How to design a streaming or OTT application

How do you design an application for a streaming service? Design optimisation goes beyond UI and UX for VOD, live streaming and OTT platforms.

We discussed in an earlier blog, the question of whether it was too late to go OTT and found that despite occasional downward trends in consumption, it’s definitely not. There are over 19 million UK homes with access to an SVOD service as of BARB’s latest reporting. If you’re looking to launch your own OTT service, design should be at the front of your mind, but we aren’t just talking about aesthetics here. According to research conducted by PwC, user experience (UX) is equally as important as content when it comes to the perceived value of streaming services. Your design choices could be the making or breaking of your application’s success, and with this helpful guide, you may avoid some of the common mistakes even the largest streaming services have made.

What makes a great design?

Simplicity is one of the first things you should think about when it comes to your applications, as you don’t want a complicated user interface (UI) ruining your UX. Users shouldn’t feel that you’re annoyed at them for using your application, as one such platform experienced in the following viral tweet giving them some honest feedback…

So, how do you avoid this? A simpler user interface, with minimal steps to get to content playback, is a great place to start. We’ve covered the importance of navigation and clear architecture before, as there’s nothing worse than finding your food has gone cold when it’s taken so long to locate the content you wanted to watch on a streaming service. Think about your application in layers, how many do you want between the user and their content? It should be a maximum of two or three. Categories are your friend, allowing you to separate your content within your application, by theme, genre or however you would like, keeping it simple and intuitive.

A pair of hands wireframing an application to mockup the user experience using white paper templates, like Simplestream's App Platform design process.

Branded, but without compromising the user experience

Your brand is the face of your business, and we understand the importance of this when it comes to your applications. Everything from your font and text sizing to colours and shapes should be done with your users in mind. For example, you wouldn’t want to make an app too complex or with small text sizing if your audience has a median age of eight years old, so it should be tailored to your end-users first, and your branding second. You can find some examples in the applications we’ve created for younger audiences with VOD365’s brand Ketchup TV.

A range of streaming device mockups, including a TV, laptop, tablet and smartphone showing the Ketchup TV application for children on their screens.

Accessibility is also a consideration when it comes to designing applications, as you don’t want to sacrifice function for form. Text sizing, layout, buttons and colours should all be components used to make navigation easy in your application, with a focus on accessibility. Making your application as accessible as possible will only serve to make it a more intuitive and pleasurable experience for those that use it. Think about the contrast of background colours with any text overlayed, as well as the sizing of that text as it needs to be legible on the device it’s being used on.

Consistency with design systems

While simplicity is important, maintaining consistency across all screens becomes essential when developing an OTT application. A design systemis a compilation of reusable components and rules that is used to efficiently manage design. Utilising existing components across platforms for your apps negates any need to reinvent the wheel every time an app is designed.  

Design systems also help to ensure efficacy for projects at scale, as they streamline work by harmonising app designs and experiences. Keeping UX and UI consistent with a design system that adheres to the brand guidelines results in a visually cohesive experience across all devices and platforms. Make your apps feel familiar to customers regardless of the device they’re using as this will provide the best experience.

Take inspiration from personal experience

Look at the streaming applications you use at home: what are the great features you couldn’t live without? What are the ones you never use or even annoy you? Take all of this into consideration for the design of your own applications. Rather than spending the time and money on creating and continually updating a proprietary application, look for an out-of-the-box solution that’s tried and tested. You can avoid the costs associated with extensive development and quality assurance (QA) by going this way and reap the rewards of a tech partner doing all of this for you.

A blue banner including the call-to-action to book a demo with Simplestream to build a successful OTT streaming service.

Interested in creating your own OTT or streaming applications like Netflix or Disney+? Check out our comprehensive guide, here.