November 29, 2021
Simplicity, Scalability, Stability: How to achieve OTT app excellence
Over-the-top (OTT) streaming has redefined how brands reach and engage with their audiences and monetize their assets. With sports leagues, broadcasters, news outlets, and more all looking to go direct-to-consumer (D2C) as the future of their content delivery strategy, the OTT market is bigger and more diverse than ever before, but it’s also more competitive and harder to navigate. Linda Abrams, 24i’s Head of Business Development, North America, looks at how a focus on the fundamentals of user experience can help streaming brands to stand out - for all the right reasons - in a crowded marketplace.
As consumers become more experienced with streaming, they also become more discerning. They are seeking out more engaging and personalized experiences and brands must ask themselves: "what can I do to ensure my OTT app stands out from the crowd?" It’s perhaps surprising that the answer to this question is not always to add more “bells and whistles”.
The art of simplicity
OTT apps have been enhanced with modular features such as interactive graphics and e-commerce widgets for years but sometimes these do as much harm as good. The primary goal of any OTT app must always be to get users to the brand’s content as quickly as possible. Given the enormous choice of content available today, having an easy, seamless experience that is effortless for the end-user is vital. "Keep it simple" is an essential mantra but can also be a major challenge. Brands often run the risk of derailing their development project with the question 'wouldn't it be cool if…' that lead to fancy features which cost them in terms of both time and money, and ultimately overshadow the fundamentals of their streaming service.
The many devices in the market today and the challenges of integrating a robust User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX) on each device only add to the complexity. Creating a frictionless and unified user experience on every media platform should always be prioritized. Software engineering teams are often dedicated to delivering constant updates and improvements throughout the app's lifecycle, but they should only be building bells and whistles where they will have an impact on the key goals of content discoverability and increased engagement.
Putting content delivery first
OTT apps can boost audience engagement significantly by curating and presenting content in a targeted way. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) can assist with personalization, allowing brands to create apps that respond to end-users’ preferences and profiles. Having access to code-free configuration tools and a flexible UI are equally crucial for brands wanting to keep their app's content experience fresh and maintainable.
Any contemporary OTT app must also offer instant access to content that is tailored to the consumer. Users of a weather service, for example, would expect to see the forecast for their current location as soon as they open the app. News services must show local and relevant stories. Sports apps should direct users to content relating to their favorite team or player. This personalized functionality is critical to audience engagement, and brands should consider ways to customize apps based on region, language, and content preference as well as past viewing history.
Maintaining an OTT app
Building a beautiful, engaging OTT app is just the start. Maintaining it requires a wholly different set of skills. Being ready for growth and scale is an essential part of app maintenance, and OTT services can do this by forecasting and investing in robust backend infrastructure. First-class backend support is crucial to minimizing latency and buffering. A 24/7 support team and active app monitoring that is laser-focused on traffic load and issues within the live environment helps to ensure the best possible experience every time a user loads the app on any device.
Another challenge is maintaining app quality and performance, ensuring the service continues to operate well on a myriad of legacy and new operating systems and devices. At 24i, we have extensive testing labs in our Amsterdam and Brno offices with hundreds of devices to ensure that all the apps we create continue to function efficiently on every screen after every operating system update. With Smart TV development in particular, this is no small undertaking.
Keeping your eyes on the main prize
Creating and maintaining a frictionless and reliable UX is an ongoing pursuit. From advanced search and discovery mechanisms to enhanced data analytics, brands must remain hyper-focused on optimizing performance across all platforms and devices.
The fragmentation and growth of the OTT market makes it one of the most frustrating, yet also exciting industries to work in. The challenges of reaching multiple devices are intense. It’s not only imperative to deliver a high-quality user experience, but also to ensure that it is sustained as all the myriad devices on the market constantly update and age.
However, the rewards for all this effort are more than worth it. The opportunities that OTT delivery brings in terms of reach, engagement and new revenue streams can be almost limitless if you get it right. The secret is to avoid being distracted from the essentials. Keep your focus on simplicity, scalability and stability above all else. Once you’ve nailed those, there’s plenty of time for all those bells and whistles!