by Paul McClean – Design & UX lead for RTÉ Player
Since its launch 2009, RTÉ Player has become one of the most recognisable and widely-used products in the RTÉ Digital family.
For three years the service has remained mostly unchanged in terms of design, functionality and user experience. We have now launched a revamped version of the Player, with some exciting improvements.
This new version of the Player has been designed and rebuilt from the ground up using HTML5, CSS3 and jQuery to deliver a singular, responsive interface for mobile, tablet and desktop.
The design represents an evolution of the visual language developed for our iOS and connected TV apps and paves a much easier path for future iterations and improvements (native HTML video, recommendations etc.) as the service, and browser technology, develops.
Navigation and content discovery have been greatly enhanced, and the new “instant search” feature allows users to find their favourite programmes much quicker than before.
The “favourites” functionality is another exciting new development for the Player. When signed-in, this feature allows users to save their favourite programmes within the service.
Your collection of programmes will then be available from any computer or device where the Player is available, including the Player iPhone, iPad and connected TV apps. Bookmarks (points in the programmes where you stopped watching), will also be synced so you can seamlessly pick up from where you left off when you switch to a different device.
The importance of social network integration has not been ignored. Another great new feature is the “Watching it” functionality. By directly integrating the player with Facebook’s Open Graph, you can now share and discuss viewing choices with your friends on your Facebook Timeline.
This will pave the way for social recommendations in further iterations of the Player.
Video quality in the new Player has also been given a major upgrade.
On the streaming side of things, a number of improvements have been put in place to make the user experience better. RTÉ Player on the web currently streams at 512K, which is generally fine when viewed inside a web page. However when you go full screen, particularly on a TV, while it’s an acceptable viewing experience, it remains obvious to the user that they are watching a web stream. With the new version of the Player we have upped the bitrate to 1 Meg, which looks far better on a large screen.
Our focus is on improving the big screen experience from here on, and we will not stop at 1 meg streaming. We hope to be able to put the resources in place to make that higher again at some point in the future, and eventually bring high definition streaming to the Player.
We are also changing the way we stream, abandoning Adobe’s RTMP protocol in favour of HDS, a flavour of HTTP Adaptive Streaming. For the user, this technology allows the stream to adapt in quality depending on the amount of bandwidth you have available. While the highest quality stream will be 1 Meg, we will also continue to offer the 512K variant.
All in all, we’ve tried to deliver the best experience possible in terms of design, video and editorial. We hope you enjoy using the new RTÉ Player.