Video may have killed the radio star, but it’s done wonders for UX designers. We chat with Gabriel Topete, senior mobile and television product designer at Vimeo, to find out where he thinks video is going from here.
Adobe: What attracts you to working on a video platform?
Topete: Video is up and coming. It’s a very hands-on kind of technology and by hands-on I mean video is now attached to everything, not just your cellphone. It’s now on refrigerators and printers. Video devices are popping up everywhere – even my keyboard (I have a gaming keyboard) has a little video screen on it. The new iMac has a video screen touch bar. Video is becoming integrated pretty much into every device. I find that a neat challenge to design for.
Has this created any new opportunities for you in your UX career?
I’d say so. As a product designer, having video on multiple platforms is pretty interesting. I haven’t owned a TV in probably over 10 years, so for me to jump into design for TV, that’s really interesting because I find TV to be a very old technology. Even though there are plasma TVs, flat screen TVs, and the resolution keeps getting better and better, it’s still kind of an old technology. I find it interesting to design UIs for TV because even now the stuff that I design for it does work fairly well, but it still feels clunky. Designing for these things is kind of like an exaggerated DVD menu, which I used to design back in the day. It wasn’t a very fluid experience. I do like the challenge of designing for TV now. It is an emerging frontier. The technology is better, the code is better, and the applications are better. I can see it becoming more fluid.
Can you elaborate on that? What do you mean when you say you can see it becoming more fluid?
With better graphics cards, better hardware, better apps and better coding, the experience is more fluid. Back when this technology was first emerging, a lot of the TV and old school video applications did feel a bit clunky and not really there yet. You can see it with old ATM machines when they have video and you touch the interface and you interact with it; it feels a bit clunky. I see it becoming more fluid, because the technology is getting better so you are getting a better experience.
Do you think users are expecting these more fluid experiences as video becomes a more innate part of how we live our lives?
I think they’re expecting it, but they’re probably not consciously expecting it. They’re not sitting around saying, “I hope this TV app becomes better,” it’s just something we do subconsciously. When we buy a new TV we do expect that its experience will be better than the last experience.
The Vimeo app we launched for Android TV, one of the designers did what she called blooming.
On Android TV when you click on a video cell it expands and that’s it, but what she did is she made it a one-two-three approach so that when you highlight the row you get a bit of information, when you click into the row you get a second bit of information like the title, and when you click on the cell you get a third line of information. Android TV didn’t have that built in, but we built it and we launched it and the users were really impressed by that and thought it was a cool experience. We launched this app and it wasn’t something users were expecting, but when they see it they appreciated it.
I’ve read a couple articles that predict that video is going to become more of a background tool in a lot of applications and websites, so instead of having a static image it is going to become increasingly common for the background to have video and motion. I was wondering what your thoughts are on this?
It’s definitely a popular trend among designers and I know on our side we experimented with those kinds of videos. It goes back to how technology is evolving. The internet gets faster, the hardware gets better. Designers and people working on websites and applications have realized it is actually adding a lot more features. The background video is a nice experience. Instead of having a photo, a video can provide a more immersive, visceral experience. You are in charge of the narrative. For example, you can have a large, beautiful image of flowers on a website. That’s pretty and everything, and you can take that photo as you will. Or maybe there’s a video of a woman sitting at home and someone knocks on the door and she gets flowers and she smiles, maybe these micro videos are only like 10 seconds long or tell a seven second story. When that’s the background image on the website you’re already picking up an emotional response with the user. You accomplish more with those videos than with just one still image. I do see that trend popping up more and more.
In addition to that, what kind of trends do you see for video and user experience design going forward?
I see video becoming more immersed in everyday life. We’ve already started seeing that like in a taxicab they have a video touch screen so I can sit there, look at the weather and get channels. It’s becoming more immersive. I’ve seen cutting boards that are literally just screens so you can technically watch a cooking video and cut on the cutting board at the same time. Video will be an immersive tool. Everything is becoming electronic and everything that is electronic typically has a screen on it. If it has a screen on it, it can pretty much use video.
What do you think this means for UX designers?
I think it’s going to open up the floodgates. If you’re a UX designer right now it’s mainly like “design this website or this app”, so this is going to open up the floodgates beyond the two realms of web and mobile. Look at subway maps. You have these big screens and it shows the whole subway map and it’s interactive. You can click on it and watch a video or see your location. That in itself is a whole new UX experience. It’s a whole new dimension. You have touch action. What happens when a user clicks on this, what happens when they click on Central Park, can they watch a video on it, does it have captions? Each little device that has a screen needs a designer behind it.
What do you recommend UX designers do to get an edge on this emerging field?
For me, to work in house was incredibly difficult. I started doing freelance work at agencies that focused on applications like Android or iOs. In addition to that, I would also update my portfolio with exploratory design and I would actually go and redesign an app and do what I do for web: create some sketches, create my wireframes, and show my flow chart and final design. That’s how I started to transition and people started to take me a bit more seriously. It wasn’t just me going into an app position and only showing web work. I had to show at least some application work and the thought process behind how to build an application.
Finally, what do you have to say to UX designers out there who maybe aren’t sold on how valuable or big video is going to be in 2017?
Take a moment and really look around at all the emerging technologies and see how many of them utilize screens and video. People love videos. You see it with Snapchat. Snapchat has a huge evaluation and all it is, is you take little clips of your friends and what you’re doing and that’s a video experience that’s made 20 billion dollars. Instagram started off with just still photos, but that wasn’t good enough, so now Instagram has to do the same thing Snapchat is doing so they implemented videos and that’s actually booming. Facebook did the same thing and started implementing live video. You’re seeing all these apps add video functionality and it’s for a reason. It’s because people really love video.
What are your thoughts on video’s role in the future of user experience design? Tell us in the comments below.