BBC Developers on Designing the New iPlayer for iPhone

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Last week, the BBC introduced its iPlayer for iPhone app for UK television license payers. The app allows domestic viewers to view live BBC TV and radio and watch catch-up TV over Wi-Fi and 3G.

It's a major app in the UK and was downloaded 1.1 million times in its first week of availability, with 500,000 of those downloads to users who had never downloaded the iPlayer app previously. The BBC told the Guardian newspaper that 16.5 million programs have been watched on the mobile version of iPlayer thus far this year, up 129 percent year-over-year.


Chris Elphick, senior designer leading the BBC iPlayer iPhone App project, lays out the thoughts and processes behind the design of the iPlayer for iPhone UI. For a major project that will be used by millions of people, extensive testing and design is necessary to make the app both easy-to-use and to avoid unnecessarily taxing 3G and Wi-Fi networks.

Earlier I mentioned the opportunities that designing for mobile offers us. One, of course is the ability to change orientation. There was a frequent debate within the design team as to the importance of portrait versus landscape - whether or not it was helpful, necessary or even pleasing to present content differently in a landscape view compared to portrait.

We explored multiple possibilities for landscape views dependent on where you are within the app. In early designs we considered showing as much content as possible in a single view but we felt it wasn't taking full advantage of the screen real estate, nor presenting anything new.

User research, told us that certain users including those who are dyslexic liked the simplicity of a more visual menu with fewer options.

BBC iPlayer is a universal app for iPhone and iPad, free on the App Store for United Kingdom users only. [Direct Link]

The BBC global iPlayer app, which was updated earlier this month, is available in most of Western Europe and Canada -- and is coming to the United States. The app doesn't have the Live-TV, DVR and TV catch-up features that the British version does -- instead, it's a video-on-demand subscription service that gives access to selected portions of the BBC archive.

Top Rated Comments

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115 months ago
It's awesome just how fast the BBC has caught up and is now defining online viewing of TV shows. Definitely welcome the iPlayer app, good use of license fee payers money.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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115 months ago
Here in the US, we've demonstrated that our country is incapable of producing a news channel.

BBC, pleeease?
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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115 months ago
So *that's* what Bob in Marketing does all day.

"plan by others"

"sync when we have data connection"
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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115 months ago
Its times like this I just love the BBC. A brilliantly dynamic company, well worth my licence fee.
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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115 months ago

On iPhone 4 and iPad 1 double-tap the home button, swipe left twice and the AirPlay selection is there. The app can't be installed on iPod Touch 2.


You learn something new, I didn't realise you could double swipe left - is that different to the 4s and iPad 2 - do they have it on single swipe left?

Thanks!
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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115 months ago
On a related issue, video stories on the BBC News site will now play on the iPad. So they've ditched Flash presumably.

Edit: And on iPhone too.
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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