Build a keyboard that makes it super easy to type on a standard TV five-way remote control
Skype TV brings the fun and simplicity of letting people stay in touch from the comfort of the sofa. Whether people want to use it for meetings or family gatherings, casual calls or merge it in with live TV to co-watch a sports event, The Jetsons dream of the video phone is finally here.
The key challenge with TV interfaces is the lack of control when navigating.
The challenge is compounded with the lack of standardised OS platforms which typically standardise conventions and UI patterns for controls such as TV keyboards accross multi-manufacturer hardware. 'How should one navigate through and select 26 characters, 10 numerals and an infinite more range of special characters with just: up, down, left, right and 'select', all without any touch or direct physical connection to the screen?'
I researched many different types of keyboards and remote controls accross a vast range of TV manufacturers. There were many form factors and from there, I began to investigate how a five-way remote best navigates around various shaped keyboards.
As a five-way remote was a fairly linear form of navigation, I wanted to explore shapes that would really make use of this. One keyboard layout that felt it fitted with this was a multi-layered dial shaped keyboard. Each layer had a different set of characters to navigate through. Up and down controls navigated between these different layers, while left and right navigated within a layer.
This felt especially interesting as the Skype TV interface often presented a single form at a time, to ensure simplicity, and giant screen space beneath, allowing for a dial. To test this, I created a paper prototype that spun around, with a lip that held a 'selector' window that moved up and down replicating a highlight that showed the user which level and character they were at.
The dial proved a little too inflexible and potentially daunting to novice users. I chose a square keyboard concept that I had also been investigating. The small square layout was good as it meant less time navigating around. To show the interactions at each stage, I put together a wireframe specification for Panasonic, our partners, to follow.
The final design allowed for special characters on a long press of the 'select' key.
I worked with the UI designer to create an engaging interface that fitted with Skype's feel and the Skype TV interface. It was important that the sense of fun was kept through even the keyboard to ensure that users were not intimidated.