I’ve previously mentioned posting helpful hints for working on TV UI – a less commonly explored platform with unique challenges and considerations. But you know what they say, the cobbler’s blog has no shoes. Perhaps a good starter for this topic is a big issue I come across every time I turn on one of our favorite family films (and one common among DVD/Blu-ray menus in general)… unclear focus state.
The concept of an ever-present focus in unique to TV UI and is a fundamental part of creating a platform-appropriate interaction model. Basically, one element is highlighted onscreen at all times showing you where you are in the UI. This can get complex and interesting if highlight changes trigger information/display changes or motion. Or it can be a straightforward roaming highlight on a static screen. Either way, it’s a basic necessity to show the user where they are.
Below is a video of a roaming highlight on the Yellow Submarine Blu-ray main menu. Can you see where the focus it? Eh, sorta. The default colors and the highlight state color of the menu are variable. The highlight contains a flashing, but there are also default elements flashing too. This all amounts to a rather unfortunate application of psychedelia.
The animated gif below shows a sketch addressing the issue and clarifying where you are. Though the colors could use refinement, this helps point out an issue not only with the execution but with the approach. DVD menus are often over-complicated, aspiring to be a feature unto themselves – akin to website loader animations of the 1990s. But viewers often just want to get to the movie and video extras. UI metaphors awkwardly photoshopped together from film art is more likely to cheapen the experience than enhance it. Add a just-too-long-to-sit-thru animation sequence and a gratingly short audio loop and you’ve got all the ingredients for the DVD menus we’ve all come to know and endure. While next-level immersive experiences (and the time and budgets they require) are hard to come by, clarity and efficiency are perennially worthy goals.