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Redesigning its TV apps helped Hulu to grow viewing time by 30 percent

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If you needed any more proof that design matters, take this: Last year’s redesign of the Hulu Plus app for smart TVs and connected devices resulted in an increase of over 30% in average minutes viewed on each of those devices, Hulu representatives recently told me at CES 2014 in Las Vegas.

Hulu started to revamp its connected TV apps last spring, rolling out the new UI on Roku boxes and the Wii U in May, and then bringing it to Samsung smart TVs and Blu-ray players in June. The new design introduced a number of so-called “trays” that correspond to the ways Hulu Plus presents its content on its mobile apps, and also offer easier access to the shows users regularly watch.

Growth numbers like these fit well in Hulu’s strategy to emphasize its paid Hulu Plus offering. The company surpassed five million paying subscribers in 2013, and the ability to view TV shows on the living room TV set is one of the main reasons why people subscribe to Hulu Plus. Half of all Hulu content is viewed in the living room, I was told by the company. At the end of 2012, that number was still at 30 percent.

At Gigaom, we have long believed that design is becoming a make-it-or-break-it factor as products and services go digital. It’s the reason we launched our Roadmap design conference, and it’s also why we have been reporting quite a bit about the challenges and opportunities in designing apps and experiences for TVs. As those experiences are being refined, I fully expect to hear more of these kinds of success stories.

If you’re interested in smart TV app design, check out the Making TVs smart article series I wrote a few months ago, and watch one of the videos I shot for that series below: The YouTube ID of 4L8rxxPgjO8#t=0 is invalid.

5 Responses to “Redesigning its TV apps helped Hulu to grow viewing time by 30 percent”

  1. I remember trialing Hulu Plus on the Roku a few years back. It was the absolute worst. Trying to watch the same show night after night required clicking a bunch of things, sometimes pressing arrows up and down, it was just confusing (perhaps you’d have to experience it firsthand). The Roku interface today is much improved.

    However, I don’t think their smartphone/tablet interface is very good. They seem to have taken their Smart TV interface and, with minimal changes, slapped it on a tablet. The problem with this is that a tablet is a fundamentally different device.

    While Hulu has a harder job than say Netflix, since its content includes shows, clips, trailers, and promos, that doesn’t mean it couldn’t be improved upon. For instance, when I open the Netflix app, the next episode of the last show I watched is immediately visible and viewable with a single touch. Hulu sort of groups “Shows you watch” on the home page, but often a show I’ve just started watching doesn’t show up immediately, nor does it offer one click viewing. Really the first thing you should see are new episodes from the shows you watch next to the next episode of shows you’re catching up on.

    Sometimes seasons are organized in scrollable rows, sometimes they are boxes you click on and then scroll through. It seems pretty inconsistent. On top of that, often I want to see the available clips from the latest Jimmy Fallon episode (so I can watch any interesting interviews), but the show page only shows the trending clips. This means that clips from the most recent episode are often hidden among a bunch of other clips. I end up not watching Jimmy Fallon very often for this very reason; it’s just too much effort to try to hunt down the most recent interviews. I’m not interested in watching the entire show, just the portions that jump out at me.

    • Now that I look at it more closely, there apparently is a “Clips” box hidden off the screen. So there actually is a way to look through the most recent ones. However, it isn’t obvious to the customer, which is really the whole problem.