Google TV, a lesson in usability guidelines

Google has launched its TV product promising a richer living room experience than we have ever had the pleasure to enjoy. Forget the set-top boxes of the 90s, this is an amazing development involving TV, web, social networks and search, and looks like it will deliver.
But what does it have to do with web design? Quite a lot actually, because Google TV integrates a web browser amongst its many media platforms.
And although it is not clear if or when it will come to the UK, its presence in the US is important for any British website owner who has customers over the pond.
I was drawn to click on ‘Optimising websites for Google TV’ for obvious reasons and it makes interesting reading.
At first, I feared there would be lots of new worries about how pages would render and what technologies it would support, but if it uses the same browsing engine as Google’s Chrome, web designers and developers will have little to fear.
But what does stand out quite clearly is Google’s very clear attitude to usability.
There are distinct differences in using the web on a TV screen, the colour is more saturated, the pointer won’t be controlled by a mouse. Viewers will be further away, could be in a group and can be easily distracted, etc, etc.
If there’s any chance of a website being viewed on this new platform, it needs to recognise and adapt accordingly.
It’s exactly these kind of principles that should be applied to every web project. Much of it makes common sense, but there are plenty of websites out there that have been designed on the desktop, for the desktop, but are still difficult to use. A website design for the desktop could throw up numerous difficulties in a TV browser even if it renders ‘correctly’.
Similar usability guidelines should also be readily available for mobile websites and netbooks, and there’s never been a better time for web designers and developers to consider how websites can adapt over the multitude of platforms they be accessed on.
No longer can we rely on a base design that will meet the needs of office worker, home browser, mobile user and TV watcher. Websites need to adapt not only in design, but in delivery and relevance of content.
Google’s guidelines offer timely advice to prepare for their new invention, and remind those of us who provide web services that usability plays a very important role in the different ways in which we access the internet, and makes it vital to adapt accordingly.