, which is the time it normally takes to change the TV channel (Bernardo, 2003).
  • The final design of each screen should occupy a maximum of 100 Kb (Bernardo, 2003).
  • Vertical scroll, although possible, should be avoided since it is not practical to navigate via a remote control (however, vertical scroll is used in almost every Web site) (Bernardo, 2003).
  • It is important to remember that not all viewers are experienced in the use of Internet scrolling and navigation (Bernardo, 2003).
  • The best way of testing a TV site is to use a test population consisting of housewives and/or grandmothers. The critical point is that the usual consumer has to be able to interact with the service using only a remote control. Since such viewers are in the majority, it is essential to capture this specific market of viewers, which consists of people who have probably never used a PC and/or an Internet connection (Bernardo, 2003).
  • There is a significant difference between the way we capture the iTV viewer’s attention and the way we capture the Internet user’s attention. The iTV viewer is used to being entertained, so the challenge will have to be very high in order to capture his or her attention. The quality of the service will also have to be high in order to keep his or her attention (Bernardo, 2003; Masthoff, 2002).

CONCLUSION

According to recent studies, iTV is here to stay. However, since it is a recent phenomenon, additional research is needed, especially with regard to innovative and more personalized services that will be more adapted to viewers’ needs. In order to design and develop these new services correctly, new guidelines specifically designed for iTV are needed. The author of the present article has conducted a detailed research study of what should be some of the most important and critical ones and has presented her findings here. However, it will be critical to the success of iTV services in the future that guidelines be continuously developed.

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