webOS TV is a reimagined interface that redefines a product category, Making TV simple again.
We are entering the new interface for LG Smart TVs, webOS. This OS has a few elements to it. The main interface is always accessible through a single button on the remote (home). This main interface is the simplest possible. It is a straight line, it can be thought of as past, present and future. At the beginning the user sees her current location (present), to the right there are apps, channels, sources that she can select (representing future actions). To the left there is the history (past actions). This interface has proven to be a dramatic simplification form the complex interfaces available today confusing users between different types of ways to get content. Visually this product represents the beginning of a new design language for LG. Flat, elegant yet fun and optimistic. Another significant part of the UI is the first use flow. This flow takes the user through some necessary steps in order to setup their system. The flow is designed in such a way that the somewhat tedious process becomes a game of sorts and users enjoys going through it. The goal of this design is to encourage users to complete as many steps as possible making it more likely that they will be able to use the smart features of their TV’s This design of webOS was mostly done in the new LG silicon valley lab, this lab was established in march 2013 after LG acquired webOS from HP. The team that worked on this project was an interdisciplinary team that included designers, animators, product managers, user researchers prototypes and producers.
Why we should win history webOS was invented for phones but when the webOS team started to look doing a TV’s we did not set out to adapt webOS to TV’s but rather re-invent the TV. Sure we had some great technology but we wanted to use it to solve for real problems. People believe TV’s are about content and the smarter the TV the more “content" people tend to cram into the OS. Furthermore the TV industry has been effectively taking tablet and phone UI and stretching it to 55 inches, not considering the different nature of the TV as a device that is all about the content that it is playing, not considering the lean back nature of the interaction and neglecting basic usability metrics such as speed our vision webOS is shaped by the design vision of making TV simple again. When all is said and done content comes from many different places none of them are your TV, TV’s are about easily accessing these sources and switching between them. webOS design comes from that focus on simple use cases. webOS simplified all the elements in the interface (apps, channels, sources, cable boxes etc) into a single easy to understand metaphor and by doing so simplified the product and made it accessible for a much wider audience. The result is a product that redefines the smart TV category, introducing concepts of simplicity, elegance and even humor to the experiences. details we were able to achieve simplicity by addressing 3 main areas simple to switch: Using the webOS card metaphor users are able to quickly switch between sources playing content. this is a modern interpretation of channel surfing and is proving out to be the killer use case for TV. In addition to that the webOS team has made a simple yet bold decision; apps, inputs such as HDMI, live TV and cable boxes are all treated the same. they are all content sources. In an industry controlled by business relationships LG’s decisions to put the user first and allow full democratization of the eco-system is unique. LG believes that the only the user will chose what makes sense for them simple to setup: for the TV to be smart the user has to go through a setup process. webOS has a twist on that process that brings playfulness and fun but not in superfluous way. The experience is built with a set of animations that reward the user when completing a section or request that they re-cosider skipping it. A flow that has been completely overlooked by the industry has garnered tremendous user feedback and acceptance with the new product and is allowing LG to better serve its customers simple to discover: not only does the LG TV allow you to discover new content, we will find all the places you can stream the content from and allow you to pick the one that fits you Visually we opted for a minimalistic design that is contrary to most TV’s out there as the inclination of most TV interface design is to impress. We were focused on playing a secondary role to the content shown on the gorgeous LG screen, never taking the user out of context. Although flat, the interface is never boring, there is constant interest that is achieved through a well crafted set of contrasts and contradictions. The strong geometrical shapes are rigid, until they move and then display their fluid like qualities. The typography is based on contradictions as well with 2 types contrasting each other. a set of small little surprises make the interface fluid, refined, yet completely un obtrusive. Animations have been a core tenant of the design from day one, not an afterthought but rather a driving force and a facilitator of many of the design ideas. The overall result is a coherent product that stems from design, a bold shift for LG and the TV industry that have not been known for software design. Smart TV’s (although being sold as a product category for a few years already) have shown limited traction with consumers. LG webOS reinvents the category and makes it useful above anything else. The accomplishment of the webOS team has been extraordinary. This design led effort brought an OS back from the dead and recently LG has announced that it has sold over 1M units in less then 3 months. Overall this design was able to make the product better for users and allow LG to achieve business goals such as increased engagement, sales etc... This entry is not just about the design but LG’s ability to bring such design innovation to life in a real product that represents a major part of its revenue. It is not easy to innovate in such high stakes programs on existing product lines, companies tend to play it safe: design and UX innovation is not always in the forefront in these projects. LG chose to be different.