CBBC Connected Studio: 10 problems to solve
The BBC iD sign in box on the CBBC site
Mobiles, tablets and connected TVs are here. They form an ecosystem of web connected devices that provide the potential for amazing experiences. The ability to share an experience across devices brings great possibilities, but also responsibilities.
As part of its brief the CBBC Connected studio CBBC event has included a call for ideas on how to make the 'ultimate immersive experience', one that works across multiple devices.
What is the users' journey to get access to the connected content? How compelling and fun is the product? To achieve the goal some problems will need to be overcome. Here are 10 of them:
1. Low user registration rate
The number of users that sign in to BBC websites is relatively low. This is likely to be due to many reasons, but the snack-able nature of much of the content is a primary one. Online is much more of a TV experience than a cinema one. Users can quickly assess whether a page contains what they want, and navigate away if it doesn't. Any registration for access to content is a dry affair. It entails entering personal details, creating a username that fits into a specified format, coming up with a memorable and acceptable password, and sometimes waiting for a validation email. All of this can form a sizeable barrier, denying interaction with the core content for a period of time.
2. Can't use existing universal logins
The web has numerous solutions for universal login. More and more websites are allowing Facebook or Twitter IDs be used as unique identifiers. In BBC Children's this isn't an option. CBBC is the BBC destination for 6 to 12 year olds. Currently Facebook requires individuals to be 13 before they can create an account and although Twitter
doesn't have an explicit age restriction it tends to have a more adult audience. Neither can be thought of as suitable means of user identification for CBBC.
3. Less than half of children have an active email account
A further complication arises when emails are taken into account. The proportion of children in the CBBC age range who have active email addresses is small - at around 38%. Most ID systems require an email address as a communication point for 'lost passwords', confirmations and other correspondence.
4. Average time spent on interactive experiences is low
The peak average time spent on any interactive experience on CBBC is 10 minutes. The casual engagement with the content doesn't leave a great deal of space for 'signing in'. The reason to sign in needs to be really compelling, compelling enough to warrant the user initially spending a couple of minutes registering for an account. How does a connected proposal offer a companion experience that can reach, or even push through, the 10 minute barrier?
5. Variety of input methods
Experiences on touch devices differ greatly from those on desktop and even more so on Connected/Smart TVs. The chief differential is the input method. With desktop the mouse or keyboard is an abstracted input. The method separates the user from the actions. On mobiles or tablets, touch is a direct manipulation - there is very little physical feedback to this 'pictures under glass' interaction, but it is more cognitively direct. Connected TVs, at present, are mainly using a remote control. This is cumbersome and imprecise but works. The great challenge for any 4 screen experience is to enable each of these inputs in a way that feels intuitive and correct.
6. The technical capabilities of devices
Desktops, including laptops, are powerful beasts now. Many have graphics cards that can process calculations at speeds comparable with super-computers from 20 years ago. This isn't so with tablets and mobiles, although great things can be achieved on these devices, desktops are a large distance in front. Connected TVs tend to have a very small amount of processing power available - major compromises would have to be made if the proposed 'connected experience' were to be visually rich.
7. Child safety
BBC Children's exists in a walled garden. A huge amount of effort is applied to ensuring that content on the digital channels, as well as on the websites, is complied as suitable for the audience; that the content is safe and moderated where necessary; and that children are free from any unwarranted attention. These efforts are repaid by the trust that is put in the BBC to do the right thing. New propositions will more and more involve social experiences and personal connections - further challenges.
8. Creating a brand experience that is compelling and appropriate
Great content has come from taking a brilliant idea and applying a target brand to it, conversely great content has also come from using a strong brand to generate ideas. There are no hard and fast rules about best route to a fantastic product. The main strapline should be 'respect the brand'. Any experience needs to be appropriate to the values of the brand. Attention needs to be paid to how a brand exists on TV. How the brand exists in an interactive proposition shouldn't be different, it needs to be an appropriate representation.
9. Building content for devices in a fragmented marketplace
A key objective for the BBC is making sure that any product built will reach as many users as possible. The current state of the mobile market is highly fragmented with different capabilities on different devices. Products need to be targeted at the devices that our target audience actually use.
Making connected experiences that are inclusive is a very strong objective for the BBC. Catering for users with impairments, as well as those without, simply means avoiding unnecessary barriers that could restrict access to the content. A recently published site Game Accessibility Guidelines provides detailed but easily digested information on how to approach accessibility in the game space - the ideas are equally applicable to any interactive experience.
Jon Howard is the Development Manager for Games in BBC Children's Future Media.